As the popularity of electronic dance music has grown, long time fans of the genre have seen an upsurge in sounds and scenes they don’t consider representative of the crème de la crème of what the genre has to offer. Although the deep/tech house niche is burgeoning in New York City (and elsewhere), with listeners rapidly converting, it’s still eclipsed by bottle service clubs and events headlined by mainstream artists. Fans of the underground are passionate that their umbrella genres — tech, techno, and deep house for the most part — are not only the future of dance music but amongst its best outputs. When the glitz and glamour surrounding electronic pop music dissipates, they believe that the light bulbs illuminating the underground will remain lit.
Friends who had already made the switch — or at least stood with one foot firmly planted on either side — were relentless about its high class quality and in some cases, “sophisticated superiority.” Their claims weren’t solely about the music itself but the scene and its vibe as well. Despite their persistence, my attempts at understanding the underground were unsuccessful and so, I remained apathetic. I’ve never needed huge builds and drops to satisfy my preferences — not that I didn’t and don’t still enjoy them — but I was a member of the camp that found the underground boring.
As a music editor and someone who has always encouraged musical exploration for others, I decided it was my duty to give the scene a fair shake before writing it off for good. Although there’s a lack of major publicity, underground events abound in New York and with a little help from my friends I decided on Verboten’s event with Seth Troxler, Davide Squillace, and Matt Tolfrey. Resident Advisor‘s top DJ list, which ranked them at numbers 1, 45, and 99, respectively solidified my choice as a good one.
With a quality crew in tow (half the battle), I began the trek to Park Slope, Brooklyn where SRB is located. After having my ID double checked I made it past the bouncers and into the venue without the typical hassle of sloppy lines and a crew of irritable and overworked staff. Inside, the scene was unlike any dance music event I’ve ever attended. There were no theatrics or mosh pits — just you and the beats.
In conjunction with Verboten’s bookings, this setup creates an intimate vibe and draws a unique crowd. Trying to get a feel for my underground compatriots proved difficult as the only real commonality was that we all lay passionately in bed with the same slut, music. There were industry execs, students, financiers, writers, model barbies, baristas, and everything in between all uniting over a powerful and very real shared interest.
My experience in the general admission section of most clubs, venues, and festivals has almost always proven miserable. At Verboten, however, not once during the course of the evening was I stepped on or shoved. I wasn’t worried that someone was going to plunge to their death, accidentally punch me in the face, or seize within eyeshot and inevitably ruin my night. From start to finish, it was smooth sailing — unpretentious, easy, and addicting. The way it should be.
Perhaps the most honest reason I can offer for trying on the underground is that over the last few months I’ve felt my interest in dance music wane considerably. The music I had previously considered boring, grabbed hold of me and I don’t imagine it will ever let go. Its spooky, soulful beats acted as catalysts for my necessary musical reawakening. If, like me, you feel dance music’s allure has gotten lost or a nagging wanderlust has driven you to explore, then I suggest you give the so-called “underground” a chance. I did, and although I was prepared to hate it after spending six hours in an unassuming warehouse in Brooklyn I can finally say, “I get it.” While I actively encourage you all to check it out, I do so with a disclaimer: please respect the environment that’s been created because it’s truly wonderful.
But if you go and you don’t like it, that’s okay too. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel bad for not liking the underground, or any genre for that matter. Music is not about appeasing others or liking things to be cool — it’s about a feeling.