McGarrett's bets there's an electronica revolution ready to overcome Monterey County
Thursday, March 19, 1998
In these urban settings, whether one goes to a rave, which is a gathering held in non-established nightclub settings, such as a warehouse, or goes to a club, attendance easily hits maximum capacity, flooding some clubs with more than 2,000 people. In England and Germany, turnouts for massives have topped 15,000 and have been held in giant athletic arenas. Despite all of its global success, however, Electronica''s thunderous voice has remained a mute whisper here in Monterey.
With no radio support and few clubs historically playing the music in MoCo, it''s not surprising. Despite its vibrant energy aimed directly at inspiring people to dance, the fact that most songs lack vocals and can sound highly monotonous and repetitive has made it difficult for the uninitiated to relate to the music.
My personal introduction and conversion to electronica came while living in New York during 1989.
I went to a party where Techno was being blasted at me from a wall of speakers, with the bass so thick it felt as if my heart would skip a beat if I got too close to the cabinets. To top it all off, most people were dancing by themselves, not just clusters of women, everyone.
When I complained to my friend about the music, he looked at me and said, "You just waited in line for 45 minutes, paid a $25 cover and spent $8 for a beer, why in the world would you want to hear the same stuff you hear on the radio in here? If that was the case you should''ve stayed home with a six-pack and saved your money.
"Look," he continued, "we go to these parties to forget about the real world. Outside these doors we have rent, bills and work to worry about. I listen to the radio going TO work, and coming home FROM work. I listen to the radio while cooking dinner. The last thing I want to hear is a song that reminds me of any of these activities."
After a few weeks I began to notice the subtleties of the songs, the catchy vocal hooks that lured me into conversation with the speakers. The rolling bass loops that took your head and soul for a spin and the snappy high hats that added bounce to your step. What was once monotonous became hypnotic, and the desire to only hear songs that I recognized from the radio was banished. More than a decade later, house tracks have finally begun to work their way into commercial radio. Daft Punk''s "Around The World" and Armand Van Helden''s "Funk Phenomenon" have managed to find their way onto radio station play lists. And while these songs are not considered underground tracks, they are proving to be instrumental in reaching a whole new audience of people who have never been exposed to the music.
In the last 10 years, the music has come a long way in both production and mass market acceptance. In a Detroit nightclub, The Warehouse, early pioneers such as Derek May and Kevin "Reese" Saunderson began fusing disco anthems with loops created on drum machines. The music then migrated into England where it was morphed and prodded into a variety of different flavors. There was the live band element, commonly referred to as the "Manchester Sound," fronted by EMF, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Jesus Jones. At the same time, groups such as 808 State, LFO and Prodigy spearheaded the electronic movement. Though Prodigy''s Fat of the Land CD has pushed the group into the mainstream world, its early release, Charly, with its driving, funky, polyrhythmic bass and drum loop is widely regarded as one of the most influential songs of the Electronica era.
More than 10 years and several evolutionary cycles later, The Phunk Phenomen, Around the World, and C.J. Bolland''s "Sugar is Sweeter" have become mainstays at McGarrett''s, which recently began to augment its format to incorporate more house and techno into its playlists. On Friday and Saturday night, the club has two rooms for people to dance in. The main floor serves up a blend of Top 40 and more mainstream oriented house and techno. The back bar plays more underground music featuring myself, along with other local DJs. On Friday, March 20, McGarrett''s will be hosting a special event, dubbed "Christening," featuring David Harness, Jason Crossman (X-man) and yours truly. David Harness, a Monterey native, has, in some circles, become one of the hottest DJs in San Francisco and has recently released a mixed CD on the highly regarded independent label, Twisted America.
The integration of Electronica into McGarrett''s play list had much to do with the club''s owner, Brooke Lewis''s trip to England. During that trip he witnessed first hand the massive turn outs and positive energy thrown off by club-goers. Every nightclub was filled to the rafters with people dancing and enjoying each other''s company. He realized what he was experiencing was the future of dance and had to be brought back to Monterey. One of his first efforts to further the cause was last year''s concert with Transmutator, LCD and Kinder Atom. Though it wasn''t a runaway success, Lewis took it as proof that there was an audience for the music here in Monterey. More importantly, the event focused his attention on improving the club''s sound system and appearance. Already boasting the most robust sound system in town, Lewis has plowed about $10,000 into new speakers and amps. New fog machines and lights have also been purchased to enhance the club''s optical experience.
McGarrett''s, however isn''t the only club in Monterey which plays this style of music. Nearly every Thursday night for the past five years, After Dark has steadfastly been playing house, and has been instrumental in nurturing the scene here in Monterey. The music isn''t just about dancing, however. Its spirit of oneness and community has had a profound impact in the relationship between the straight and gay community in MoCo.
Kevin Hartley, the owner/manager of the After Dark noted, "Six years ago straight people would never have come in here, now nearly half of the club''s patronage on Thursday''s is straight. People have learned how to get along and respect one another because of the music."
The music could also affect change in the dichotomous mind-set of people who are quick to label or pigeonhole a club by ethnic group according to what type of music is played. Unlike rock and hip hop, which are polarized by race, House is an amalgam of a diverse pool of racial and cultural influences. Its pioneers, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, are black. Some top producers, such as Little Louis Vega and Kenny Dope are Hispanic, and many of the top DJs/producers in the world, like Junior Vasquez and Pete Tong are white. By catering to none, the music caters to all.
After hours at Doc Rickett''s was another hot spot for many years. While the gathering''s were small, Doc''s became our Mecca. Daniel V., Teeto Munoz, Jasan Crossman (X-Man) Deeno, Steve Kaos, Johnny D and I all shared the tables, the company of beautiful people and the oh-so important vibe. Unfortunately, the after-hours party at Doc''s ended in ''96.
With the consistent offerings at the After Dark and Lewis'' commitment to techno, maybe it will now have a longer history in MoCo. And maybe there''ll be a new age of safe, positive nightclub experiences filled with new music and happy faces.
Jae Kim is a club DJ at McGarrett''s.