The first show that Vinnie Maniscalco put on was busted up by the DEA. "They were taking pictures of all our gear and taking samples of all the beer cans on the floor," he recalls of the gig, which took place at the now-closed Primer Dome.
The 24-year-old Colorado native and his friends organized that show back in 2010 and promoted it on Facebook as Bass for Your Face. The crew assembled a wall of speakers with various amplifiers and gear and charged a small fee to cover admission and booze. But just fifteen minutes into Maniscalco's set, the feds shut the whole thing down because the ill-informed outfit hadn't pulled the proper permits — a mistake that could have been extremely costly. "They slapped us with a $25,000 fine," says Maniscalco, who then quickly clarifies, "well, threatened us and tried to scare the shit out of us. It worked."
Before that show, Maniscalco had worked to build his name in the scene by deejaying at places like Diamond After Dark and Opal Sushi, as well as Mix Music Lounge and other LoDo bars. "I wanted to do bigger events," he remembers, "and I didn't have any way to do that. Promoters didn't want to book me because I didn't have any connections, so I started throwing my own shows."
Vinnie Maniscalco, with Wuki and CRL CRRL, 9 p.m. Thursday, January 9, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue, $10-$12, 888-929-7849.
That first, ill-fated gig notwithstanding, and despite having thrown other shows that tanked, Maniscalco has steadily made his name with Got Bass Music, which has grown into a full-fledged music blog and promotion company and hosts a monthly showcase at Vinyl called Bass Life. "From when I first started throwing shows and as soon as a year ago," says Maniscalco, "I pictured myself being the next Nicole Cacciavillano of Sub.Mission, or doing what Ha Hau has done with Global Dance. This whole vision that I had for myself is starting to happen in front of me."
There's a lot that goes into promotion, particularly with the overwhelming number of events saturating the scene these days. To be successful, a promoter first needs to cover the essentials, from "having the right date to having the right marketing," Maniscalco says. "It's based on ticket price, based on the right venue and based on the talent — and it's political, competitive, and about having the right formula."
It's also about having a set of finely tuned sensibilities. To that end, Maniscalco has brought talent to town that other promoters have passed over, and in some cases those connections have paid off. "When we brought DJ Carnage out, no one really knew who he was," notes Maniscalco of a December 2012 show at Vinyl. "It may have been one of his first shows outside of his home town."
Last summer, Maniscalco's remix of the Champs' 1958 classic "Tequila" (appropriately retitled "Takillya") garnered millions of YouTube views and more than 200,000 SoundCloud plays, and inspired a feature film's worth of Vine videos to accompany the drop in the song. DJ Carnage played the track at festivals, a milestone that Maniscalco humbly acknowledges. "I wouldn't say it's all because of bringing him out," he says, "but that definitely influenced him, or opened his eyes to my music."
Maniscalco grew up playing drums in Wheat Ridge and Broomfield, and before he was even old enough to drink, he was scratching in bars on his own set of turntables. It wasn't until after he left the University of Colorado Denver that he began pursuing music in earnest. Just after his junior year, he says, it became apparent to him that music needed to take a more serious role in his life: "I remember one of my statistics teachers telling me, 'If you guys know how to figure out these formulas and make more profit, then your boss will give you a raise.' I knew then that I didn't want to work in a cubicle making someone else more money."
That's why Maniscalco has been so steadfast in his efforts to make his music and build the Got Bass Music brand, co-promoting some of the biggest events in town, including TrapFest and FOAMWonderland, which are theme-driven programs headed by Au Hau of CrowdSurf Concerts. He's doing what it takes to gain exposure as a promoter and as an artist without having to rely on anybody else to pave the way for him. "That's the great thing about music today," he points out. "You don't have to have a million-dollar studio at your expense. People like me are doing it in their bedrooms with shitty speakers and headphones on pirated software. It's killing the music business, and making it at the same time."
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This year, Maniscalco is making an even more concerted effort to take his artistry more seriously. "Over the last year, my interests have changed a lot. Now it's to take my career as an artist to the next level," says Maniscalco, who grew up admiring DJs like QBert and Z-Trip, whose main draw is their pure turntablism. "Everyone is a DJ now. Before, you could really develop a name and brand for yourself as a DJ. These days, there is not room for that to come up. It's becoming so much more successful with all the MIDI controllers, CDJs and turntables. These days, it's setting apart DJs and producers and actually creating music and composing."
Maniscalco knows that moving to the next level as an artist requires more than just being capable behind the decks. Ultimately, it's about producing your own music. "There's a talent to [deejaying], and helping people enjoy their night. There is a skill and talent to that, too," he says. "Originally, that is what I wanted to do. I always was fascinated by that. I bought vinyl and a mixer. I practiced and practiced all day long. Eventually, it got to that point where my interests changed and I wanted to become a producer, where I could do that technical stuff and incorporate it into my production."
By focusing more on the production side of things, Maniscalco will have a much better chance of getting where he wants to go. "I'm not really going to be able to get the jobs that I'd see myself working, or take some bullshit jobs that I'm not happy with for the rest of my life," he concludes. "That's a big motivator. I either make it, or figure something out."