25 Portraits Proving Moogfest is Everything You Want a Festival to Be

This post appeared originally on THUMP Canada.

Since its beginnings in 2004, North Carolina’s Moogfest has set itself from other electronic music festivals by not only offering an impeccably-curated lineup of artists, but keynote speeches and workshops featuring academics, futurists, political organizers, tech leaders, and more. The 2017 edition was no different, with performances by the likes of Flying Lotus, Animal Collective, S U R V I V E, and Talib Kweli, and speakers including REM frontman Michael Stipe, synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani, and the International Centre for Theoretical Physics’ Dr. Kate Shaw.

Photographer Matt Lief Anderson was in Durham this year to capture participants, and he explained his process to THUMP over email.

“Moogfest has such an array of artists, scientists, etc. I approach an MIT scientist differently then Michael Stipe with more even lighting and less dramatic contrast,” he said. “I think the photos should reflect the musicians’ personalities. Other times, I had scientists and speakers ask me to shoot them like a band. That was fun too. Just adding colored gels to my lights really changes a person’s vibe.”

Of all the subjects, Anderson added that one stood out in particular. “Despite his obvious success as a comedian, Hannibal [Buress] was your quintessential Moogfest attendee. Participating in the build-your-own synth workshop, spearheading a chat with Flying Lotus, playing the theremin at the Moogfest wrap-up party all on a whim—a true collaborator and experimentalist.”

Check out the portraits below, and read our coverage of Moogfest 2017 talks by Mykki Blanco and Ableton co-founder Gerhard Behles.


S U R V I V E

Suzanne Ciani

Sudan Archives

Taeyoon Choi

Bearcat

Michael Stipe (REM)

John Mills-Cockell (Syrinx)

Flying Lotus

Laraaji

Kill Alters

Suzi Analog

Circuit Des Yeux

Hannibal Buress

King Britt

Colleen

Michael Winslow

808 State

DJ Premier

Greg Fox

Vivian Thi Tang

Rasheedah Phillips (The AfroFuturist Affair)

DJ Lance Rock and Nanny Cantaloupe

Deantoni Parks

Dr. Kate Shaw (right)

These Intimate Photos Show a Side of Detroit's Movement Most People Miss

Photos by Lyndon French

Let’s face it—photo galleries from music events are usually pretty boring. You see the same images over and over again: some guy with his hands in the air, a sea of faces in the crowd, a silhouette of a DJ from behind. Who cares?

Lyndon French, however, is not your average festival photographer. When I met him backstage at Movement in Detroit this year, he admitted that he’s more into portraits, and doesn’t have much experience taking photos of music events at all—but that’s exactly what I like about his approach.

Rather than treating the festival as an experience to be factually documented, Lyndon focuses on unexpected juxtapositions—between architectural shapes, interesting textures, and all sorts of tiny details—often pulling them out of their mundane contexts to create particular moments of poignancy.

Below, the images he captured over three days at Movement 2017 are a testament to how music photography doesn’t have to suck.

North America's Most Intimate Desert Festival Isn't a Mirage

This article originally appeared on THUMP Canada.

Now in its fourth year, Arizona’s FORM Arcosanti has earned a reputation as one of the most unique music and arts festivals in North America. Taking place in the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri’s otherworldly, still-evolving “urban laboratory,” approximately one hour north of Phoenix, organizers select only 1,500 attendees through an intimate application process. Unlike multi-day, sponsor-heavy events, FORM focuses on creating a community environment for its attendees, with campers encouraged to set their own relaxed pace.

Curated by Los Angeles electro-pop outfit Hundred Waters and singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, this year’s lineup included Skrillex, James Blake, Solange, Future Islands, Omar Souleyman, HEALTH, Kelela, and others. The weekend also featured dance performances (Phoenix-based artist Jorge Ignacio Torres’ Palabra Collective were a highlight), film screenings, and sound installations.

We sent Toronto-based photographer Gemma Warren to capture the sights of FORM Arcosanti 2017, and her images will have you planning a trip to the Arizona desert festival next year.

Deafheaven

Father John Misty

Huerco S

Palabra Collective

Julie Byrne

Moses Sumney

Omar Souleyman

Solange

Weyes Blood

Timber Timbre

These Bongs Are High Art in More Than One Way

[Editor’s note: David Bienenstock is a longtime cannabis journalist, author of the book How to Smoke Pot (Properly) , and an occasional VICE contributor. The following is a modified and edited version of the introduction Bienenstock wrote for Outlaw Glass , an exhibition he curated on the history and evolution of glass pipes and bongs currently on view in New York City.]

As cannabis legalization takes root and spreads, much of the media discussion surrounding this societal sea-change has focused on the economics or the politics involved. But how will ending the War on Weed transform us culturally?

The hottest hot take seems to be “marijuana is going mainstream”—an analysis that rather snobbishly presumes this cultural exchange will be a one-way street, with kids in garish tie-dyes taking a back seat to make way for the more refined tastes of Wall Street weed CEO’s and stiletto stoners.

