ROAM XI

I went to Roam’s New Year’s Eve rave and I hadn’t been to another for a variety of reasons, so after last week’s Flash Off I wanted to compare the two — the NYE rave was a similar, high-energy house party. ROAM XI was, however, quite different. The headliner, Matrixxman, is a techno DJ so I found myself thinking more of Sequence raves instead.

It was a techno rave with a dedicated bunch of fans down in front and the rest of the crowd… well, let’s back up a bit first.

The doors opened on time, but things were a bit slow to get rolling. The opening DJs, which included DC staples Chris Nitti and Outputmessage, spun a mix of deep house that was more or less ambient, to my ears. A scaled-up version of the Regrets Only parties held at Ten Tigers every Thursday night. And don’t get me wrong: I love deep house and ambient. I play those all the time when I’m at home writing. For the first couple hours, I kinda wished I’d brought a printout to do some red-pen edits on, or something.

The beat did break out here and there, usually while I was outside smoking a cigarette. After midnight, there was a quick transition to a much heavier vibe, and then DJ Lisa Frank took over and the beats were here to stay. The lasers came on and I especially enjoyed watching them play off the wire branches (tree roots? spiders?) hanging from the ceiling.

By the time Matrixxman came on at 2am, we were solidly into techno territory. And I love techno, but it had been an unusual journey to get there. Most of the crowd — and there was a great turnout — did not seem entirely on board with this, however.

The party was well organized, the setup was excellent, the location itself is just about perfect for a warehouse rave, the Martin sound system was strong and clear. The lasers and visuals were good throughout the night.

It felt a little mismatched, though. Ambient to techno. The lack of dancing in much of the audience. The New Year’s Eve party was more enthusiastic, but the music had not quite grabbed me. Likewise, this rave didn’t quite grab me either.

There isn’t a sample playlist for this review partly because Shazam failed to catch any of the opening set tracks. That annoyed me because I’m always looking for more ambient for my writing playlists. Once the party had switched over to techno, it was the standard problem that Shazam has with all techno: not enough melody for it to latch on to. And honestly, the techno that was played at this party was even less melodic than what I hear at other techno parties.

And then my battery died, but that was my fault.

I’m left with conflicting opinions about Roam, probably because it’s such a near miss. When a party clearly isn’t your sort of thing, or has obvious problems, it’s easy to say that. Roam is clearly a successful series of raves, but somehow it’s not quite what I’m looking for.

Flash Off

There was a lot of discussion, heading into Flash Off, about the authenticity of a rave organized by a club, and a major club at that. I’ve been to a number of raves in DC, organized by pros and amateurs, and there isn’t as much difference as you might think. Flash certainly has greater resources — they brought a Funktion One system to the party — but what really matters is the music. In that, I knew Flash could deliver. My question was: who would show up, the underground or the mainstream?

The first handful of us to arrive waited outside in the cold rain for the last bugs to be worked out of the sound system. That wasn’t much different from a “more underground” rave. Juana’s Frozen-ass Fan Club missed half her set.

But things took off from there. A crowd filtered in relatively quickly. Oliver Caine followed up Juana‘s hard techno opening with a smooth, energetic mix. This carried through local faves Rush Plus‘s set and into Mike Servito and Magda‘s extended back to back session.

Recently I admitted to a friend that I don’t dance as much as I used to. Drinking and hanging out has crept up on me. Well, I tipped the balance back at Flash Off and spent plenty of time on the floor. Still chatted with old friends and new, as well.

Sample playlist

 

I also can’t help but compare the Funktion One system to the Grand Ancestor that I heard at Sequence in April. The F1 was crystal clean, as you’d expect. Loud without the slightest blare. I could stand up against a stack, no earplugs, without the slightest discomfort — and they were turned up until you could feel the compressed air waves coming off them. But Grand Ancestor has more power. It hits harder. It’s raw.

Getting back to the original question: who showed up? I had to tap out after 3am, which would’ve been when the rave was turning into an afterparty. I’m glad to say that even then, the atmosphere was still underground. So thumbs up on that front.

Thumbs up and a tip of the hat in general, in fact, even though I lost my umbrella, went home with muddy dancing sneakers, and got hit by a ridiculous surge rate on my Lyft.

I won’t compare Flash Off to the Sequence raves — it’s a different audience. Same goes for Badass Raves. Midnight Project is mostly in Baltimore these days so I haven’t been to one since the rave that was shut down. Tune in next week when I’ll review the other big name in DC raves: ROAM.

 

Shawn Q opening for Eli & Fur @ U Street Music Hall

First, I have to apologize for missing Blinkhorn‘s opening set at U Hall. I was heading downtown on my scooter and a thunderstorm rolled through. Waited under a gas station canopy for half an hour while the lightning and curtains of rain passed. By the time I got there, it was the last five minutes of his set. Sounded good, for what it’s worth.

Shawn Q took over the decks and started out solidly. The dance floor was filling up and he got the shufflers moving. And then things got even more fun because Shawn dropped some of his own tracks into the mix. I’ve heard some of Shawn’s work at Headroom, but not these tracks. Great stuff. One caught my ear to the point where when I asked which tracks he’d used, I recognized it right away — his remix of “Roaches” by Trancesetters. The original is the last track in the playlist below.

 

Eventually he swung back around and kept the dark para-techno beat rolling until he handed over to the headliners.

I saw Eli & Fur at a Sunglass Sundays last year, which needless to say was a summertime set with a summertime vibe. There in the dark, un-summery U Hall they stepped back from the techno a little but kept it heavy. I’ll admit I enjoyed this set much more. An excellent night out, even if I did get rained on.

Heather Femia & Meegs, Nightflight at Cafe Saint-Ex

Nightflight has been running for a year now in the basement bar at the Cafe Saint-Ex on 14th Street. It’s a Thursday night warm-up for the weekend, not running too late for those of us who have to get to work in the morning and featuring solid house music to ease you out of your worries.

This week two local masters of house oversaw the proceedings: Heather Femia and Meegs. We got funky, we got a little disco-y, we decompressed. And then the pace picked up a bit to be sure our dancing feet were good and loosened up.

As the weekends continue to crank up to summertime pace, be sure you’re prepared!

Sample playlist: