Just When You Thought Arca's Boots Couldn't Get Any Bigger…

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It is the biggest boot in the world. The end.

Everything You Need to Know About New York's No-Dancing Law

The year was 2003, and Dominique Keegan, owner of the beloved Alphabet City dance hotspot Plant Bar, had a plan. According to a New York Times report from that year, Keegan had devised a clever system to keep his club safe from city inspectors attempting to enforce the Cabaret Law, a Prohibition-era regulation which prohibits dancing in any business without a so-called cabaret license. Keegan instructed his bouncers to flip a switch if city inspectors appeared; the switch activated a blue light in the DJ booth, a signal for the DJ to put on Radiohead’s album Kid A. The gloomy record, Keegan hoped, would put the kibosh on dancing and spare him a costly ticket.

But one night, a DJ missed the cue and the bar received a citation for “16 people dancing.” Then it got another ticket, and the city padlocked Plant Bar’s doors. Keegan was informed that in order to reopen, he had to replace DJs with a jukebox and prevent any further dancing. At the time, the Bloomberg administration was considering repealing the Cabaret Law. Keegan told the Times that if that were to happen it would be “music to my ears, if you’ll forgive the pun.”

Fast forward to 2017: Plant Bar is history and Bloomberg is a private citizen, yet the Cabaret Law remains on the books. “No dancing” signs can be found on the walls of establishments across the city, and small venue owners live in fear of the onerous tickets they can receive if their patrons shimmy, grind, or sway.

Instituted under Prohibition in 1926, the law has been used to regulate many different types of venues over the years. One constant, critics allege, is that the law has been disproportionately enforced against venues that cater to people of color and the LGBTQ community.

Not for long, though, if a coalition of activists, nightlife professionals, and city councilmembers get their way. Political momentum has been building around the latest effort to repeal the law, which has survived many such previous attempts. Legendary promoter David Mancuso spoke out against the law as early as the 70s, and in 2000, activists protested the Giuliani administration’s strict enforcement of the law with the “Million Mambo March,” in which protesters danced from Tompkins Square Park to Washington Square Park.

On June 19th, 2017 a group of activists, politicians, business owners, and dancers gathered on the steps of city hall. They were there for a press conference, because later that day councilman Rafael Espinal—chair of the committee on Consumer Affairs—would be conducting the first-ever city council oversight hearing on the Cabaret Law, a formal step required for Espinal to introduce legislation to repeal it. Epinal represents District 37, which includes large swaths of Bushwick and Williamsburg, and has more intimate connections to club culture than you might expect from someone who works in City Hall. Standing behind the podium, Espinal cleared his voice and addressed the gathered crowd of reporters and cameramen.

“Nightlife cannot be brought out of the dark, but it can be brought out of the shadows,” he said. “After nearly two years of advocating on this issue with New Yorker’s from all corners of NYC, I am proud to officially introduce this bill to repeal the racist and outdated cabaret law.”

Despite Espinal’s commitment to dance culture, it’s unlikely that the repeal effort would have evolved so far without the Dance Liberation Network. The DLN was formed earlier this year in the wake of the Ghost Ship Fire, which spurred a group of dancers and nightlife professionals active in the Brooklyn scene to take action against the Cabaret Law. People like Hutchinson and John Barclay, who founded Bossa Nova Civic Club, worry that squelching legitimate venues through Cabaret violations will drive dancers to less-safe underground parties, in addition to reducing the number of legit spaces available to people from marginalized communities. By raising awareness and collecting signatures for a petition calling for repeal, they’ve been able to draw increasing public attention to an otherwise arcane legislative effort.

So, what happens now? Below, read on for our explainer on what the cabaret law is, how it came to be, and what needs to happen for it to be repealed.

What is the Cabaret Law?

The Cabaret Law prohibits dancing by more than three people in any NYC “room, place or space” that sells food or drinks, unless that space has a cabaret license. It was initially introduced in 1926, with the intent of helping police regulate speakeasies during Prohibition. While various amendments have been made to the bill over the years, the core regulation has survived: in 2017, it’s still illegal for more than three people to dance in an any unlicensed NYC space.

Why are people trying to overturn it?

One major reason is the law’s prejudicial history. A piece on THUMP charting the law’s evolution over the decades described it as representing a “secret history” of nightlife in New York, one which has often reflected the suppression of black, brown, and queer musicians and scenes. When the law came into being in the 1920s, it was used as a vehicle for targeting Harlem jazz clubs, which primarily catered to an African-American audience.

In 1943, the government added a new amendment mandating that NYC musicians obtain a so-called “cabaret card” in order to perform, which required that they undergo fingerprinting and questioning by the NYPD. Black jazz musicians were deeply affected by these regulations. “My right to pursue my chosen profession has been taken away, and my wife and three children who are innocent of any wrongdoing are suffering,” wrote Charlie Parker in a letter to the New York State Liquor Authority after his card was revoked over a heroin charge.

Many other jazz legends—including Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Billie Holiday—also had their cards suspended, usually due to drugs. The law was finally repealed in 1967, following some lawsuits and a telegram from Frank Sinatra to a City Council Member critiquing the “demeaning requirements that New York has imposed on entertainers.”

In the 60s, another amendment targeting jazz musicians was adding to the law. Known as the Three Musicians rule, it banned groups of more than three musicians from playing in a venue without a cabaret license. The law also restricted unlicensed venues from hosting any musicians playing instruments associated with jazz, like the saxophone, while making an exception for “not more than three persons playing piano, organ, accordion, or guitar or any stringed instrument.” A judge deemed these restrictions unconstitutional in 1988, but for decades, they obstructed jazz musicians trying to practice their craft.

The most recent substantive change came in 2006, when, in response to two separate murders of young women who’d visited Manhattan venues the night of their death, requirements for extensive security camera systems covering exits were added to the law. “It smacks of Big Brother,” said William K. Dobbs, a longtime gay activist, in an interview with the Times. “It will have an impact on everybody who enjoys New York nightlife.”

At various points in time, different aspects of the cabaret law have been enforced in different ways. In the 90s, after a decades-long period in which the law was only loosely enforced, Mayor Giuliani revived the ban as a way to crack down on the city’s thriving clubs as part of his “broken windows” theory of policing.

In an essay for THUMP, Michael Musto described how the mayor “demonized nightlife as our city’s bastard child in order to make things safe for tourists and co-op owners.” Musto noted that venues catering to non-white and queer clientele often became targets for Giuliani; he spoke with NYC nightlife icon Penny Arcade, who described how “One Avenue A bar that was a cafe during the day and a gay bar at night was fined thousands of dollars for people swaying to the music!”

Besides historical prejudice, is the law still a problem for venues?

Appearing on the THUMP podcast, venue owners Rachel Nelson and John Barclay—who run Happyfun Hideaway and Bossa Nova Civic Club, respectively—described the difficulties their business’ have faced due to the Cabaret Law.

“You live in fear,” explained Nelson. “It’s two o’clock in the morning, a song comes on that everybody likes. People want to dance. You live in fear as a person who runs a space that all of the sudden someone’s going to start having fun, and they’re going to dance. Then all the sudden, you’ve got a violation on your hands just because people are expressing themselves.”

According to Barclay, the NYPD, the FDNY, and MARCH taskforces—inter-agency squads that specialize in fining venues deemed to be trouble spots—can tactically issue Cabaret law violations as a means of targeting venues for other reasons.

“If they don’t like you because you’re loud, it’s a lot easier for them to shut you down with the cabaret violation because dancing is explicitly illegal,” Barclay noted. “With the cabaret law, they can shut down any establishment they want.”

Nelson pointed out that the Cabaret Law offers enforcement agencies a convenient way to find violations and issue fines. Other types of violations can be disputed in court, but with the cabaret license, she explained, “they can walk in and say, ‘This person is dancing. Stop everybody. Turn the music off. Turn the lights on.’ It’s used as a mechanism to gain entry and a way to alienate people in a way that’s really, really easy. It doesn’t require that much work.”

Nelson also believes that the Cabaret law still has the potential to be used prejudicially. “It happens to a lot of DIY or places that are hard for the traditional bureaucracy to understand, so it might be LGBTQ, it might be Latino, it might be black,” she said. “It might be some strange mixture of artists and weirdos that aren’t doing things normally.”

In an interview with Gothamist, Olympia Kazi of the NYC Artists Coalition claimed that the law “is being enforced in an arbitrary manner that ends up discriminating,” adding, “The venues that we’ve been talking to, the DIY venues, they told us, ‘If we have rock and roll, nobody will show up [to enforce the law]. If we have hip hop, where likely we are going to have African-American music, the NYPD tend to go in.'”

How many business currently have cabaret licenses?

According to City Hall, currently 97 establishments, out of more than 25,000 in New York City, have a cabaret license. That means that almost everyone dancing in New York on any given night is doing so illegally.

Wait, seriously?

Yup.

Why are they so difficult to get?

Barclay pointed out that if you were to take a cursory look at the requirements for getting the license, it would not seem to be particularly tough or costly. The application fee ranges from $300 to $1,000, depending on venue capacity. In practice, though, acquiring one is impossible in some cases and prohibitively expensive in others, due to obscure zoning rules and the extensive waiting periods needed for various government agency sign-offs.

“The big issue is that they did some retroactive zoning legislation or something that was introduced a couple decades after the law was put in place, which says it has to be in a Use Group 12,” Barclay explained, referring to districts that are zoned for commercial manufacturing. “The issue with that is that almost no establishments in NYC are in Use Group 12,” meaning that it’s “literally impossible to acquire a cabaret license for the vast majority of places.”

Per Barclay, even businesses that are do happen to be in Use Group 12 have to traverse “quite the web of bureaucratic hell” in order to receive a license. This includes receiving feedback from community boards—notorious for treating nightlife as a nuisance—and sign-offs from multiple departments, in addition to installing expensive surveillance cameras. (You can read the list of requirements here).

Barclay estimated that getting all of these things in order can at least 18 months—during which time venue owners still have to pay commercial rent while they wait for their licenses to be approved. The end result, according to Barclay, is that only very well financed corporate venues can afford to apply for a license. “They spend a ton of money to get that money back,” he explained. “They cater to a very financed people. Rich, European tourists. It’s not for average New Yorkers.”

What needs to happen for the repeal effort to be successful?

Espinal has introduced a bill calling for the repeal, co-sponsored by council members Antonio Reynoso and Steven Levin. The bill needs to go through two separate votes before it can become law. First, the legislation must be approved by a majority of the five-person committee of Consumer Affairs, of which he’s the chairman.

Asked about the status of this effort, Espinal said, “We started the conversations. I haven’t spoken to every member, but one member, Karen Koslowitz from Queens, has shown support for the repeal. I think that’s very encouraging. She represents neighborhoods in Queens that I thought would be concerned with repealing the law, and to see that she’s on board sends a signal to the rest of the council that this initiative is worth looking at.”

If the bill makes it out of committee, it moves to the general floor of the Council, where all 51 members will have the opportunity to vote on it. If it receives a simple majority of 26 votes, then it moves to De Blasio’s desk. If he vetoes it, then it can be overturned by a two-thirds majority.

Why might some people be against the repeal?

At the oversight hearing, Community Board 3 member Susan Stetzer—who represents parts of Chinatown, the East Village, and the Lower East Side—expressed skepticism about the repeal on the grounds that it could mean increased friction between nightlife establishments and residents in some neighborhoods.

“Economic growth is always good, but putting businesses and residents in conflict is not good,” she explained. “Some people want to party till 4am and that’s fine, as long as residents, and especially children, can sleep. The issue is we need balance.”

As for other members of the city council, Espinal expects that some will need to be convinced. “They’re concerned about their quality of life being impeded on by night venues, and the noise that it might draw into the neighborhoods,” he explained. “You have members who are very sensitive to that idea and those concerns. They’re the ones that are going to mostly be the ones we’re going to have to talk to and persuade, showing them and telling them why it’s a good idea.”

Espinal pointed out that despite these reservations, so far no groups—including councilmembers or community boards—have come out publicly against the repeal effort.

What does the mayor’s office have to say about it?

At the oversight hearing, Espinal pressed a representative from DeBlasio administration—Lindsay Greene, a senior advisor for the Office of Housing and Economic Development—to give an opinion on the repeal effort. When he brought up the law’s racist history and asked if such legislation was appropriate to keep on the books, Greene equivocated. “We are aware of the historical issues of the law and its enforcement, but this administration has not taken those approaches under Mayor DeBlasio,” she said. She declined to state how many violations the city had issued during his tenure.

The City is currently defending a lawsuit from local business owner Andrew Muchmore, who owns the Williamsburg venue Muchmore’s. He received a citation in 2013 for “swaying” in his establishment, and sued the city. “There is no protected First Amendment right of expression to engage in recreational dancing,” city lawyers argued in a June 2015 filing.

At the oversight hearing, Councilmember Steven Levin pointed out to Greene that if the city didn’t support the Cabaret Law, it wouldn’t defend the suit against it. “The administration is currently defending the lawsuit in court,” Greene responded. While she would not answer any more questions regarding the city’s stance on the law—citing the lawsuit—Greene did mention that there are “ongoing conversations” about the law in the mayor’s office.

On our podcast, Espinal said that he believes the mayor’s office is being cautious about taking any public stance at this point in the conversation, but thinks they are open to repeal. “They’re concerned about jobs; they’re concerned about the venues in our city, and the jobs they create,” he said. “To a degree, I think that they are open and will look to see how they can find a common ground so we can move forward.”

How can I get involved in the repeal effort?

The easiest and most effective way, said Espinal, is to call your local councilmember. Dance Liberation Network has put together a helpful map on their website showing the names and phone numbers of the councilmember for each district.

“I don’t expect this to be easy,” noted Espinal on the podcast. Still, he said he believes that support from concerned citizens “is going to make the job a lot easier. We’re going to be reaching out to all my colleagues, and making sure they understand why this is an important step to take. “

House of Feelings Is All About Celebrating Your Pals' Hidden Talents

New York producer and songwriter Matty Fasano started a party called House of Feelings to help his friends get out of a rut, after noticing that they—like so many bogged down by life in the big city—were keeping their heads down at day jobs with little outlet for some of their other talents.

“In New York, everyone’s friends are so talented,” Fasano says, sitting in a coffee shop in Brooklyn. “More often than not someone’s a writer, but they’re also an insane DJ. With the first [party] I was like, ‘Make a stupid DJ name and come play this thing!'”

The very first House of Feelings event took place in April of 2014 in the kitchen of an apartment space in Bushwick and Fasano says he mostly remembers it being cramped and sweaty. He played a live set accompanied by three saxophones (“It was so stupid,” he recalls with a laugh), and a number of his friends hopped behind a laptop to DJ for a crowd that turned out to be too big for the kitchen. Midway through the show, they even had to move to the nearby main room at Silent Barn because of space constraints.

Fasano’s friends are involved in every step of the party, helping create fliers, design art installations, and of course, provide the bubbly sound that give the party the uplifting feeling that its name hints at. He and his high school friend Joe Fassler lead a house band, also called House of Feelings, that often opens the parties otherwise records more dizzy disco for them to drop in their DJ sets. Over the years, they’ve also started enlisting some bigger guests around the scene, including the likes of of FaltyDL, Olga Bell, and Mr. Twin Sister, among others. Fasano also started hosting a show on Newtown Radio last year with guests that have DJed the party.

On August 11, House of Feelings (the band) will release their debut EP, Last Chance. Continuing the party’s collaborative spirit, Fasano, Fassler and producer Dale Eisinger work with a vast cast of old pals to create eight tracks of blistered disco-punk, blunt house tracks, and squirrely techno. Listening to the record captures that unquantifiable feeling of just watching friends blowing off steam in a studio.

One of the record’s standouts is “Falling,” a collaboration with singer-songwriter Shamir, who sings a disco duet about forging into the future, which Fasano says mirrors both Shamir’s move in his own work away from dancier realms and House of Feeling’s formal arrival. Catch that below, along with a condensed conversation with Fasano about the roots of the party, and its place in the oft-crowded New York nightlife scene.

THUMP: What’s your personal relationship to dance music?
Matty Fasano: I’ve been a musician my whole life. I studied funk and soul growing up—one of my first instruments was saxophone. It totally changed into an obsession with dance music when I sang with LCD Soundsystem at their “last” tour, for all the Terminal 5 and Madison Square Garden shows. I was in their backing choir.

How did that happen?
I had been singing in a choir with some friends, and one of the guys happened to be friends with James Murphy. His name was Nick Sylvester and James told him he needed a male backing choir. Nick was like “I’m in one.” [After being in that band], I went for it [with electronic music]. I started simply with beats and stuff and then got really into it. I was also on a dance label at the time called Godmode.

What was the impetus for the very first party?
I didn’t think there were enough awesome dance parties around, unless you went to Bossa Nova or something. Also, in New York, everyone’s friends are so talented…

…And they’re just ignoring that part of themselves.
Or they’re nervous. Or there’s no forum. With the first one I was like, “I have so many friends who are not doing stuff. Come DJ this thing!” That was it. I expected it to just be my buddies but it spread.

Did it crystallize right away musically?
I wanted it to be more of a disco vibe. When I go dancing, I mostly hear about techno or deep house or raves. There’s so much posturing. Not to throw shade, but it’s really intense. I really rejected that because it’s so not fun. I wanted something more open, and more open in the type of music you can play. The vibe is kind of disco but there’s elements of techno house and punk. There aren’t rules. You don’t have to play this BPM or this type of music.

It seems united in a spirit of fun.
Uplift. Fun. Openness. Community. There’s not a lot of pressure. Some of the parties are really big but some aren’t. It’s just about letting my friends do what they’re awesome at doing.

Is there anything you do specifically with your party to create that alternative?
One of the main things is that it’s a dance party but it’s also an art installation. I feel like that gives it a sense of coming in and it’s a whole experience. It’s not like, “You must dance.” For the last one at Silent Barn, Kris [Petersen] created these magical lights out of nothing that were all around the room. That allows people to relax a little more and see it as a more holistic experience. Also, quick successions between sets. The live sets are really short so nothing gets too involved. It’s less “come watch me play” than being a part of the broader thing.

Has it been a struggle to maintain that as House of Feelings becomes more prominent and you have access to bigger guests?
The “bigger guests” started with just my friends. I’ve been playing music in New York for like 10 years, so there’s just a lot of people that I knew. Slowly but surely I started going out on a limb and asking someone, “Hey, would you come DJ this party?” Then it’s like, “Hey do you want to come on the radio show?” We’re friends now.

The collabs on the EP for example are very in the family. Shamir was on Godmode, we’ve been friends for like four years now. GABI who sings on it is my girlfriend, so that helped. Meredith Graves is on it. She is really good friends with our producer Dale [Eisinger]. She just walked in and we were hanging out and asked her “Do you want to try singing this thing?” And she just crushes it. Even with bigger guests I want it to be very natural and organic.

How did the EP come together?
My best friend from high school Joe and I are kind of the musical center. We got really inspired by the idea of dropping a House of Feelings song in the middle of a House of Feelings set. Then, it was that friend process. We got one of my best friends, Dale, and asked him if he wanted to produce. He doesn’t usually do that but he was like “Uh, okay.” We just started meeting at his house, which became like a clubhouse.

There’s never too much pressure. If we were an indie rock band making an EP it’d be a calling card. What’s fun about this is, it’s out there, but we’re just going to keep on throwing parties.

You don’t have a responsibility to go on tour and sell it. You’re not forced to do so many of the debasing things you have to do as a “band.”
We’ll just sell it at our parties, which we throw anyway! Stuff like that. Having been in so many bands…being in a band is one of the worst things in the world. Or it can be. This band also rotates a lot. My friend Tim Angiolillo plays guitar and sax. Hunter [Giles] who runs [Infinite Best, which is putting out the record] also plays alternate percussion. My friends Jared Olmsted and Monica Salazar from the band Courtship Ritual. GABI sings in it. Then it’s kinda just whoever’s around. If someone plays tuba, it’s like great, come play.

Every single one of your friends is probably very deep. It’s also a way of accessing those secret talents. It keeps em busy. It’s always a question with my friends, why doesn’t someone have a regular gig somewhere? They’re so talented. It’s impossible to make money in music nowadays, but why is that. Let’s fuckin throw a party where they’re the main DJ.

It’s so easy to get sucked into a routine and let the creative stuff fall to the side.
It is. And it’s so easy to get sucked into the rules of consumption of what music is supposed to be—who’s supposed to be famous and who’s not. We’re getting to a point where that’s all BS and more and more people realize it’s nonsense. Most people you know have a pretty awesome and deep taste in music. It’s almost like a mental thing. Anyone can do this.

House of Feelings’ EP release party is on August 18 at Trans-Pecos, tickets are available now. Last Chance is also available for pre-order in advance of its release on August 11.

An Ode to the Pacemaker, the Failed Portable DJ Device That Never Made It

This post was published originally on THUMP UK.

Remember the Pacemaker? No, I’m not talking about the metal plate that stopped your Nan from riding the Big One at Blackpool, or the dude that jogs in front of runners and then takes an early bath, stuffing his face with Mars Bars as he cocoons himself in a silver foil poncho. I’m chatting about the world’s first portable DJ device, a gadget somewhere in between a proto-smartphone and a Tamagotchi, that’s main USP was being able to mix basically anywhere. Laying down jacking house sets in NHS waiting rooms or mixing ragga on the Circle Line was finally made possible. At last there was something to do on long train journeys that didn’t involve staring into the abyss, drinking piping hot sort-of coffee, or reading Rush Hour Crush over and over again until Milton Keynes hovered into view, a diamond in the dismal rough of the endless English nowhere.

If you’re feeling a little confused at this point, you won’t be alone, because, although the website for the gadget has a splash page proclaiming the thing’s “not forgotten,” it’s not exactly been remembered either.

Ten years ago this month, Swedish inventor Jonas Norberg showcased the Pacemaker at Sonar in Barcelona. Norberg told me that he saw it as part of the Scandinavian invasion that was sweeping the world of mainstream dance music at the time, arriving alongside the Swedish House Mafia, and the Stockholm-born Spotify. The Pacemaker was fueled by what Norberg describes as “the increasingly easy access to content,” combined with a growing desire on the consumer side to be more active when it came to music. Which, I think, meant that he realized that, yep, more and more people wanted to become DJs.

The Pacemaker was released the year after, and having been featured in the likes of The New York Times, Wired, and Mixmag, it managed to shift a pretty decent 100,000 units. It is, rather improbably, still being manufactured by the same Korean company a decade on.

Given that nothing’s as strange as the recent past, you’d be forgiven for sneering at the Pacemaker, consigning it to the dustbin of near-history, but there was something noble about Norberg’s aim. He and the team wanted to create a kind of handheld console for music, a Pioneer-style Playstation Portable that was both “of professional quality” and “used by well-known DJs.” So far, so nice, but really, who actually wants to whip out a PSP-sized controller in the club in an attempt to commander the crowd with something that looks better suited to playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire: Party Edition than the latest Workshop 12″?

A combination of that, and some technical issues—the Pacemaker only had one jogwheel which made actual mixing quite difficult—saw the thing banished to the depths of the YouTube dungeon. Over there in the digital bushes, punters managed to actually get the hang of it, even if DJing with a Pacemaker looks about as satisfying as coding a website with a Casio calculator. It might hearten Norberg to know that somewhere out there in the world there’s a core group of gadget-loving hobbyists who happily pay up to $500 to get their sweaty hands on it.

Norberg blames the relative lack of sustained success on bad timing. “The Pacemaker came out just as the world started to change to an iPhone world,” he laments. “It just didn’t make sense to do your own hardware any more.” A few years on from its release, the Pacemaker was discontinued. The team decided to divert their attention towards the emerging world of apps, initially focusing on the Blackberry market. Now their app, just called Pacemaker, is up there with Serato’s Pyro software as one of the world’s most popular tools for phone-based mixing.

Compared to the physical controller, the app’s pretty cutting edge. It lets you mix tracks from Spotify’s catalogue, and has a built in AI DJ that helps you choose and mix tracks, which scarily puts the software in a hierarchically higher position than the selector. It’s pretty clear to see why it’s been a hit, since it lets you mix on your phone, without having to have a separate device, and has aimed itself at the hobbyist rather than the club target market the hardware was trying to reach.

For my sins, I get all misty-eyed whenever I find myself thinking about the Pacemaker. I sit and eat my cottage pie and find the thing’s laced with my own tears, which negates the need for additional salt but still leaves a funny taste in my mouth. The thing about the app version is that it just becomes, well, another app. It’s next to Sworkit and Candy Crush and the BBC Weather icon, just another thing to tentatively tap at when you’re sat on the toilet.

There’s something romantic in the obsolescence of its physical sister, and its forgotten moment in history. Sure, it’s a pretty wanky thing to try to use at a house party (and much more expensive than a decent controller) and is more likely to give you RSI for your thumbs than a standard piece of kit. Yet phone apps have taken micro-sized mixing to another level, introducing dumb stuff like the robot that helps you choose tracks, an Orwellian nightmare for selectors that want to crate-dig rather than be ruled by a dance music version of Clippy.

Norberg tells me that they’ve even released new firmware for users, and that the community is “alive and thriving” and backed by a “bunch of hardcore users” that run the shared website. Although poor sales may have led to its discontinuation, it seems that it had a community that other controllers wouldn’t inspire, all shared by a collective desire to DJ on the fly and master an insane palette of skills. And if it helped inspire people to get mixing and engage with their favorite thumpers, then that’s certainly not a bad thing. Sure, it made people look like a bit silly, and came out at possibly the worst time conceivable. But the Pacemaker, living up to its name, did weave its metal frame into at least a few peoples’ hearts.

Even if you couldn’t really DJ with it.

How Worried Should We Be About Fentanyl-Laced Cocaine?

Last month, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued a warning alerting the public to a rise in overdose deaths linked to fentanyl-laced cocaine. According to the city’s press release, 37 percent of the approximately 1,300 people who died of drug overdoses in New York in 2016 tested positively for cocaine and fentanyl, compared to 11 percent in 2015. Per the same report, fentanyl—an opioid pain medication that’s cheaper than heroin, and 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine—is getting cut into all kinds of illicit drugs, often without the user’s knowledge.

In the corners of nightclubs and on my Facebook newsfeed, my friends erupted into debates. Some warned others it was no longer “safe” to do cocaine, while others expressed disbelief that fentanyl-laced blow was really as widespread as media reports made it out to be.

Wanting to cut through the panic, I decided to reach out to DanceSafe’s Founder Emanuel Sferios and Executive Director Mitchell Gomez for some clarity. They told me that in response to the recent news, they’ve decided to start selling fentanyl drug testing kits on DanceSafe’s website this week.

Still, Sferios and Gomez expressed the belief that fentanyl poses a much bigger risk to heroin users than those who do cocaine. “Although on our website product page, we give instructions for people to test non-injected drugs like cocaine,” said Sferios, “we expect the vast majority of people purchasing our strips will be using them to test heroin or counterfeit pharmaceuticals, where fentanyl is much more common.”

Below, Sferios and Gomez explain whether New Yorkers should really be worried about fentanyl-laced cocaine—and what people can do to protect themselves.

THUMP: Is fentanyl-laced cocaine really something the average club-goer should be concerned about?

Mitchell Gomez: From how few of the fentanyl-cocaine deaths we have seen, this is clearly a fairly rare event. There are a huge number of recreational cocaine users in the United States. If even one percent of the cocaine was laced with fentanyl, we would have far, far more deaths than we’re seeing. That said, given the incredibly serious outcome, users should be aware of the risk and do everything they can to mitigate it.

Emanuel Sferios: When people say “fentanyl,” they may be referring to fentanyl itself or one of its many analogs. Some of the analogs are even more potent than fentanyl itself.

What are the dangers are of accidentally doing fentanyl?

Mitchell Gomez: Fentanyl, and some of its even more potent analogs, are deadly in incredibly small doses and difficult to test for. We simply don’t know why they are ending up in non-opiate drugs. Fentanyl analogues like 3R,4S,βS-ohmefentanyl are nearly 30 times as potent as fentanyl. This means a fatal dose would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 160 micrograms—a dose that in powder form would be invisible to the naked eye.

Emanuel Sferios: That is a tiny spec. People regularly snort a gram or more of cocaine in a night with no problems.

Is fentanyl getting cut into coke, or is it being passed off as coke entirely—the latter presumably being way more dangerous?

Mitchell Gomez: It’s being cut in to cocaine and other drugs. A one-gram bag of pure fentanyl would be nearly 400 fatal doses.

Emanuel Sferios: There is absolutely no reason for a dealer to add fentanyl, a synthetic opiate, to cocaine. Cocaine users are not looking for an opiate-type high.

There is absolutely no reason for a dealer to add fentanyl to cocaine. Cocaine users are not looking for an opiate-type high.—Emanuel Sferios, founder of DanceSafe

Without a drug testing kit, what are some signs that you might have taken coke with fentanyl in it?

Mitchell Gomez: Feelings of euphoria and relaxation, sedation, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, respiratory depression or arrest, and death.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Mitchell Gomez: All recreational drug users, regardless of the substance they use, should be trained on the opiate overdose drug naloxone, and should never be using alone. Even having multiple people all take bumps of a new or untested baggie is potentially problematic behavior. Now that we have a reliable test for fentanyl and related analogues, all users should also be testing their drugs for fentanyl.

Is fentanyl more dangerous than other substances that could get into your coke?

Mitchell Gomez: In terms of potential adulterants, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are by far the most dangerous things we have seen cut in to cocaine.

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Honey Dijon Is Not Here for All You Bros

This post appeared originally on THUMP UK.

Honey Dijon is like the big sister you’ve always wished for: funny, intelligent, and occasionally a little bit spiky. In London to play Village Underground, the genre-defying DJ, fashion icon and trans rights activist has agreed to spend an afternoon with me doing the most sisterly of activities: going magazine shopping and bitching about boys, specifically, techno lads. “It’s always straight white men who seem to fuck up the party!” she says as we browse the shelves at magCulture, London’s leading independent magazine store.

If Dijon is direct, it’s because she has to be—this is a woman who doesn’t have time to fuck around. While all DJs are used to the jet-lag-induced fugue that comes with their career, Dijon hums with the nervous energy that only the truly exhausted emit. On the way to the shop Dijon remains on her phone throughout, and she is a delight to eavesdrop on. In the ten-minute drive she talks about the precise definition of shade; discusses her dinner plans with Dalston Superstore owner Dan Beaumont (a vegan restaurant in Dalston), and says things like, “I don’t know, I just go where my agent tells me to,” a sentence I aspire to one day say myself. I’m disappointed when the journey is over—I could listen to Dijon all day.

Here are some things every profile of Honey Dijon mentions: that she is from Chicago and was mentored by house music legends Derrick Carter, and later by Danny Tenaglia; that she is one of the only underground DJs to have close ties with the fashion world (she’s friends with Ricardo Tisci and parties with the fashion elite); that she came up through the New York club scene in the 1990s; that she refuses to be defined by one genre, but mostly plays house and techno; that she is trans.

Here’s what you won’t read: that she is fiendishly smart and intellectually curious, which makes her a little bit intimidating; that she has a cool, measured way of speaking, not unlike a university lecturer; that she is unfailingly polite; that she will get annoyed if you stick a camera too close in her face (as Jake our photographer finds out); that she knows a phenomenal amount about contemporary culture; and that she is very, very tired.

Photo by Jake Lewis.

I’ve asked Dijon to accompany me to magCulture because, as a child growing up in the south side of Chicago, Dijon obsessively read and re-read all the magazines she could get her hands on, purchasing them from a small book shop above legendary record store Wax Trax.

They were a gleaming portal into another world; a world where young black kids didn’t need to produce three forms of ID at the door of a club while a white kid sailed straight in; a world of glamour and beauty and even a hint of erotic threat. In essence, they were a perfect warm-up for the 1980s and 90s New York club scene, a place of decadence, excess, and ultimately tragedy, as the Aids epidemic ravaged the city’s queer communities.

“When I was growing up I was very ostracized for being a different person,” Dijon says calmly, flicking through a copy of Japanese fashion magazine Whatever. “So magazines were my escape. I didn’t do drugs, I collected magazines and stuff, and I learned about culture, art, and music. I used to devour them cover-to-cover. They were my salvation. When I felt like no one wanted to play with me or be associated with me, they were my friends.”

I ask Dijon to name some magazines that inspired her growing up, and she reels them off in staccato rapid-fire bursts. “ I-d, Italian Vogue, British Vogue, French Vogue, American Vogue, French Elle, Italian Elle, Details Magazine, Interview Magazine, what’s that one which Mapplethorpe used to shoot for? [Pained, she fumbles for the name—when it comes to her, she snaps her finger, which is wearing a Louis Vuitton ring—in satisfaction.] Splash!” she exclaims.

Dijon’s wearing a Louis Vuitton ring because she’s got close ties to the fashion label, having recently soundtracked their menswear fashion show. I can’t think of another underground DJ so comfortable in the fashion world, but then Dijon is a polymath, and a collector.

“Growing up, music and fashion and art were my worlds because I was a weirdo,” Dijon explains candidly. “I say that with the most respect. All my friends are weirdos and misfits. So this [she makes an expansive gesture with her hand, sweeping the room], this was my school, my training.”

Photo by Jake Lewis.

Recently, Dijon suffered the thing all hoarders most dread: losing their collection. The majority of her records were wiped out when a flood damaged her storage unit. Dijon seems to have cycled through most of her stages of grief by now, and is equanimous when I ask about it.

“It made me realize I don’t own anything. Anything you think you own, you don’t. Everything we have is an experience—from the houses you live in, to your clothes, none of it’s ours. It’s just shit on loan, even if you pay for it,” she says, as nobly and self-sacrificially as a wandering monk.

Dijon has a sense of perspective about these things because she’s known real loss. “I’m carrying on the traditions I was taught by people who are no longer here,” she explains, referring to how AIDS decimated her New York community. “AIDS really got rid of two generations of queer creative people; people of color; misfits, so it’s great to still be here and to have something to pass on and to still be around.”

Today’s set at Village Underground is Dijon’s first in London for a while, although she’ll back in Europe to play Farrago Festival in August. The intervening months since her last London visit have seen gentrification and over-zealous officialdom threaten to suck the soul, Dementor-like, out of our club scene—leaving it wan and pale, like New York’s nightlife. I mention Dance Tunnel’s closure and fabric’s near miss. In a superbly low-key but also extra move, Dijon picks up a copy of Artforum magazine and points out an essay she recently submitted about the perils of gentrification.

“The biggest thing that’s happening for me in our cities is that gentrification is pushing people out of all the spaces where they’d be able to play loud music. All the people who’d create change—artists, musicians, people who need space for their art—they’re being pushed out. Real estate is so expensive that the people who create change cannot be part of that change. So they don’t live in our cities anymore. Our cities are being taken over by really wealthy people and filled with gourmet chocolate shops; gourmet this, gourmet that. And wealthy people consume. They don’t create.”

Photo by Jake Lewis.

Also: techno lads. Techno lads are ruining everything. I ask her why dancefloor have become so male, pale and stale—for every Glastonbury bread raver, there’s a hundred Asos lads who’ll swipe a swig of your water bottle and hit on your mate. “This is what happens when anything becomes colonized by the masses,” she explains coolly.

I namedrop a couple of festivals I’ve been to recently—including Sunfall, which Dijon played at last year—that I think are particularly guilty of attracting all-white, male-dominated crowds. “Sunfall was very white,” she says matter-of-factly, surprising me with her candor. “I think it’s because of the music that’s being made and played. It’s just not connecting with people of color. People are making tools, not music. It’s extremely monotonous,” she says.

We wrap up our interview and Dijon purchases a bundle of magazines whose names I barely recognize, thanks magCulture’s owner Jeremy for letting us take over his space, then chats the breeze with us in the cab as we sit in traffic on the way back to the hotel. Just as I’m asking her about Milan Fashion Week (she’s flying in the following day) Dijon spies a stationery shop from the window of the stationary cab and jumps out at Old Street roundabout to investigate. I rate it: like the polymath she is, Dijon’s always got one eye focussed on the present, and one darting around the side.

Follow the 10 Commandments of Clubbing, Or Go to Hell

This article originally appeared on THUMP Germany.

People go to the club to be free—to forget their mundane daily routines and the social constructs that govern their lives. Maybe they even want to overdo it, to forget themselves a bit. Those are all perfectly human desires, but what about the hundreds of other people at the club who also want to cut loose? Things can get messy fast in a room full of inebriated clubbers, so we should probably establish some ground rules to keep everyone safe and happy.

And what better place to start than the Ten Commandments? Since we assume you’re already familiar with the basics like “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” we’ve created the Ten Commandments of Clubbing. We promise you’ll learn to appreciate them. Amen!

1. Thou Shalt Not Knock Into Thy Neighbor on the Dance Floor

It’s Friday afternoon, and you’re counting the minutes until freedom. You’ve been plotting out your weekend for days now. Go home, take a power nap, then out you go! Woo!

After you’ve gotten past the bouncer and left all that pesky clothing at the coat check, you finally make it to the dance floor. You’re really getting into a zone, but then, out of nowhere… a punch to the gut! What’s going on? Is someone trying to start something?!

Immediately your eyes zero in on the offending object: A backpack. What, did some hiker get lost in here? Unfortunately, backpacks in the middle of the dance floor are a tragic reality of nightlife.

In the event that you’re one of those backpack-wearing people, please, just coat check your damn bag, shove it in a corner, or leave it at home. The only thing more treacherous than the backpack-wearers are glasses and bottles negligently left on the dance floor.

A personal photo from our esteemed colleague, Angus Harrison.

But there are other hazards lurking in the shadows of the club: Flailing extremities.

If you think you’re the perfect mix of Misty Copeland, Justin Bieber, and a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, chances are you’re really giving off more of a Ryan Seacrest/Jenny McCarthy- vibe. We don’t mind your enthusiasm and free spirit! Just remember that a single flying elbow, misplaced knee, or lapse in inner-ear balance can ruin the fun for everyone.

The only people worse than inconsiderate dancers are the people who aren’t dancing but refuse to relinquish their place on the floor. They just stand there looking demonstratively annoyed, sighing and scrolling through their phones, obstructing the free movement of everybody else.

2. Thou Shalt Not Pester Thy Neighbor With Thy Smartphone

If photos and videos are allowed in the club where you’re partying, duck faces and dog-filters will reign free. Along with the compulsive selfie-takers busy distracting everyone else with their self-obsessed ways, there’s also the amateur videographers who will freak out every time somebody stands their way. “Thanks for ruining my night!,” they’ll say. You’re welcome, since you’re probably not having much fun if you’re taking videos instead of getting into a groove.

Selfies-takers and delusional cameramen aside, it’s fine to text your friends once in a while, especially when you lose them in a club. But you should really limit smartphone use, because it’s super annoying to see your piercing blue display when you’re standing (or swaying) in the middle of the dance floor.

3. Thou Shall Not Exceed Thy Limit

Excess and escapism go hand in hand. Although people try overanalyzing recreational drug and alcohol use, at the end of the day, it’s as simple as craving a night to let loose. While this seems obvious, you should get to know your limits. Because nobody’s happy if you’re shriveled up in a corner with vomit gradually crusting on your sweater, eyes open with nobody home. Not only could you really damage your health, but you could also ruin your friends’ evening if they get stuck babysitting you for hours.

A symbolic depiction of kids who exceeded their limit. Photo via TheArches / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

4. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Spot in The Bathroom Line

Bathroom lines in clubs are an interesting beast. Regardless of how much filth they’ve accumulated over the years, restrooms are permanently in high demand, just like that diner down the street where you always end up after a long night. Waiting in line for what feels like an eternity really puts a damper on the night when you could be on the dance floor meeting your next fling.

But don’t despair. While in line, you can gossip with friends, answer texts, or scroll through Instagram—cool, Lena and Felix are currently eating buckwheat pancakes topped with fresh fruit and crème fraiche for brunch. Waiting alone? Forgot your phone? No worries! Removed from the noise of the bar and the dance floor, the bathroom line is the ideal spot to make new friends.

Just don’t be the guy or gal who struts straight to the front of the line or cuts in front of other people. Keep in mind, there’s really only one reason you will be excused from waiting your turn: If you’re about to explode from any of your major orifices.

5. Thou Shalt Not Crowd the Pulpit of Thy DJ

Oh yeah, we’ve seen you. You start inconspicuously moving in from the corner of the dance floor, then slowly weave your way through the crowd and wait for the right moment to strike. And suddenly, BAM. You’re standing there, clumsily reaching out your hand to the person behind the booth, resulting in a painfully awkward fist bump/high-five mishap. In that moment, your facial features appear to finally relax. You’re on your way to your own personal Nirvana, a place of eternal contentment.

But the DJ’s face reads quite differently. If you could hear him above the noise, he’d be saying, “Can you piss off? I’m trying to work here, and your clammy, chubby little hands and idiotic grin are blocking my view. And no, I won’t play your request.”

Photo via TheArches / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

6. Thou Shalt Not Harass Thy Neighbor

You’re on the dance floor, swaying to the music—eyes closed, smile wide. Suddenly, two sweaty hands rip you from your tranquil meditation, and you swat them away. Earlier, some random guy was dying to start up a conversation about your “really cool earrings,” and another pushy creep kept trying to buy you a drink even though you declined his invitation three times.

Please don’t get us wrong: PDA is rampant on any dance floor, but it takes two to tango. Before even making any attempt at getting physical with a stranger, you need verbal consent and a reciprocal smile. The instant a person doesn’t reciprocate interest or even rejects advances, it’s time to politely bow out.

7. Thou Shalt Not Sing Along

I can’t really think of anything else worse in the world than a person trying to sing along to a song they don’t know the words to—or singing it loudly and off key. I’ve had a rough last few months, and I don’t think I could handle it.

And if you’re one of those people that wants to clap along, please don’t. Thank you!

8. Thou Shalt Not Talk Your Neighbor’s Ear Off

The occasional hand on the shoulder—followed by a wide-eyed, hoarse “DUUUUUUUDEEE, SICK BEAT”—is about the maximum of direct communication that’s allowed on the dance floor. There’s no bigger downer than a couple of buzzkills who insist on loudly discussing and dissecting their dissertation proposals during “Daydream”—and it’s definitely not okay during “Polynomial C,” either. Save your thoughts, worries, and ideas for the bathroom line or the afterparty.

Photo by Ray Weitzenberg / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

9. Thou Shalt Keep an Eye Out for Thy Neighbor

Of course you want to have fun when you’re going out, but no matter how insane the party is, you should always keep an eye out for your fellow humans. No, you don’t have to love them all, but courtesy and cooperation are the basis of civil society.

If you’re out at a club, and somebody seems to be having a bad time, go check in on them to see if everything is alright. If you pick up on someone’s party being ruined by an unwanted advance, offering to help them can work wonders. And of course, if you’re worried about somebody’s safety, let the staff at the club know.

10. Thou Shalt Not Tell Your Neighbor How to Party

Seriously, nothing is worse than a busy-body.

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The Dream of the 90s is Alive in this Vintage MTV Report on Ibiza

Anything seemed possible in 1999. A heady feeling of techno-optimist excitement mixed with apocalyptic fear peaked that year. The approach of Y2K and rapid expansion of consumer technology spurred sci-fi and magical realist films like Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut, and the Matrix, while music videos like Bjork’s “All Is Full of Love” and Aphex Twin’s “Windowlicker” (both directed by Chris Cunningham) made the future seem as sexy as it was scary. Of course, 9/11 and the Dotcom Crash were just around the corner, but for a moment, a wave of tension that had built up through the decade crested in an explosion of trippy culture.

One of the main pressure valves through which these feelings manifested in reality was dance music. Looking back at footage from 1999, you can see what I mean. In videos from a free rave in Tompkins Square Park that year—a brash explosion of diverse mosh pits—the underground scene’s freedom and life is evident. But it wasn’t just a DIY phenomenon; these ecstatic moments also popped up in the mainstream.

Over the summer of ’99, MTV threw a massive party on Ibiza in an outdoor rock quarry. By the end of the decade, dance music—and the White Island in particular—had emerged as a dominant global brand, far beyond its humble Midwestern roots. With music videos by acts like the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, and even Darude on repeat, it made sense for MTV to engage with the culture directly. The channel booked acts like Paul Oakenfold, David Morales, Faithless, Orbital, the Jungle Brothers and Chicane for an all-night party, which became the hour-long special above. It’s a thrilling document, remarkable for the depiction of raving at peak cultural saturation in all its sweaty, blissed-out glory.

Faithless, the legendary trance trio, perform immortal hits like “Insomnia” and “God is a DJ” in front of a frothing audience of thousands. Their live set-up—complete with guitar, drums and even a wind chime—gives substance to their uplifting melodies, singer Maxi Jazz leads the proceedings with a raw magnetism. He looks like a prophet as he glances beatifically over the crowd and recites the intro to “God is a DJ”: “This is my church, this is where I heal my hurts, it’s in natural grace, watching young life shape.” There’s a sacred innocence to the performance, from Jazz’s beatific posture to the adoring faces of the crowds at his feet. This is rave as religion.

Our host for the evening—an enthusiastic Israeli VJ named Eden Harel, in cornrows and a cowboy hat—plays the role of the apostle, scurrying through the crowd and receiving joyful testimony from the faithful. “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen!” exclaims a group of cherubic Brits in togas. “Massive!” exclaims a girl through gritted teeth.

It’s hard to imagine something like this on TV today—the only time dance music appears on one of the big networks is when they trot out Skrillex or Diplo at the Grammy’s. A 2017 version of this doc would take place at some mid-brow festival in Southern California or Eastern Europe, with guys in John Varvatos distressed leather Converse talking about the “vibes” at a Kygo set and jumping in place at a beverage company-sponsored side stage. That’s why I find the MTV special so fascinating—our relationship with dance music has changed. In 1999, raves served as portals into the terrifying and entrancing future that seemed to shimmer on the horizon. Now, we’re living in that future, and the notion that mainstream dance music could deliver us from armageddon into a socialist rave-topia seems naive. Rather, it’s just another tool we have to help distract ourselves from drone warfare and the plight of Lamby and the ongoing social media-driven implosion of American democracy—our civilization’s oddly mundane decline.

After sets of trance and hardcore rave from Chicane and the Jungle Brothers, the special culminates with an incredible performance by British dance legends Orbital—keyboards illuminated by their trademark headlamps, they rush through an uplifting set of screaming acid and mind-expanding jungle before ending with a grinding industrial remix of the Butthole Surfers “Sweat Loaf.” The song’s immortal refrain—”SATAN SATAN SATAN”—feels like an inverted echo of Faithless’s hit. Religion and rapture, the sacred and the profane, all mixed up into a potent cocktail of idealistic hedonism under the Mediterranean sky.

What Your Pronunciation Of "Ibiza" Says About You

Illustrations by Arthur Hickman

Nothing sets off a debate amongst clubbers faster than the “proper” pronunciation of Ibiza. I’ve witnessed countless unhinged disputes between friends over the imaginary “th” (Ihh-biza versus Ihh-bitha), or the introductory “I” (Ee-biza versus Ihh-beeza). It seems like everyone has their own special way of butchering the island’s name.