So to better understand what gifts underground cannabis culture has to bestow, I curated an exhibition called Outlaw Glass, open now through May 27 at New York City’s apexart gallery. The show examines work from leading “functional” glass artists (i.e. makers of really fancy pipes and bongs) and traces the history of this legally grey art form through its birth, the coordinated arrests of some of its leading practitioners, and on into a new golden age of increasing acceptance of the art form and incredibly advanced technical achievement. For just as author Michael Pollan once described black market cannabis growers as “the best gardeners of my generation,” the most innovative movement in art glass today comes from those creating high-end artifacts that happen to double as tools for getting high.

Outlaw Glass honors the life and work of Bob Snodgrass—the widely acknowledged “Godfather of Glass”—showcasing his pipes alongside the incredible achievements of the generations of glass artists who’ve followed the path he blazed.

At the show’s opening reception on March 29, many of these “flameworkers” showed up to mix and mingle with the downtown art scene’s black turtleneck set, leading to much mutual enlightenment, and a few trips around the corner to share some weed. This kind of cultural exchange comes a long way from the Grateful Dead parking lot scene of yore, where Bob Snodgrass first pioneered the craft by selling his one-of-a-kind hand-made “functional glass art” to Deadheads as the band endlessly toured the country. One signature piece, which recalled the band’s own iconography of a skull in a top hat, became so synonymous with its creator that those lucky enough to acquire one would refer to it, reverentially, as a Snoddy.

Much of the more contemporary work in the show doesn’t even look like a pipe, which is part of the fun. Designed for “dabbing,” Outlaw Glass’s stand-outs come in the shape of a monster truck, Bigfoot, dragons, octopus, steampunk machinery, pickle jars, molecules and other fantastical designs. In total, the exhibit features works representing fifty different artists with a wide ranging set of styles, techniques and influences. 

Check out photos below: 

DIET and Dwreck, Divine Unholy Pt. 1, 2016

Coyle, Smokin Sasquatch

LIGJoe, Bob Snodgrass Tribute, 2017

Coyle, CapNCrunk, and Swanny, Animal Pile, 2016

Jeff Newman, Neuron I, 2013

Kurt B, Mustache Sherlock, 2010

Elbo, Pickle Jar V1, 2011

Phil Sundling, Untitled (from Merrlman series), 2015

Banjo and Joe P, Kolibiri Healer Devi, 2017

Kinda, Ego, Envy, and Exile, 2017

Redsnapper, Wake n’ Bake alarm clock functioning functional art, 2016

Kiva Ford and Micro, Untitled, 2016,

Jeff Newman, Craving Excitement, 2014

Jeff Newman and Chandler Ellis, Balancing Act, 2014

Outlaw Glass is at apexart till May 27, 2017. See more photos from the show here

Inside INDEX, A New Festival That's Like Afropunk For Electronic Music

Last Saturday (February 18) afternoon, I walked into the Knockdown Center, a gloriously dilapidated former glass factory in Queens, to find Richard Kennedy and DonChristian burning sage and painting a sign that said “Very Black” on the wall. The two musicians, both regular figures in New York’s queer underground scene, were putting the finishing touches on their ambitious new project called INDEX Festival: A Living Archive, which was set to open its doors later that afternoon.

Similar to festivals like Afropunk, INDEX was conceived a platform for and by people of color, with a focus on Black and Latinx artists. But while you might go to Afropunk to check out a blockbuster Grace Jones set or a sick new punk band, INDEX, with a staggering lineup drawing primarily from the electronic music sphere, was where you found your new favorite club music DJ. The festival was stacked with headliners like the shape-shifting experimentalist Yves Tumor, revered Philly club duo SCRAAATCH, ballroom queen La’Fem Ladosha, sculptor/poet Rin Johnson, and dozens of other performers spread across five stages and 10 hours. Our trusted photographer Erez Avissar was around to capture the scenes below.

Photos by Erez Avissar

DonChristian

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Yves Tumor

Richard Kennedy

SCRAAATCH

Mal Devisa

Gooddroid

Futurehood

Bearcat

Asking Humans About Robots At Daft Punk's Pop-Up Shop

All photos by Jacqueline Verdugo

I spent Valentine’s Day 2017 at the Daft Punk pop-up shop in Los Angeles because I’m single and figured a holiday popularized by an emotionally robotic greeting card corporation would be best served in the company of two actual robots. I was in luck, as the West Hollywood store (which is open until February 19) had several on display, suited up in full Daft Punk attire and positioned in between racks of custom-made merch by up-and-coming designers including Off-White and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, the two elusive musicians behind the group, were, shockingly, nowhere to be seen.

