Alright, let me start by saying that in my city, I’ve been in the “underground” drum and bass and dubstep scene for a “long time”. I’d say it all began when I was around 16-17 and local DJs would setup in a public plaza during a downtown event called “Nightfall”. Instead of going to see the main acts at Nightfall, which featured a lot of country, bluegrass, rock and folk music, I would be in the park plaza dressed up as a candy kid and dancing my butt off to whatever the DJs felt like playing that night.
I can even remember this was during the pre-digital camera days and when radio shack still sold car audio equipment. So I’d say what, late 90’s
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It wasn’t until I turned 18 that I was finally able to traverse the 120 mile/2 hr drive to Atlanta to start seeing world-renown djs perform. Unlike my city, Atlanta has always had a bigger, more established local drum and bass/dubstep scene. While ATL throws down not only on the weekends, but also throughout the week, the promoters in my city were steady rockin any venue that would host our “underground” parties.
Venue changes were constant. You couldn’t keep up with where the next party was going to be unless you “knew” someone.
Chattanooga, like any other city, has always had the die-hard never-say-quit locals that consistently and that is the key word–CONSISTENTLY supported the scene.
Talk to any promoter in any city, however, and I guarantee you they can affirm that promoting regularly scheduled parties and hosting local dj talent can easily be a losing game.
What has been unique to my city, however, is the dynamic range of ups and down the scene has experienced throughout the past few years.
Myself, being part of the “older crowd” (gosh that sounds weird to say), you know–one of those die hard local fans that supported the shows as much as possible, began to see a huuuge influx of a new generation of bass heads! While this was really exciting, to be honest, we couldn’t quite figure out how this secondary, younger generation just sprung up out of nowhere and began throwing what they titled “Bangers Ball”s. It was literally an unbelievable amount of younger millenials that had discovered this awesome “new” thing called dubstep.
These “Bangers Balls” were easily pulling over 200 or more (not sure of the max number but I believe it was closer to 600) heads to the shows,
while the older die-hard-not-gonna-give-you-up shows were averaging on a GOOD night about 50 heads!
Yes, Bangers Ball showcased regional talent, but more importantly the local dj talent as well!
Well, ultimately, the inevitable happened. The two promoter groups Bangers Ball x Scenic Rhythm Foundation (one of the oldest dnb/dubstep promoters) joined forces.
The older crowd, having seen the enthusiasm for the dirty, grimy dubstep in the new generation, literally rose up to meet the challenge, raised the bar, while also sprinkling in the older crowd’s beloved dirty, grimey drum and bass. Overall, The younger crowd and the older crowd merged.
Here is where I will pose some questions and some possible solutions.
Just like in the past, the scene has shrunk yet again to the die hards. But this time, it wasn’t just the older generation coming to the shows.
We could blame it on venue problems. One of our best venues for hosting parties basically began “screwing over” the promoters, trying to force them to rent out a more expensive upstairs venue when the promoters knew that the downstairs, street-level venue was THE preferred place to host a show.
It was right in the middle of downtown, on the sidewalk, and the massive amounts of bass booming from the venue echoed well across market street and the downtown scene. We were here. We were having fun, and we knew how to throw a party.
Although the venue problems with the promoters began before the incident I’m about to describe, the following incident solidified the death of that disrespectful venue as a whole.
On Christmas Eve, 2011, a gang fight broke out in the back parking lot of the venue. Several people were shot and wounded, but not killed. The event made national news. The entire City of Chattanooga was affected and is now recovering through city-leader and school-lead meetings dealing with gang violence.
The City cracked down on the venue, revoking the venues rights (which also doubled as a church on sundays and somehow allowed the church to rent out and avoid normal safety precautions, etc, that a larger, more experienced and lawful venue would have to have in place to stay in business).
So, just as the scene has always done, the local promoters and djs, passionate about what they do and the music they enjoy and their performances, ADAPTED, moved venues…to literally right across the street.
And this was months before the tragic gang violence.
Many KUDOS to those two influential promoters and their supporting crew! Hollllahhh French, Wallin, Akshen, and all the local DJs that perform on a weekly basis at a DNB/DUBSTEP event at RAW Sushi Bar and Grill in Chattanooga TN on THURSDAY Nights! (another post to come soon probably;)
So, the real question comes down to this: What makes our smaller, local scene so vulnerable to this seeming rollercoaster of attendance or interest?
I have a couple theories. One of which is easy, too easy to blame: the economy. However, that doesn’t settle well with me. It doesn’t seem like the only factor at play.
My second theory is more involved in sociological and ultimately cultural theory. I’d definitely say that the general question in all of the “old-school” heads when Bangers Ball “blew up” in Chattanooga, was, what the f*&k?? How are they pulling so many heads to their parties??
I’m here to theorize that it has everything to do with the promoters AND performers general interaction with their “customers”/”clients”/”attendees”.
Also, at the time the Bangers Ball was at its prime, online social media also played a role.
Bangers Ball, pulling upwards of 600 heads in a small city, was nearly unheard of! It was their promotion on Facebook especially as well as other social media outlets that created the necessary “hype” to keep that monthly on its feet! Not to mention the promoters AND Djs would be out, making friends, checking on the crowd and generally socializing that lead to the respect and loyalty of their fan base.
I believe just by explaining the history of the perceived “rise” and “slide” of the scene that I have set myself up to explain why there is a perceived lull in activity.
#1 Changing venues.
People are creatures of habit. They do not like change, period. Once you attend an awesome, mind-blowing evening in an awesome venue, you want to return to that venue again, due to some residual sub-conscious assumption that good times = particular venue.
#2 The interaction of the promoters and the djs with the crowd.
If the promoters and djs (NOT SAYING ANY LOCALS AREN’T DOING THIS, but that this is something to be aware of…) do not engage after their set or create personal, lasting bonds with their fans, the fans, psychologically could read that many ways. Such as, “they don’t care that my friends and I are here”.
I know that whether or not you are a dj, promoter or fan that whenever you get personalized attention from one of your favorite, respected and possibly famous talent, it makes you feel good. It makes you feel accepted and it retains loyalty as a beneficial side-effect.
I can’t believe I’m analyzing it this deeply but. Here we go: #3 VIP, Free Entrances and General Public Cover Charges. I hate to say it but, shame on you promoters that let your attending public in for free—especially if they are not either a)a performer or b)a performer’s +1. Even then, if a promoter is going to go so far as to let the performers +1 in for free, there’s no reason to do it every single time a party is thrown. If there is an established list of resident DJs, then maybe perhaps let the residents in free…but not to the detriment of the scene! Any Dj, performer or their +1 HAS to understand that not paying = no parties.
Are people paying a 5.00 cover at the door then turning around and leaving, demanding their money back? Sorry, no refunds. Tell them when they enter.
Are people complaining about a 5.00 cover to begin with? Try making it 2.00 or 3.00!
THEN there’s this whole creation of a VIP stigma.
What’s the best way to explain this…Okay, when you go to a major concert like KoRn or Smashing Pumpkins or Of Montreal or *whatever*…the general public already *knows* and *expects* there to not be general public access to the headliners.
Granted, it is ultimately up to the headliners as to whether or not they visit fans after a performance, but just the creation of a VIP area or limited access area creates a psychological sense of mystery, curiosity and desire.
People are always going to want what they can’t have, but at the same time they will always respect it, too.
Alongside of this sense of mystery and the unknown of the “VIP” area, comes the hope and desire of the “normal” fan to “ascend” to that level. If it helps, consider it a “keeping up with the Jonses” mentality. If a couple audience members are invited back to meet the performers, it generates that ever-sought-after “hype”. The attendee gets bragging rights and hence wants to share their experience, which just creates more hype and enthuses their friends to join in on the fun!
HOWEVER! This VIP section can be a double edged sword…….especially for the local talent.
It is the locals (performers and promoters) that “hold down” the local scene.
They need to be out and seen mingling with the crowd to maintain the precious loyalty that keeps the scene alive.
The main reason I am writing this article is due to the very annoying fact that a newbie venue in town has booked a headlining DJ—DJ Caspa, and chose NOT to include or promote ANY local talent. *Cough* Track 29, Chattanooga, *Cough*.
Let’s say that Track 29 in Chattanooga TN wants to remain open (as I’m sure any normal venue would want to do).
Considering they’ve booked a headlining “underground” dubstep name and not included ANY local talent, not only is it detrimental to the die-hard local scene because our local dj talent is not being showcased as it “should” (I say should because generally all promoters know that you book locals and headliners together…at least, that is how things have always been since I joined the scene in the late 90s/2k), but also by excluding showcasing the local talent, they are not perpetuating the momentum they are trying to create!!
I’ll try to say this one more time, in another way.
Dear Track 29,
Do you know what the word “BOH” means? How about “Big Ups?” no, no, that is beside the damn point.
Look. If you want to bring headliners to Chattanooga and tap into the underground scene that obviously has local support (think back to the 600k) You’re going to HAVE to produce and support the local producers and performers. It’s like, running a farmers market and not buying local produce. Does that make sense?
Momentum, a word I touched on just a moment ago, is what will perpetuate and grow a solid, loyal fan base in this city.
So far, I have not been to Track 29, Chattanooga TN. I must admit I am still very skeptical of it, despite me knowing some of those behind the effort. It isn’t because I doubt it is a good venue, but that I have seen the attempts to bring major talent to our city fail time and again.
I may or may not attend the Caspa show this weekend. Yes, I want to but it is yet to be determined whether I wish to cough up the cover charge during the middle of a move. I may simply sit back and keep my ear to the ground, so to speak, as I’ve done for years, and end up analyzing what, if any effect the show may actually have on the local drum and bass/dubstep scene. And, per usual, if I do not go due to hectic moving schedule/cleaning etc, I will plan on treating myself to a show in one of the surrounding cities: Nashville, Knoxville or Atlanta.
However, if I am not too exhausted this weekend and am able to attend, I will post about the show and my perception of its success in my small town.
All of this post has come from my applied/learned knowledge in the fields of sociology, anthropology and *ahhhhhh!!!* Marketing. I’d love to hear any or all of my friends sound off.