Before she moved to Denver, Nicole Cacciavillano was planning to be a full-time teacher on the East Coast. But then something tragic happened that altered her course. "The guy that I was with, who I had my whole life planned with," she says, "got murdered."
When this unexpected event happened seven years ago, Cacciavillano, who is known in the Mile High City as the brainchild behind the now-famous Sub.mission dubstep production company, was living and working in Philadelphia and was just about to finish school. "That day, everything changed," she recalls. "I was about to graduate in a few months, planning on moving to North Carolina, and I was going to teach, while he was going to be a chef."
Cacciavillano ended up graduating from Mansfield University, a state college on the border of New York, where she earned a dual degree in elementary education and special education. Shortly before earning her master's degree in education behavior analysis from Gratz College in Philadelphia, Cacciavillano began seeking out teaching jobs in Colorado, a place she had taken a liking to on a skiing trip. A subsequent job-hunting expedition to the state resulted in an opportunity teaching at-risk students. Eventually, that work started to take its toll.
Sub.mission five-Year Anniversary, with Mala, Vivek, Quest, Silkie, Truth and Commodo, 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, City Hall Amphitheatre and 2 AM, 1144 Broadway, $20-$25, 303-297-1772.
"I couldn't balance it emotionally anymore," she confesses. "Teaching at-risk youth is hard, and it bothers me that the public school system just fails those kids left and right." Seizing upon the chance to do something she loved, Cacciavillano also put off finishing her doctorate to focus solely on Sub.mission, which she founded shortly after moving here. "I don't care about money — that's not why I got into this," she declares, "but luckily, I was able to save up enough from teaching to leave and focus on this."
And while Sub.mission has grown into one of the biggest local dance promoters, it certainly didn't start out that way. "For four years, people were like, 'Who are you? What is dubstep?'" she remembers. "And all of a sudden, everyone wants to be my best friend." Locally, the roots of the burgeoning dubstep phenomenon can be traced back to Sub.mission's very first show, in 2007 at the now-closed Kazmo's at 14th and Kalamath. "I always thought that it's way better walking into a packed place," Cacciavillano says, "so we started there because it was so small."
If a packed venue is a measure of success, then Sub.mission's weekly Electronic Tuesdays at Cervantes' Other Side are testament to the promoter's progression. Following the one-year anniversary of the weekly, which draws capacity crowds for its DJ battles, local residents and the occasional headliner appearance, Cacciavillano and Cervantes' opted to move the event to the ballroom to accommodate the continually growing crowd. "Cervantes' basically said, 'People are here until 3 a.m. and they aren't going to leave, so we might as well keep the doors open,'" Cacciavillano relates. "So now we're going to have to move.
"I'm real anal about my Tuesdays," she says of Electronic Tuesdays, a night she says is specifically geared toward helping locals promote themselves and build a following. "Luckily, I've been blessed with great interns who are there to help." Cacciavillano's expectations are high, and she strives to put on flawless productions, something not easily achieved in an industry flooded with artists and promoters. "When people ask me what I do," she says, "I have to realize that it's gotten so muddled that the quality of events and talent has just lowered."
Indeed. These days, there's a dubstep show or event at least six out of seven nights a week in town. Even Cacciavillano and company are packing them in at places other than Cervantes' once a week. She and her crew of residents — Coult-45, Thorazine and Dodger — have amassed a serious following at other clubs such as Beta, where Bassic Fridays continues to draw massive crowds. Just the same, it's quality over quantity. If you see the Sub.mission name attached to a show or a party, you know the show and the production are both going to be top-notch. "That's the biggest difference for us," Cacciavillano points out. "Sub.mission will only promote a show if we support the artist. It's not about the money. If I wanted to make millions of dollars, I would sell out. But I love the culture."
That mindset and dedication to quality have helped launch the careers of many local DJs, as well as a few nationals who've had the good fortune of playing a Sub.mission show. For the five years that Sub.mission has been throwing shows, Cacciavillano has pulled strings from all over the world to help cultivate the scene in Denver.
"When we were getting started," she remembers, "there were only four of us around the country throwing these kinds of shows. There was DubWar in New York, SMOG in Los Angeles, Gritsy down in Houston, and us." This small group of promoters worked together to bring acts from overseas to really help grow the scene here in the States.
"People say America ruined dubstep," she says with a hint of disdain, "but we were bringing acts here before anyone even knew what dubstep was." Those acts include Excision, Hatch and Benga, and many other pioneers in the movement. "It really started with wanting to educate people on dubstep," she says. "Those people in the mainstream — Skrillex, Excision, Datsik — they are going to do what they do, and the kids love them."
"When you YouTube dubstep," she adds, "that's what comes up."
When the mainstream began embracing dubstep so wholeheartedly, Cacciavillano was right there. "It used to be that dubstep was a very intimate culture, with people creating and sharing tunes," she says. "If you don't know where something came from, then it's going to be difficult to see where it's going." Her insight into the evolution of this expanding scene shows her ongoing enthusiasm for the culture she has helped create.
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"Everything comes full circle," she notes. "Dubstep has helped drum-and-bass producers become better, which grew out of the jungle movement." Her drive to educate, learned through years of proper schooling, has blossomed and thrived in her unending quest to bring the sound she loves to a city that embraces it so strongly. "My goal is to really educate people on music," Cacciavillano enthuses. "And we did that for a long time when people didn't really know what dubstep was.
"I'm not a DJ, I'm not a producer — hell, I'm really not even a promoter," she adds. "I'm just an avid fan of music.
"If you asked me five years ago," she says, smiling about Sub.mission's five-year anniversary, "I would never have thought this is where I'd be."