These days, high-end pop-ups tend to aim for a half-assed minimalist aesthetic (looking at you, Yeezus). But this is Daft Punk we’re talking about; they don’t do anything half-assed. They even have their own Snapchat filter. In addition to the limited edition t-shirts and jean jackets on display were rare proofs of vibrant and colorful album and tour photo shoots, and the intricate, wire-y inside of one of Daft Punk’s famous helmets. For me, however, the standout piece had to be the see-through Delta Digital DX500t Glas organsomething I would happily trade my first born for (joking, I do not currently have kids to trade)last spotted in the liner notes from Random Access Memories.

Though I was hoping to drown my lonely V-Day sorrows in some clothing purchases, one look at the price tags (I saw t-shirts for $150 and sweatshirts marked $295) had me permanently stuck in browsing mode. So I interviewed a few Daft Punk fans instead, mostly about their love of Daft Punk, their thoughts on robots, and whether we might get a Daft Punk tour this year.

Cyrus, 26

THUMP: How did you hear about the pop-up?
Snapchat. And I was in LA, which never happens.

So you don’t live here?
No, I’m from France, where the Daft are from.

I see you’re wearing a Daft Punk ring on your finger.
It’s a gift from a friend who works in French TV and he had this on his desk and I was like, Man, you’re not wearing it?! He was like, It’s too small for me. And I have small hands.

What does it mean to you as a Frenchman to see Daft Punk become a worldwide phenomenon?
I am proud. They are not from France anymore though, they are from outer space.

Rossella, 22 and Julian, 22

What’s your first Daft Punk-related memory?
Julian: I think a friend of mine in high school showed them to me freshman year. She asked me if I liked electronic music and I had never even heard anything. I don’t remember what song she showed me but I was like, Woah.

Anything in particular that’s caught your eye here?
Rossella: The . So I support Virgil and Off-White and Gosha.

How does this compare to other pop-ups you’ve been to?
Honestly, whoever did the art direction of this and put everything together did a really good job. Usually at pop-ups, you just have the shirts.

For those in Los Angeles, the Daft Punk pop-up is located at Maxfield in West Hollywood and runs until Sunday, February 19.

We Moshed In Sub-Zero Temperatures To Snails' Vomitstep At Canada's Coldest Festival

Snails, all photos by Cindy Lopez.

This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

When it comes to programming, IgloofestMontreal’s famed annual winter electronic music festivalstill skews towards a slightly older, more traditional audience. Case in point: the two biggest nights of this year’s eleventh edition were headlined by techno and house veterans Laurent Garnier and Carl Cox.

On the other hand, February 2 was all about the kids. Montreal-based Kannibalen crew member, “vomitstep” inventor, and OWSLA affiliate Snails, and his many loyal subjectsmany of them clad in toques and sweaters bearing the DJ’s instantly recognizable logotook over the icy grounds in the city’s Old Port. It’s not often that Igloofest organizers will put a new era EDM artist on its main stage, but for a local hero who’s set to play the revered 9,525-capacity Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado this September, exceptions can be made.

Sure enough, the Sainte-mlie-de-l’nergie nativewho first played the festival four years ago opening the night on the side tentrewarded bookers with an angsty, teen-friendly set of viscous drops, along with Drowning Pool, Alice Deejay, Eurythmics, and System of a Down tracks. Not your usual Igloofest fare. For their part, the thousands of kids in attendance loved every minute of it, opening the floor at the DJ’s behest to aggressively mosh in sub-zero temperatures. Early forecasts predicted minus 20 degrees Celsius, but in the end it was closer to minus 10.

Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones.

Over at the side stagewhere experimentation is not only welcomed but expectedthe howling wolves of, well, “Wolves,” could be heard during Fractal Fantasy first couple Sinjin Hawke and Zora Jones‘ joint set. In-between moments devoted to their innovative A/V projectJason Voltaire provided visuals on this nightthey mechanized the already mechanical Travis Scott, and remixed other choice hip-hop cuts. The pair had end-to-end smiles on their faces throughout, and their energy was infectious.

Was Snails’ appearance at Igloofest the start of a change in philosophy for the fest? Has his success opened the door for the Skrillex’s of the world to get booked? Probably not, but it’s always reassuring to see a Montreal institution take some chances when it comes to who’s on the decks. (Although it would be nice to see a couple of big name female headliners in 2018.)

For Snails, dressed in a fan-made Montreal Canadians jersey with a snail logo, the night was a chance to reflect upon the last four years. “The last time I was here there was 25 people watching, including my mom,” he told THUMP backstage before his set. “I told her then I was going to make her proud, and here I am four years later with my Kannibalen crew.”

As an experienced Igloofester with an expertise in sock layering, the producer also had advice for first-time artists and attendees alike: “Every time I’ve been here I’ve gotten so wasted. It’s always so cold here, so if I’m going to survive, I’ll need a few drinks,” he said with a laugh. “I also always make sure to come here with friendsyou need friends and to not think too much to have fun here. I think of Igloofest as a religion, or just a poutineit’s something people from here are proud of.”

Erik Leijon is on Twitter.

