Music News

Backwash

If you are not a member of the swelling crowd of beautiful people who frequent local raves and dance clubs, the first annual Colorado Dance Music Awards held last Friday night at the Ogden Theatre might have left you feeling as though you'd accidentally stumbled into an outtake from Blade Runner. It wasn't so much the flashing lights (multicolored strobes that pulsed in time with the music like an over-caffeinated aorta), the fashion of those in attendance (cloaked in all variations of glam, dahling, with a decidedly futuristic vision) or even the music (which varied from manic to mellow, usually in the space of one track). It had more to do with the names of those who took the stage to both present and accept awards, ethereal handles such as Satori-C, X Static, Q Hefner and Space Pussy.

To those who were in the know, however -- the 300 or so faithful who came to booze, shmooze and support their favorite electronic dance artists, DJs, promoters and scenesters -- the names were as familiar as the sound of a cell phone ringing. As presenters read the names of winners in nineteen categories, from "Most Popular DJ" to "Most Supportive Male/Female," it was clear that Colorado's dance-music scene has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early '90s, when the occasional warehouse in lower downtown would serve as a temporary base for a small population of hipsters whose rave savvy surpassed Denver's.

Jessica Hydle of Soulflower Productions, who created the event along with Thomas Heath and Colin Chapman, says the response to ballots placed in stores, clubs and restaurants across Boulder and Denver in February was more than she or her partners expected. Between February and May, approximately 500 dance-floor denizens chimed in with their choices (which were later tabulated by an outside agency to avoid any possible charges of vote-manipulation or politicking). For Hydle, the response validated her own suspicion that Colorado has more going on than it's given credit for.

"There's always been a lot of talk in the scene about how good it is, or who's the best DJ. And we were kind of like, 'Okay, let's put it to the test,'" says Hydle. "They do a lot of these types of events in Europe, so we sort of used them as a model. I think the fact that so many people took the time to fill out ballots means they really care about their music. That's something you don't really see in other scenes. We're hitting a new level."

Throughout, the winners were cheered so heartily that the event might have been mistaken for some kind of avant-garde campaign fundraiser. The Colorado Dance Music Awards seemed like a sort of triumph of dorkdom, a chance for the oft-maligned dance community to give itself a big, sloppy kiss. The need for self-congratulation seems justified when you consider that, despite the scene's mushrooming popularity, it is still routinely snubbed. Raves are stigmatized by the media and by law enforcement as drug-riddled and dangerous (see "Rave Heart," page 23); electronic music is viewed by many fans of more traditional sounds (read: those made with live instruments) as slightly less than real. The CDM awards, then, were an affirmation for those people who have always found the turntable more interesting than the guitar and who prefer the meditative repetition of a breakbeat to the abrasive formulas that dominate rock and roll.

"Dance music has gotten a lot of bad press," says Hydle. "This music is what we do and what we all love. We wanted to show that the local dance scene has come a long way and that we're not all there for drugs and this and that. We're there for the music."

Of course, if you're looking to congratulate yourself on your musical efforts, Denver is the perfect place to be. The CDM awards seem a natural new addition to a music scene that never tires of self-promotion (sometimes with little regard for the actual quality of the music being championed) and has no shortage of mechanisms in place to do just that; the city is unique in its abundance of local music committees, Web sites, watchdog groups, etc. Maybe it's a product of a citywide small-dog syndrome, but many music-minded Denverites seem to have a constant need to remind themselves that, although Denver is stuck pretty much in the middle of nowhere, we've got something going on here -- really, we do! At the CDMA ceremony, the phrase "our scene" was used frequently enough to mimic the repetitive sampling methods used by DJs themselves. The speakers and the crowd seemed to share an unspoken belief that if they repeated this idea enough and clicked their ruby slippers three times, Denver would suddenly be catapulted to the level of rave-centric cities like New York and Miami and finally receive the recognition it deserves.

It may take a while before that happens, Dorothy. In the meantime, those involved can be satisfied to know that Denver's dance community does breathe with a strange, synergistic spirit. And some mighty fine talent, including DJ Fury, who won Colorado's Favorite Local DJ and Best Jungle/Drum and Bass DJ; DJ Skunk, who won both Best House DJ and Best Club Night of the Year; Miss Audry, who won Best Female DJ; Together Productions, which won Best Promoter of the Year; the Snake Pit, which won Best Club of the Year; Nutmeg, who won Best Up & Coming DJ. (All of the winners and nominees, plus the voting percentages received by each, can be accessed via localstation.com/cdma.) Talent, support, strange nicknames...Come to think of it, maybe those are the finest things any "scene" can really hope to achieve.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond