Francis Mercier brought the Afro House movement to Chicago’s Spybar for a unique night of house music.
Ever since house music was born in Chicago nearly 50 years ago, the genre has been defined by a wide variety of influences and styles. Longtime fans of house have been hungry for a new spin on the genre ever since clubs reopened after the pandemic, which makes the rising popularity of Afro House and Francis Mercier so exciting.
As its name suggests, Afro House is a fusion of African percussion, vocals, and rhythm with house’s tried and true formula of the four-on-the-floor dance beat. The result is an energetic, uplifting synthesis of both familiar and unique sounds that becomes increasingly difficult to resist dancing to.
Walking into Francis Mercier’s set at Spybar, it’s immediately clear that this isn’t a typical house show.
Francis set the tone early in his set with the laid-back, distinctively African rhythm of “Finesse” by Anis Hachemi before raising the energy a bit with a remix of “Premier Gaou” produced by himself & Magic System. As he transitions into “Sete”, his popular collaboration with BLOND:ISH, the energy continues to rise, and within minutes literally everyone in the club is moving.
Throughout his first hour on stage Francis guides the dancefloor through Afro-centric tracks like “Les Gout“, but as the vocals from R.E.M.’s classic “Losing My Religion” enter the mix, his mastery of combining a wide variety of sounds into one danceable heartbeat becomes undeniable.
In between remixes of House classics like “Work” by Masters at Work and “Freed from Desire” by Gala Francis, Francis continually evades predictability by mixing in Tech House (“Sweat” by ZDS and Chicago’s KE), Latin House (“El Sueno” by Dennis Cruz), and songs that defy classification (“Born Again” by Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano).
The diversity of Francis Mercier’s music selection was matched by the diversity of the crowd who came to see him at Spybar.
It was possibly the most diverse crowd this reporter has seen in 6 years of frequenting electronic music shows across Chicago. From old to young, stylish to conservative, and ethnicities across nearly every continent, people were getting down. Despite the diversity of house music’s fan base in a city as large as Chicago, relatively homogenous audiences of white 20-somethings are a familiar sight. Francis Mercier brought out people from every corner of Chicago together in the enjoyment of house, and that’s what this music, born in this city, is all about.
Author: Sammy Lopez