Technically, the correct way to say it is “Eivissa” (“Ee-vee-sa”) after the Catalan word for Ibiza. But that’s too old-school; even the sun-kissed native Spaniards prefer “Eye-beeth-a” these days.” After a bout of speech analysis and deep contemplation, I’ve concluded that there’s no right way for Ibiza to be orally expressed. In the end, it all boils down to where you reside and the dialect innate to your regional nightlife community. I may not be a linguist, but I can sure as hell discern a lot about you and your partying characteristics by the way you pronounce the name of the island.

Here are the five ways to pronounce Ibiza, and what each say about who you are.

1. The Drunk Brit: “Oi-beef-er/Oi-beef-a/Beef/Eye-beef-a”

Clad in an ill-colored deep V-neck, skin-tight jean shorts exposing his stocky thighs, and cheap, rubber flip-flops revealing his unclipped toenails, the Drunk Brit has no fewer than three Camel Blues dangling from his wilted, dehydrated lips at all times. With his mates, he’ll resort to calling the island an abridged “Beef” in casual repartee. “BEEF?! FOHKIN’ LOVE IT HERE. YOU GOT A LIGHT FOR MY BACCY, CHAV?”

This chap is usually found in an Ibiza mega-club, amidst the seizing strobes and palpable human funk—likely emanating from his own sebaceous glands. When he’s not dozing in and out of consciousness whilst choking on his own vomit in one of the club’s dark corners, he’s likely dipping his knackered pinky finger into his burlap sack-sized bag of steamy, humidified cocaine, forcefully jamming it up an unwary stranger’s nostril. “THAT’S OI-BEEF-ER FOR YA, YA MASSIVE, SICK CUNT!!!”

2. The Pretentious Music Snob: “Ihh-beeth-a/Eye-beeth-a”

Look at this pie chart I made

A post shared by Austin Gebbia (@dear_morni) on May 10, 2017 at 1:28pm PDT

This know-it-all spent two weeks in Ibiza three summers ago, earning a few euros distributing flyers for Cocoon’s promotional street team. They believe this experience earned them the right to declare themselves a “savant” of the dance music community, and the demigod of everything techno (which they’ll giddily pronounce as “tesh-no,” because they believe it makes them sound like a well-versed insider.) They claim to be from Miami with “spiritual roots” in Tulum, but they actually still live at home in their parents’ basement in Daytona Beach.

“Danny Daze and Matrixxman taught me a lot about the 808,” they’ll disclose mid-Veuve Cliquot swig in a green room, adding, “The sizes of the Sunwaves stages this year were totally lackluster.” Even a fleeting connection to a famous DJ is worth a humble-brag: “Carl Craig’s twice-removed cousin’s aunt? Total sweetheart; I met her once in Frankfurt mid-layover and also at Fish Shack in Eye-beeth-a.” If you withstand a conversation that goes beyond 30 seconds, they’ll reach their ultimate talking point: Mykonos vs Ibiza. “Ihh-beeth-a used to be cool, but Mykonos is now royally fucking it,” they’ll non-sarcastically say.

WHY, you ask, must they pronounce their words with a Spanish lisp? Because they “owe it to the White Isle” and it’s “respectful to the Es Vedrà’s all-encompassing energy.”

3. The Nightlife Professional: “Ee-beetz-ah/Ihh-beetz-ah/Oi-beetz-ah

European one-percenter DJs, bi-coastal publicists, and DJ agents who try to close deals mid-urination stream in VIP bathrooms live for “Ee-beetz-ah.” They speak it ever so gently, both on radio shows and in person, hoping to sound as smooth as one of Kaskade’s vocalists over a Funktion-One.

“Ee-beetz-ah,” though, is not only reserved for the DJs who own land in Ibiza and make tons of profit off their merchandise. It’s also spoken by “bi-coastal” publicists, and DJ agents attempting to negotiate deals and contracts in artist’s trailers backstage at music festivals while simultaneously trying to score some grade-A blow.

“Have you been to Ee-beetz-ah this season yet? Elrow opening was absolutely killer,” claims a New York-based publicist who will proceed to corner you, wielding a plastic, Adidas Stan Smith’s, and a 360-degree ring of white powder circling their right nostril. “Ee-beetz-ah is where it’s at this summer. My DJs are loving it.”

4. The Puzzled American: “Ihh-bee-za”/”Ee-bee-za”

The Puzzled American couldn’t locate Ibiza on a map if their life depended on it—they just showed up on the island with a book nobody’s ever heard of after winning a 5-day getaway from their favorite radio station.

They still think all electronic music is “EDM,” and the only reason they say “Ihh-bee-za” is because that’s the way Mike Posner sings it in his chart-topping song. The Puzzled American thinks that BPM is just a station on Sirius XM.

Even though nobody’s popped molly since Ultra 2013, they’re completely oblivious to how the times have changed. “Have you seen molly?” They’ll ask their friend’s dealer via text, who will reply: “Bitch, it’s 2017, everyone’s on ketamine now.”

When they’re not listening to a “Top 50 EDM Hits of 2017” playlist with their frayed Apple earbuds, they’re jamming out to Carrie Underwood hits. If you showed them a picture of Josh Wink, they’d say, “Ah, I fucking love ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic!”

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The Best EDM Songs Ever & 9 More Things We Loved on the Dance Music Internet

1. 101 Best EDM Songs

Skrillex? Aviicii? Diplo? Yes, yes, and yes! See who made our list for the 101 best EDM songs of all time.

2. Daphni

The enigmatic producer returns with his latest mix album, Fabriclive 93. This hour-long collection of bright, shimmery tunes includes some Daphni originals. Stream the whole thing right now on NPR.

3. Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald

This techno masterpiece from Juan Atkins and Moritz von Oswald is the perfect cap to your weekend, and you can hear it exclusively on THUMP.

4. The world’s most beautiful festivals

Mixmag rounded up 20 of the world’s most astonishing festivals. We’ve got so much FOMO right now.

5. From day jobs to DJs

It’s really important as a creative artist to have the freedom to say no. If you transition too early and you’re depending on gigs for every penny, you can end up whoring yourself out, and playing places you don’t want to.

We spoke to six DJs and producers about how they made the leap from their professional working lives to creating and performing music full time.

6. The dance music dictionary

What words from the dance music world should be added to the dictionary? Mixmag has a couple of ideas.

7. Luttrell

On the latest THUMP exclusive stream, we spoke to Luttrell about his shimmery new EP, which you can hear right now.

8. SHYBOI

Dig in to this heavy set, recorded at Brooklyn’s Groovy Groovy party.

9. The Nines

We take a look at this Dallas nightclub, where BDSM meets Burning Man.

10. Jana Rush

The Wire has the exclusive stream of Chicago progressive footwork producer Jana Rush’s debut album.

Finnish Synth-Pop Band FEELS Uses WhatsApp to Share New Tunes

Whether it’s for playing out at a club or listening at home, DJs and producers typically have an encyclopedic hoard of music, new and old. In The Last Record, they tell us about the last three songs or albums they’ve purchased, and why these were important additions to their music collection.

This week, we spoke to FEELS, a rising synth pop band from Finland. The group shared their selections from a cabin in the middle of the Finnish countryside, where they are working on new music. Most recently, the group released their Gates EP.


Howling – “Howling (Âme remix)

I heard the remix for the first time about two years ago. Every element in the song is so good and essential in a way. And the vocals are so good. The vocal track is wonderful because it’s so intimate and sensitive. The atmosphere of the remix supports the vocal track perfectly and that’s why it has been a big song for me for couple of years. I love the vision. I get when the lyrics say ”keep the car running.” Very intense! I see something dark and lonely but still beautiful. Maybe a spacious room which is empty and full of smoke.

Corinne Bailey Rae – “Horse Print Dress”

We share our findings in our WhatsApp group, it’s a great source of new music!I heard it last fall when my friend played it to me and love it because there’s ‘crazy synth bass action’. I thought it was pretty fresh. The synth bass action continues along the lineage of James Jamerson, Stevie Wonder and Jaco Pastorius doing cool, soloist runs in the background but still not getting in the way of the vocal and thus supporting the song.

Dan Croll – Swim

This song came up in my weekly recommendations playlist on Spotify. Dan Croll doesn’t have that much music out there yet. I think I’d probably heard one of his songs before this one. It has a nice vibe and makes you feel good. At the same time, it’s fresh and also very cool. I think the lyrics also hit me because of something I’ve been going through lately. I think the lyrics are about the frustration of wanting to be with someone really hard, but for some reason it’s not possible: “Don’t you want to explore the depths that I’m willing to take? / Don’t you want to explore the waves that I’m willing to make?” The lyrics are pretty simple, I think, but work very well. I’m also a big ocean lover so I like the ocean talk.

The Dallas Nightclub Where BDSM Meets Burning Man

Photos by Mark Kaplan

As Claira Bell, wearing little more than a corset and underwear, climbs on stage at a nightclub in Dallas, Texas, a man in a white mask and black top hat issues a warning to the crowd. “Our next performer,” he says mischievously, with the wag of a finger, “gets a little out of control.”

Bell, the headlining performer of the club’s monthly Abnormal Formal fetish event, carries with her a tray filled with candles, balloons, a butane lighter, a staple gun, and an ice pick. One by one, she removes the objects from the tray.

First comes the ice pick. She tilts back her head and, with “Sucker for Pain” by Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, and Imagine Dragons playing in the background, inserts it up her nostril. Having removed her corset, she uses a staple gun to fasten blown-up balloons into her abdomen. Finally, Bell takes the candles, which are attached to long needles, and sticks them through the flesh of her forearm. Then, she lights the candles and uses them to burst the balloons, which explode with glitter.

Allen Falkner and his wife Courtney Crave at Abnormal Formal

This is, to the most part, a perfectly normal Saturday night at The Nines—a club in Deep Ellum, the primary entertainment district of Dallas, Texas. The Nines is co-owned by Allen Falkner who, with assistance from his wife, Courtney Crave, also hosts the fetish night where Bell performed.

Falkner, 48, is a man of many hats: He’s been a professional body piercer since his early 20s, and across the street from the club is Fade Fast, his tattoo removal shop. But most people around the city know him as the man who helped popularize body suspension—a form of body modification in which people are suspended in the air by hooks inserted in their flesh—in the 90s and early 2000s. Falkner’s suspension work earned him TV appearances on Ripley’s Believe It or Not (twice) and Mindfreak, where he hung up Criss Angel for a stunt in 2005.

Falkner was a minority owner of the bar’s previous incarnation, a more straight-ahead dance club called Red Light Lounge, which was open for just under two years. But last September, when he took over a majority stake in the bar as well as day-to-day operations, he relaunched it as The Nines. He also decided to program events that appealed to his interests, filling the venue’s calendar with suspension, bondage, burlesque, cosplay, Burner, and dance music parties.

Allen Falkner

Lounging on one of the black leather sofas in the lobby of Fade Fast late one afternoon in May, Falkner tells me that this unusual hodge-podge of subcultures is rarely found in other clubs around Texas. “A place like New York, you have burlesque shows every night of the week. San Francisco, you’re going to find goth industrial nights everywhere,” he says. On the other hand, he continues, “it’s not that Dallas doesn’t have any weird or strange culture. At the same time, it’s not as accessible as other cities.”

Freakier nightlife subcultures, including less mainstream forms of dance music, have typically been confined to underground venues in Dallas. But those have become harder to come by in the past year and a half. Beginning on New Years Eve in 2015, Dallas’ fire marshal has shut down a number of local DIY spots for code violations, lack of certificates of occupancy, and other reasons—leaving a dearth of affordable arts spaces in the city.

One group that’s found a home at The Nines is the local suspension community. Falkner was first introduced to suspension when he lived in California in the late 80s and early 90s by performance artist and body modification expert Fakir Musafar.

In 1992, Falkner established an organized suspension group called Traumatic Stress Discipline. Nine years later, he founded SUSCON, which he claims was the world’s first suspension convention. Today, SUSCON is a six-day event held at multiple venues in Dallas with speakers, classes, suspensions for advanced practitioners, movie screenings, and nighttime parties.

A SUSCON attendee suspended from an aerial tress on the roof of The Nines in 2016

Several of this year’s SUSCON events took place at The Nines in April, and, until his scheduling demands recently made it impractical to continue, the club hosted monthly suspension meets that were open to the public.

“I can’t say we’re the only [club] in the United States [to host suspension events], but I’d say we’re probably among a select few,” says Falkner. “There are probably venues that do it more regularly, but it’s definitely more underground. It’s not quite a public thing like we have done.”

John Eaves, one of Falkner’s business partners, and himself an active member of the suspension community, concurs. “Having a commercial business that’s comfortable with having hook suspension performed there at all is kind of rare,” he explains. “It’s a weird liability to begin with. Getting someone who understands it, and is attracted to the idea of having it in their club, is pretty rare.”

Covered in tattoos and piercings, Falkner says he was weaned on punk bands like Butthole Surfers and Dead Kennedys, but was drawn to dance music in part for what he sees as its similarly DIY sensibilities.

He refers to an upcoming show by Australian-born, Berlin-based DJ and singer Anklepants: “He’s known for is wearing a mask that has an animatronic dick nose that moves with his music. It’s a very bizarre, very, very cool act.” Falkner says Anklepants is the perfect example of how he hopes to bring together dance music with obscure forms of entertainment and performance art.

Falkner rotates from hooks at SUSCON in 2016

Dallas DJ Chase Dugger, whose background is as a DJ in the burner community, has been in charge of The Nines’ music programing since the beginning of the year. Dugger first worked with Falkner for Falkner’s Freaks and Fetishes event in 2014, then held at the Lizard Lounge, a Dallas club owned by The Nines’ other business partner, Don Nedler.

Performers at the suspension, fetish, and burlesque events typically play their own music selections—Falkner reckons Tool is the most popular choice for suspension acts—so Dugger books DJs to perform between acts. He also hosts a weekly Thursday night event with a DJ crew he’s a part of called The Lowdown.

Dugger makes a point of trying to showcase local DJs, along with live electronic or noise acts. “I’ve noticed the DJs [at suspension events] go a little bit more out-there [with their song selections] than they would if the people were only there to listen to music,” he notes. “Usually the DJs are pretty excited; it’s not the typical dance party that they’re used to.”

Honey Cocoa Bordeauexx, a Dallas burlesque dancer who’s been performing for 10 years, hosts a monthly at The Nines called Vintage Cocktail Hour, which caters to fans of pinup and rockabilly culture, and takes place the same night as The Lowdown. “My crowd stays around and hangs out with [The Lowdown] crowd,” she says. “For someone involved in any type of subculture, [The Nines] is a good place to hang out and feel at home and be yourself.”

The club brings together all kinds of people who might not fit in elsewhere in Dallas, Bordeauexx continues. “These communities tend to have people who are very open minded, free spirited,” she says over the phone. “I might not be a cosplayer, but we both wear costumes—we can dance and dress up and understand what each other does.”

Chase Dugger (left) is the musical programmer at The Nines

Running a club like The Nines has its challenges. Falkner has learned that many off-beat parties don’t attract enough people to be held on a regular basis, and has introduced more traditional events like trivia and Sunday burlesque brunch in order to keep the room full.

There are also restrictions imposed by the city and local community to what events at The Nines are allowed to do. The Nines’ suspension parties take place on their rooftop, where there’s a large, open-air tress installed, and only happen at night. “We have to be careful because it’s been made clear that suspension is not welcome during family hours,” says Falkner, laughing. “We’re not exactly everyone’s favorite place in the neighborhood, but we’re also not unwelcome.”

Due to state liquor laws, the club also has to enforce rules like no exposed nipples or genitalia. Falkner brings up the rope subset of the bondage community, who he says moved to The Nines after the fire marshal also shut down their regular spaces. “They like to get tied up naked. Fantastic. I would love to have naked people tied up in my club. But I can’t,” Falkner says ruefully.

Despite these limits, a night at The Nines never fails to thrill. Back at Abnormal Formal, Bell eventually returns to the stage for a second performance, this time with a metal plate wrapped around her stomach. Smiling, she leans into a sharp metal grinder, shooting sparks off into the crowd.

Jeff Gage is on Twitter