Sun, Surf, And Mexico's Best Electronic Music: Scenes From NAAFI's Three-Day Beach Party

All photos by Daniel M. Torres. This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

To ring in 2017 properly, Mexico City-based electronic label and DJ collective NAAFI threw a festival Dec. 29-31 in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, a popular Pacific Coast surfing and tourist destination.

Besides performances from NAAFI regulars Lao, Mexican Jihad, Mock The Zuma (whose 2016 LP Gauss was one of our favorite albums of the year), O.M.A.A.R, Zutzut, and others, the weekender also featured sets by international special guests, including GHE20G0TH1K ringleader Venus X, Mixpak mainstay Jubilee, and British experimental producer and rapper GAIKA.

We sent Mexico City photographer Daniel M. Torres to capture the sunset beach parties and warehouse raves of Club de Playa NYE 2017 in all of their sun, surf, and sweat-kissed glory.

Lao

Mexican Jihad

Venus X

Mexican Jihad & Venus X

Lao

Phaedra

Lil Tantrum

Wasted Fates

GAIKA

GAIKA & DJ Hotmale

Zutzut

Mock The Zuma

GAIKA

O.M.A.A.R

2016 In Focus: THUMP's 40 Best Electronic Music Photos Of The Year

Michael Alig (Rebecca Smeyne)

Chino Amobi (Sam Clarke)

Jessy Lanza (Aaron Wynia)

Movement 2016, Detroit (Lyndon French)

Pulse nightclub vigil, Orlando (Dylan Flynn)

Pulse nightclub vigil at Stonewall Inn, NYC (Rebecca Smeyne)

Gud (Damien Maloney)

Afropunk NYC 2016 (Christelle de Castro)

Harrison (Aaron Wynia)

Jeff Mills (Rebecca Camphens)

Carla Dal Forno (Tonje Thilesen)

Kaytranada (Jacqueline Ashton)

Red Bull Music Academy 2016, Montreal (Cindy Lopez)

Pauline Oliveros (Kate Killet)

Sporting Life (Tonje Thilesen)

Justice (Emma Le Doyen)

House of Kenzo’s Nate Ryan (Jackie Lee Young)

Mykki Blanco (Keenan MacWilliam)

DJ Marfox (Marta Pina)

Palmistry (Tonje Thilesen)

James K (Rob Kusilek)

Moodymann’s house, Detroit (Luis Nieto Dickens)

MikeQ (Cait Oppermann)

Joris Voorn (Rebecca Camphens)

Crowd at It’s Not U It’s Me event, Toronto (Aaron Wynia)

Mala (Dave O’Donnell)

Discwoman’s Emma Burgess Olson, Christine Tran, and Frankie Hutchinson (Erez Avissar)

MSTRKRFT (James Ellis)

DJ Jige (Jude Goergen)

Evian Christ at Unsound Toronto (Andrew Williamson)

Wolfgang Tillmans (Luis Mora)

Flying Lotus at Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles (Philip Cosores)

DJ Earl (Eric Zaworski)

Essaie Pas at MUTEK 2016, Montreal (Cindy Lopez)

ANOHNI (Annie Collinge)

RJD2 (Nick Fancher)

DJ Shadow (Mark Madeo)

A Tribe Called Red at WayHome 2016, Oro-Medonte, Ontario (SR)

serpentwithfeet (Sam Clarke)

Crowd at Ben Klock show, Bogota, Columbia (El Gato Fotgrafo)

A Night Out In Texas' Underground Vogue Scene

Photos by Jackie Lee Young

Texas’ scrappy electronic music scene is steadily growing, but it’s still hard to find artists like the members of House of Kenzoa San Antonio-based vogue crew that has become a force in the local DIY music community over the past year. Vogue dancing was House of Kenzo’s initial focus, but they’ve also branched into performance art, DJing, and music production.

House of Kenzo’s Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF

roxy rnbwstrchld is the house’s de-facto “Mother,” a dancer, and the group’s main MC. Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF, is both a dancer and a DJ/producer who began his career playing at strip clubs; he makes unsettling tracks that mix Chris Brown’s “No Air” with samples of someone choking. Antonio Padron, AKA TonePadron, started dancing in high school at quinceaneras, evolved into krumping, then settled into his own of vogue. He’s also splits DJ and production roles with LEDEF, citing Jersey club music as an influence. Bobby bearz is the only non-Texan in the group an acrobatic dancer, he splits choreography duties with Antonio and holds down a side gig teaching cheer and gymnastics to high schoolers. Breezy and Karma no longer live in San Antonio and weren’t performing that night, but are still considered family, with Karma credited as house “Fatha.

House of Kenzo’s roxy and Antonio

Whenever they enter a room, heads turnpartly because they’re dressed in what looks like a mix of Hood by Air and The Fifth Element with a Texan twist, like stereotypical cowboy boots paired with a skirt of orange construction netting. But mostly, the attention derives from the fact that their outrageously theatrical dancing always becomes the talk of the night. During a typical show, the crew will spontaneously drag ladders onto dance floors, break-dance in high heels, and wrap crowds in neon string. Since their formation in 2015, they’ve already shared the stage with Mexico City club collective NAAFI and have national and international tours in the works.

Bobby

The competitive NYC vogue culture most famously chronicled in the 1991 film Paris Is Burning, and more recently in Kiki and Walk! this year, isn’t as prominent in Texas, so the members of Kenzo learned the basics of vogue dancing from friends in Philadelphia’s House of Blahnik and Karma, who plays a major role in House of Ninja. In my ten years as a DJ in the Austin dance music scene, I’ve never seen anything like them, so naturally I wanted to learn about how a vogue house sprung up in a city most commonly associated with Tex Mex and metal.

Antonio

When I reach out to the crew in November to ask if I could follow them around San Antonio for a night, they agree immediately, inviting me to “Deconstructed Attitude”a DJ set by LEDEF and TonePadron at Hi-Tones, a divey venue that claims to have invented the pickle shot. Roxy was incredibly friendly on the phone, peppering her sentences with the word “cunt”a complimentary term within the ballroom scene.

Roxy’s shoes

On the appointed evening in mid-November, I drive down to San Antonio and arrive at Bond’s 007 Rock Bar around 7PM. Like most nights, the House of Kenzo crew first assembles to pre-party at this metal bar. When I step inside, roxy sits at a table superglueing her platform heels. She introduces me to the bar owners, who happen to be her parents. Meanwhile, Antonio is quietly organizing tonight’s DJ set on his laptop, while Bobby, dressed in a sweater with an embroidered heart, trades barbs over whose outfit is the most “cunt” with Gemel, who wears combat boots and slashed sleeves. Gemel claims victory thanks to an S&M collar around his neck that’s on loan from an escort.

Gemel and roxy

Throughout the night, everyone is referred to with female pronouns like “she” or “her,” myself included. When I ask Gemel why, he says, “That’s just a reaction to cis-het a non-binary male,” he continues to explain. “It’s not a hard identity to me at allI feel very fluid with it. A daytime look can be very masculine or go super cunt. I think it’s stupid to confine yourself to any identity when you can easily recreate it any day.”

Bonds 007, a metal bar owned by roxy’s parents

“Crawling” by Linkin Park blares out of the bar’s speakers as the group moves on to discuss a recent series of House of Kenzo shows called the Fuckwave Trilogy thrown at the Blue Star Arts Complex over the summer. One involved roxy wearing a wedding dress that was sliced off during the performance. They mention how they saw an attendee masturbating in the middle of the dance floor, agreeing that it crossed a line, but they still loved it.

roxy drinking a Jager and Coke

Polishing off a round of Jager and Cokes, the Kenzo crew tells me what to expect at tonight’s performance. They explain that it won’t be highly choreographed, more of a b2b DJ set between TonePadron (Antonio) and LEDEF (Gemel), with roxy emceeing and Bobby dancing. The members of Kenzo are keenly aware of how vogue dancing and MCs are not typically associated with house and techno parties. But they tell me that they’re proud to be considered outsiders in club culture.

Gemel up front, roxy behind

“We’re kinda pursuing a role as official performers based in experimental movement,” says roxy. “That element of hypemenpeople who motivate and encourage the audience to immerse themselves in the musicthe experimental techno dance scene needs that. We’re filling that void.”

Bobby and friend at the art gallery

At 8 PM, we leave the bar and drive to a compound of art galleries in the South Flores Art District. There’s an open house tonight, and hundreds of people circulate throughout the 11 studios. We’re here for a show at Gravelmouth Gallery by the Essentials art collective, who exhibit black and white collages of dominatrix and couture imagery that match Kenzo’s post-fashion, post-apocalyptic, post-everything vibe.

Local DJ crew Sweedish Erotica plays diva house when Kenzo arrives, and when Antonio hears the filtered grooves of “Back in the Days” by Alfonso Deep Touch, he’s inspired to dance. No one else in the room is moving, so Antonio easily draws the crowd’s attention.

Antonio dancing

His stoicism turns fierce, like a mannequin come alive. Arms swing and click at obtuse angles, then his body unlocks, falling in a violent dip turned drop. The vogueing only lasts a couple minutes before we have to leave for soundcheck at Hi-Tones, a rough and tumble rock club that roxy jokingly refers to as a cholo bar.

Soundcheck is supposed to be at 9 PM, but when we arrive there’s a snagroxy and Gemel don’t have ID, and the bouncer doesn’t seem to care that they’re performing later. The group now needs a new place to do their hair, makeup, and wardrobe while to sort out their situation.

Nate, House of Kenzo’s makeup artist for the night

They call in a favor with their friends at vegan cantina La Botanica. The queer-friendly venue is a big supporter of Kenzo, and allows them to turn the dining area into a green room. Outside on the patio, DJs associated with record shop Southside Vinyl play tasteful house like Byron the Aquarius’s “Aquarian Voyage” as customers share plates of empanadas.

Nate’s makeup spread

More friends of Kenzo arrive, including their make-up artist Nate Ryan, who walks into the room with white lace covering his eyes and black fake blood on his nose. It’s hard to believe that he’s only two hours sleep. He lays out his cosmetics on the table and prepares to do Kenzo’s makeup.

Tonight’s makeup theme is “alien skin, but way more toxic and beautiful,” says roxy.

Nate doing Gemel’s makeup

At 11PM we head back to Hi-Tones with hopes that the bouncer will soften his ID policy. I don’t really understand why he was such a jerk, but changing an evening’s plans on a moment’s notice doesn’t seem too unusual for Kenzo. He still seems angry, but relents and lets the group inside.

Hi-Tones Club

This dive is not the most likely place to find harsh club music. Mexican blankets line the stage and dusty religious candles hang on the wall. The night starts with DJ Der Kindestod playing un-Shazamable experimental club tracks as the bar’s mostly middle-aged regulars nod curiously along.

Hi-Tones interior

Next, Saakred, a songwriter with an electronic slant on San Antonio hard rock, takes the stage at midnight, violently scraping the mic stand across their guitar strings. All four members of House of Kenzo head bang along on stage.

Saakred performs before Kenzo

At 1AM, LEDEF and TonePadron go b2b for a chaotic set that starts with demonic vocal samples over booming half-time kicks and violent swashes of noise. The DJs move through genres fluidly, with techno, drum and bass, jungle, and R&B rubbing against each other, sometimes in combative ways. (Check out a recording of their set here.)

LEDEF and TonePadron

Bobby and roxy dance violently on stage, pairing deep squats with rapid-fire foot kicks and violent ass-thrusting toe touches taken from a workout instructor’s playbook.

roxy

They command the crowd to “open the portal” and their friends erupt on the dance floor. Although the bar isn’t packed, the energy makes it feel like a full room.

A friend of Kenzo’s named Rainey on the dancefloor

Dancers form a circle and an LED mounted on Jackie’s camera becomes a spotlight for twerking and vogueing clubbers. roxy and Bobby chant authoritatively on the mic.

“Real ass bitches, fake ass world.”

“If you’re not sweating, you’re not learning.”

“Fearless love, fearless expression, fearless fucking dancing.”

Plus a dozen refrains about pussy and what to do with it.

Bobby

Suddenly, a clearly wasted girl crashes into the stage with all the chaos of the dance floor, but none of the grace. Bobby turns frantic. “This bitch isn’t with us! Drag her! She’s falling into the CDjs! Drag her! ” he shouts to venue staff. It’s the moment of the night where it becomes clear that even in the laissez-faire world of Kenzo, there is definitely such a thing as the wrong type of chaos. Security escorts the girl out.

Gemel

The lights rise at 2AM, marking the end of the night. The fifteen or so kids left standing shuffle towards the exit. At the curb outside, there’s talk of an afterparty, but no plan materializes. As fun as a late night with Kenzo would be, I’m relieved. The group couldn’t have been more welcoming, but I’m mentally, physically, and socially exhausted. Seven hours is a long time to spend in a situation so defiantly fierce.

Friends of Kenzo at the show

Hanging out with the crew opened my eyes to a side of club culture I hadn’t really seen up close before in my time in the Texan dance music scene. I’m surprised by how vibrant San Antonio feels, with DJs and art seemingly around every corner, and how the city’s traditional stereotypes like metal bars and taco joints have been reclaimed in the name of Kenzo. The dancefloor really did feel like a portal created to allow these kids to move, look, and feel like themselvesor whoever they feel like in the moment. As for the House of Kenzo, it was just another Saturday night.

Dan Gentile is a freelancer writer and DJ based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter

A Night Out In Texas' Underground Vogue Scene

Photos by Jackie Lee Young

Texas’ scrappy electronic music scene is steadily growing, but it’s still hard to find artists like the members of House of Kenzoa San Antonio-based vogue crew that has become a force in the local DIY music community over the past year. Vogue dancing was House of Kenzo’s initial focus, but they’ve also branched into performance art, DJing, and music production.

House of Kenzo’s Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF

roxy rnbwstrchld is the house’s de-facto “Mother,” a dancer, and the group’s main MC. Gemel Biscotti, AKA LEDEF, is both a dancer and a DJ/producer who began his career playing at strip clubs; he makes unsettling tracks that mix Chris Brown’s “No Air” with samples of someone choking. Antonio Padron, AKA TonePadron, started dancing in high school at quinceaneras, evolved into krumping, then settled into his own of vogue. He’s also splits DJ and production roles with LEDEF, citing Jersey club music as an influence. Bobby bearz is the only non-Texan in the group an acrobatic dancer, he splits choreography duties with Antonio and holds down a side gig teaching cheer and gymnastics to high schoolers. Breezy and Karma no longer live in San Antonio and weren’t performing that night, but are still considered family, with Karma credited as house “Fatha”.

