Lane 8 Reclaims the Primal Energy of Pre-Smartphone Dance Floors

When Daniel Goldstein, aka deep house artist Lane 8, released debut album Rise last year, heads turned. With tracks premiered by the New York Times, SPIN and Billboard and topping the Hype Machine charts, Lane 8 went on tour ready to connect with an army of new fans. Goldstein, however, didn’t expect the reaction to his better-known songs to be so, well…uninspired.

“Instead of having this huge moment in the show and having great energy in the crowd, the response would always be super-flat, and the reason was that everybody was just recording it on their phones instead of actually dancing and going crazy,” Goldstein says.

He recently moved back to his home state of California after following his wife to Germany and living there for the past three years. During his time abroad, Lane 8 released “Be Mine,” “The One EP,” “Every Night” and Rise on Anjunadeep Records, and Goldstein believes it was a much different experience than he would have had coming up in the States.

Combine that with his observations of American crowds, and Goldstein had the catalyst for This Never Happened, Lane 8’s current tour and label concept in which every show is intentionally cell phone-, photo- and video-free. The absence of these devices has created a rare break from the way modern audiences often experience music through the lens of their technology.

“I’m just old enough to remember going out before people had cell phones, so I was talking that whole idea over with my team, and we were all sharing our early clubbing experiences, realizing that we were so much more connected with music,” he says. “We wanted to create that experience for people nowadays in times when it’s actually not that easy to escape the ability to instantly distract yourself or to fall back on looking at your phone if you’re awkward for a second. We wanted to take that element out of it and try to get back to the sort of raw, almost primal energy that exists on a pre-smartphone dance floor.”

This Never Happened began with ten shows in June, so this fall’s tour dates will continue to build on a vision that has been well received so far.

“It’s been kind of crazy to see how well it’s gone, really,” Goldstein says. “So few people have really not understood the concept and not been willing to participate. Almost everybody has embraced it fully and really lived it. And what makes it even better is that after the show, we stay and talk to people and get their feedback, and they’re so positive about how the energy is in the shows and so thankful that someone’s creating a concept like this.”

That’s not to say that taking phones and cameras out of an experience in the digital age is completely free of challenges. Lane 8 abides by its own doctrine and takes no photos to post on social media “because that would be very hypocritical,” Goldstein says. So when no one’s documenting an event, and there are no Facebook or Instagram-ready images to share, how does a 21st-century artist get fans engaged?

“On the one hand, you do miss a certain level of social-media buzz around a show that you would normally get when you allow people to take photos and then post them to Instagram,” he says. “On the other hand, I feel like if we create an experience that people really value and that they will remember as a great experience, then hopefully they’ll tell their friends about it, and that word of mouth will propel this thing in a much more organic and much more meaningful way.”

In addition to being the “new old way” to experience music, This Never Happened is also a label with four new Lane 8 releases.

“A lot of the music I was producing at the time that we started the whole concept was a little bit more of a throwback, I guess, to my early clubbing experiences and the music that was influencing me back then,” Goldstein says. “It’s made more with the dance floor in mind rather than a lot of the other stuff that I’ve done in the past [that] has been kind of collaborative or more vocal. The stuff that I’ve put out on This Never Happened has been more instrumental and a little bit more aimed at the club.”

Though Lane 8’s sound has evolved far from Goldstein’s musical genesis, perhaps This Never Happened is actually much closer to the way he began creating music, with total immersion in the experience.

“My dad is a music nut, and he instilled a love for music in us from a young age, and we grew up playing piano and other instruments in the house. We had a garage band with our swim-team buddy, which is where the name Lane 8 came from,” he says. “Then one year I got a keyboard for my birthday, and it had a bunch of really cheesy electronic sounds and drum machines inside of it. I kind of got hooked and tried to make cool hip-hop beats and failed miserably but loved it, and basically my whole young life, I was just in the garage making music, whether it was garage-band Nirvana covers with my sister, or, at a certain point, it was just me in there trying to make hip-hop and electronic music.”

Those early days taught Goldstein the value of subtraction, not only in the sense of eliminating distractions to fully connect with an experience, but as an effective constraint in his songwriting.

“Electronic music production is as much about what you delete as what you create, and so I do a lot of deleting. That’s a big part of my process,” he says. “If I released all my first drafts, nobody would come to my shows. I think it’s like that with everyone. Everybody starts at zero, and the very first thing that you do is not gonna be a stroke of genius, it’s just gonna be a first stroke like everybody else’s first stroke, and you can take it from there.”

Perhaps the lesson here is that you don’t start out by changing the world; that’s something you build up to. It’s an idea you arrive at through careful observation and a willingness to try out something a little different. So is that what This Never Happened sets out to achieve?

“I don’t think that we’re necessarily changing the world in such a significant way. Music to me is partly about distracting yourself from reality and having an outlet to get away from the everyday kind of stuff that bothers you. This concept tries to help people achieve that,” Goldstein says. “There’s so many positive outcomes that can come out of music, and there’s a lot of other positive outcomes I’d like to explore in the future maybe with other concepts. But what’s really cool about this concept is to see firsthand how it can affect people and give them that escape for three or four or five hours, where they can really shut off and have that time to enjoy themselves. So in that sense, I do think it’s important.”

Lane 8 plays at 9 p.m. on Saturday, November 12, at the Bluebird Theater, 303-377-1666.