The only sign that the Theory + Practice gallery, 738 Santa Fe Drive, was hosting an epic New Year's Eve party was the pounding bass audible from the streets as passersby braved the bitter cold. Heading up the stairs and through the entrance led party-goers into a spacious main room with couches thoughtfully placed throughout and plenty of space to dance. Despite some last-minute lineup changes, it was a well-planned effort -- the music was excellent; the company just as pleasing; and A New Year Underground kept this gallery full well into the wee hours of the morning.
Arriving at around 11:30 p.m., I missed most of Hence's set but caught up with some deliciously clean, dreamy dubstep, melding meandering notes with glitchy, crisp beats being dropped by Eli D. The dance floor was moving, and plenty of people were digging this unusual blend of dubstep, which was refreshingly unique -- he didn't overload the bassline distortions, and this set was a good exhibition of where dubstep could go as a genre if it continues to gain popularity and branch out in different ways.
There was a countdown to midnight before BeeKay took the decks, opening 2011 with deep beats, juicy basslines and females chanting "give it to me" along low whistles and high barks. It was a perfect example of some lovely, minimalist tech-house stylings, and BeeKay continued along those lines, throwing in chirping beeps and skittering beats with bobble bass and sweet, weeping piano keylines.
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Travis Press then took his turn, bringing us beautiful, soulful house grooves and exhibiting his talents at fading samples in and out to create the soundscape, changing speeds from upbeat, happy tracks to deep, eerie, slightly syncopated beats and sweeping up-and-down melodies with sassy trombones, ghostly guitar lines, claps and soulful female crooning. The slight discord he played with during this set lent his sound an extra edge, and the dance floor remained full as he continued his journey through the sprawling world of house; he wrapped up the set with low, grumbling vocal samples like monsters or a nightmare laid over his gorgeous beats.
Uriah West then stepped up, spinning the funky house for which he's known so well in with hip-hop, moving easily from an emcee-centric flow to a diva-centric track of disco house and back again. The thick, bouncy beats included samples from a version of "Iko Iko" that used children's voices, a Notorious B.I.G. "Nasty Boy" remix straight from the vault of party classics, and a gorgeous rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" that I'm pretty sure had everyone in the building on the dance floor at one point or another. West did a superb job blending classic house tracks with unexpected new variety, and if I hadn't been starting to wipe out, I would have stayed to hear more ... but 4 a.m. had arrived, so as Brick Lee took his turn, I bowed out gracefully while he kept the energy up for at least another hour.
This New Year underground was definitely underground -- but in the best way.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: It's hard to describe this show without excessive superlatives. The sub-genres played might not be my favorite types of electronic music, but the track selection and technical skill of each musician was impeccable. I can't think of a single thing that went wrong with or that I disliked in any of the music I heard. Random Detail: Shortly after the clock turned over, a gentleman asked me which year we were celebrating again -- and was absolutely delighted when I informed him it was 2011. By the Way: Every time I go to a party with these guys involved, I have a blast -- the combination of music and company is a mix unlike any you'll find in Denver. There were some unbelievable dancers busting moves all over the floor; despite the somewhat bare-bones setup, you couldn't ask for better ear or eye candy to kick in the new year. I'm looking forward to many more sessions in 2011.