House of Kenzo’s roxy and friend

Whenever they enter a room, heads turnpartly because they’re dressed in what looks like a mix of Hood by Air and The Fifth Element with a Texan twist, like stereotypical cowboy boots paired with a skirt of orange construction netting. But mostly, the attention derives from the fact that their outrageously theatrical dancing always becomes the talk of the night. During a typical show, the crew will spontaneously drag ladders onto dance floors, break-dance in high heels, and wrap crowds in neon string. Since their formation in 2015, they’ve already shared the stage with Mexico City club collective NAAFI and have national and international tours in the works.

Bobby

The competitive NYC vogue culture most famously chronicled in the 1991 film Paris Is Burning, and more recently in Kiki and Walk! this year, isn’t as prominent in Texas, so the members of Kenzo learned the basics of vogue dancing from friends in Philadelphia’s House of Blahnik and Karma, who plays a major role in House of Ninja. In my ten years as a DJ in the Austin dance music scene, I’ve never seen anything like them, so naturally I wanted to learn about how a vogue house sprung up in a city most commonly associated with Tex Mex and metal.

Antonio

When I reach out to the crew in November to ask if I could follow them around San Antonio for a night, they agree immediately, inviting me to “Deconstructed Attitude”a DJ set by LEDEF and TonePadron at Hi-Tones, a divey venue that claims to have invented the pickle shot. Roxy was incredibly friendly on the phone, peppering her sentences with the word “cunt”a complimentary term within the ballroom scene.

Roxy’s shoes

On the appointed evening in mid-November, I drive down to San Antonio and arrive at Bond’s 007 Rock Bar around 7PM. Like most nights, the House of Kenzo crew first assembles to pre-party at this metal bar. When I step inside, roxy sits at a table superglueing her platform heels. She introduces me to the bar owners, who happen to be her parents. Meanwhile, Antonio is quietly organizing tonight’s DJ set on his laptop, while Bobby, dressed in a sweater with an embroidered heart, trades barbs over whose outfit is the most “cunt” with Gemel, who wears combat boots and slashed sleeves. Gemel claims victory thanks to an S&M collar around his neck that’s on loan from an escort.

Gemel and roxy

Throughout the night, everyone is referred to with female pronouns like “she” or “her,” myself included. When I ask Gemel why, he says, “That’s just a reaction to cis-het a non-binary male,” he continues to explain. “It’s not a hard identity to me at allI feel very fluid with it. A daytime look can be very masculine or go super cunt. I think it’s stupid to confine yourself to any identity when you can easily recreate it any day.”

Bonds 007, a metal bar owned by roxy’s parents

“Crawling” by Linkin Park blares out of the bar’s speakers as the group moves on to discuss a recent series of House of Kenzo shows called the Fuckwave Trilogy thrown at the Blue Star Arts Complex over the summer. One involved roxy wearing a wedding dress that was sliced off during the performance. They mention how they saw an attendee masturbating in the middle of the dance floor, agreeing that it crossed a line, but they still loved it.

roxy drinking a Jager and Coke

Polishing off a round of Jager and Cokes, the Kenzo crew tells me what to expect at tonight’s performance. They explain that it won’t be highly choreographed, more of a b2b DJ set between TonePadron (Antonio) and LEDEF (Gemel), with roxy emceeing and Bobby dancing. The members of Kenzo are keenly aware of how vogue dancing and MCs are not typically associated with house and techno parties. But they tell me that they’re proud to be considered outsiders in club culture.

Gemel up front, roxy behind

“We’re kinda pursuing a role as official performers based in experimental movement,” says roxy. “That element of hypemenpeople who motivate and encourage the audience to immerse themselves in the musicthe experimental techno dance scene needs that. We’re filling that void.”

Bobby and friend at the art gallery

At 8 PM, we leave the bar and drive to a compound of art galleries in the South Flores Art District. There’s an open house tonight, and hundreds of people circulate throughout the 11 studios. We’re here for a show at Gravelmouth Gallery by the Essentials art collective, who exhibit black and white collages of dominatrix and couture imagery that match Kenzo’s post-fashion, post-apocalyptic, post-everything vibe.

Local DJ crew Sweedish Erotica plays diva house when Kenzo arrives, and when Antonio hears the filtered grooves of “Back in the Days” by Alfonso Deep Touch, he’s inspired to dance. No one else in the room is moving, so Antonio easily draws the crowd’s attention.

Antonio dancing

His stoicism turns fierce, like a mannequin come alive. Arms swing and click at obtuse angles, then his body unlocks, falling in a violent dip turned drop. The vogueing only lasts a couple minutes before we have to leave for soundcheck at Hi-Tones, a rough and tumble rock club that roxy jokingly refers to as a cholo bar.

Soundcheck is supposed to be at 9 PM, but when we arrive there’s a snagroxy and Gemel don’t have ID, and the bouncer doesn’t seem to care that they’re performing later. The group now needs a new place to do their hair, makeup, and wardrobe while to sort out their situation.

Nate, House of Kenzo’s makeup artist for the night

They call in a favor with their friends at vegan cantina La Botanica. The queer-friendly venue is a big supporter of Kenzo, and allows them to turn the dining area into a green room. Outside on the patio, DJs associated with record shop Southside Vinyl play tasteful house like Byron the Aquarius’s “Aquarian Voyage” as customers share plates of empanadas.


Nate’s makeup spread

More friends of Kenzo arrive, including their make-up artist Nate Ryan, who walks into the room with white lace covering his eyes and black fake blood on his nose. It’s hard to believe that he’s only two hours sleep. He lays out his cosmetics on the table and prepares to do Kenzo’s makeup.

Tonight’s makeup theme is “alien skin, but way more toxic and beautiful,” says roxy.

Nate doing Gemel’s makeup

At 11PM we head back to Hi-Tones with hopes that the bouncer will soften his ID policy. I don’t really understand why he was such a jerk, but changing an evening’s plans on a moment’s notice doesn’t seem too unusual for Kenzo. He still seems angry, but relents and lets the group inside.

Hi-Tones Club

This dive is not the most likely place to find harsh club music. Mexican blankets line the stage and dusty religious candles hang on the wall. The night starts with DJ Der Kindestod playing un-Shazamable experimental club tracks as the bar’s mostly middle-aged regulars nod curiously along.

Hi-Tones interior

Next, Saakred, a songwriter with an electronic slant on San Antonio hard rock, takes the stage at midnight, violently scraping the mic stand across her guitar strings. All four members of House of Kenzo head bang along on stage.

Saakred performs before Kenzo

At 1AM, LEDEF and TonePadron go b2b for a chaotic set that starts with demonic vocal samples over booming half-time kicks and violent swashes of noise. The DJs move through genres fluidly, with techno, drum and bass, jungle, and R&B rubbing against each other, sometimes in combative ways.

Left: Antonio, Right: Gemel

Bobby and roxy dance violently on stage, pairing deep squats with rapid-fire foot kicks and violent ass-thrusting toe touches taken from a workout instructor’s playbook.

roxy

They command the crowd to “open the portal” and their friends erupt on the dance floor. Although the bar isn’t packed, the energy makes it feel like a full room.

A friend of Kenzo’s named Rainey on the dancefloor

Dancers form a circle and an LED mounted on Jackie’s camera becomes a spotlight for twerking and vogueing clubbers. roxy and Bobby chant authoritatively on the mic.

“Real ass bitches, fake ass women.”

“If you’re not sweating, you’re not learning.”

“Fearless love, fearless expression, fearless fucking dancing.”

Plus a dozen refrains about pussy and what to do with it.

Bobby

Suddenly, a clearly wasted girl crashes into the stage with all the chaos of the dance floor, but none of the grace. Bobby turns frantic. “This bitch isn’t with us! Drag her! She’s falling into the CDjs! Drag her! ” he shouts to venue staff. It’s the moment of the night where it becomes clear that even in the laissez-faire world of Kenzo, there is definitely such a thing as the wrong type of chaos. Security escorts the girl out.

Gemel

The lights rise at 2AM, marking the end of the night. The fifteen or so kids left standing shuffle towards the exit. At the curb outside, there’s talk of an afterparty, but no plan materializes. As fun as a late night with Kenzo would be, I’m relieved. The group couldn’t have been more welcoming, but I’m mentally, physically, and socially exhausted. Seven hours is a long time to spend in a situation so defiantly fierce.

Friends of Kenzo at the show

Hanging out with the crew opened my eyes to a side of club culture I hadn’t really seen up close before in my time in the Texan dance music scene. I’m surprised by how vibrant San Antonio feels, with DJs and art seemingly around every corner, and how the city’s traditional stereotypes like metal bars and taco joints have been reclaimed in the name of Kenzo. The dancefloor really did feel like a portal created to allow these kids to move, look, and feel like themselvesor whoever they feel like in the moment. As for the House of Kenzo, it was just another Saturday night.

Dan Gentile is a freelancer writer and DJ based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter

Montreal’s Olympic Pool Was Turned Into An Electro-Techno Oasis For One Night Only

All photos by Cindy Lopez. This post ran originally on THUMP Canada.

Constructed forty years ago, Montreal’s Olympic Park hosted several venues during the 1976 Summer Olympics, including an athlete’s village, multi-purpose arena, velodrome, and pool.

This past weekend the latterwhich has a spectator capacity of just over 3,000 seatswas transformed by Red Bull Music Academy into a “multilayered listening environment.” Thanks to a custom-built Wet Sounds soundsystem, swimmers could listen to music underwater, while the rest of the audience enjoyed the show from the comfort of the overlooking bleachers and bar.

We sent Montreal photographer Cindy Lopez to capture the sights of the one-night only Poseidon’s kingdom, which included music from Italian trance veteran Lorenzo Senni, Detroit electro act Dopplereffekt, and a headlining performance from Drexciya‘s balaclava-wearing lynchpin DJ Stingray.