Every fifth Saturday, local house-music ambassador Brett Starr coordinates House Revival at the Funky Buddha, a night of three DJs, one rooftop and a mixed-up format with spiritual undertones. Starr corrals two different house DJs every month, and he and the visitors mash their varied sounds into a single set in-the-round that lasts for hours and has been pulling people from all across the city to Revival.
This Saturday night, DJs Ivy and CES will join Starr behind the decks. House Revival is the first event Starr produced via his production company, Supernova, and he aims to bring this same level of intention and potency into all Supernova's next endeavors. We caught up with Starr to chat about the inspiration for Revival, the challenges of the format and his plans for the future.
Westword: Where did you get the concept for Revival?
Brett Starr: I actually used to DJ for a non-denominational church that you guys did a story on once called the Red Door, and the founder, Eryn DeFoort, used to talk about these Southern Baptist-style Christian gatherings called tent revivals.
People would get together in the '30s and the '40s, and they would basically just sing and dance and freak out to the Holy Spirit. It's a religious event, but it's all based around the music, because gospel music was real powerful in its time. So I was thinking about getting together around the spiritual power of house music, and how it kind of has the same effects. People kind of freak out and really let themselves go and let the music take over.
When I was thinking about how to format the music for something like that, I thought, "Since the revival has a preacher, and that's what gets everybody really excited, the preacher in a setting like this would be the DJs." I've been trying to book specific DJs who have a really deep understanding of the music and what its power is, so that's why you see the kind of lineup you do.
Ivy and CES are nothing short of masters of their craft -- they understand the music on a deep level. I take DJs of that caliber, and instead of giving each a set, I mash us all together playing short rotations, so that we have to blend our style into one sound.
And what I've noticed is that creates a real tight unity on the dance floor, because it's not like, "Oh, now I'm dancing to this DJ or that DJ," and any preconceived ideas you have about the DJs from being a fan of theirs or listening to their music on a regular basis -- that stuff kind of goes out the window because now we're all the DJ at once.
What kind of challenges does that format present for you?
That's a really good question. For example, with this event, Ivy has traditionally spent a lot of time in the downtempo arena, so 90 to 110 beats per minute, and I usually don't get any lower than 120. And then CES kind of can go anywhere between, but he's usually in the 110 to 120 range, too.
So when you've got guys who play totally different tempos and styles, the DJs have to find ways to merge between them, whether it's different tempos and different styles, and that can be a challenge. You really have to know what you're doing and have some experience in different styles of music to pull it off. But it's worked great so far.
How long have you been putting Revival together?
I guess it's been a year now, and it only occurs every fifth Saturday, so there's five months out of the year that have five Saturdays. The fun thing is that every year, one of the fifth Saturdays is in October, so I do a Halloween party every year. That's kind of a bonus.
What's the response been like from the audience?
It's been really good. It's been better than any of my other parties, actually. And it's been interesting. I don't really know why -- which is kind of what's intriguing about the more spiritual approach to the concept, or maybe the more spiritual intent of the concept, because the place is packed, hands in the air, vibe bumping through the roof every time with very little promotion.
The rooftop of the Funky Buddha's a popular place anyway, but there's plenty of Saturdays I've been up and there have been, like, six people on the dance floor. But one thing that's really helped is this thing gets a draw from different corners of Denver. People who don't go out all the time come to this. I'll stand on the dance floor and be like, "I know you from over there, and I know you from over here, but you don't know each other -- but you both come to this party."
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What are your plans for Revival in the future?
I'm gonna stick with the format and the intention of Revival, because everybody seems to get really excited about it. It does really well, it's got a great vibe, so I'm not going to change it. My goal for the talent is to rotate through DJs that, one, don't get to play very often around town, but two, are also super prolific and experienced.
But I've done five events now, which is two DJs per event that I can bring in, so that's ten different local house DJs -- this is all house-music specific, this is all the different genres or flavors of house music that I do, which is why it's called House Revival. So I've rotated ten different DJs through there now, and for the future, I really need to start branching out and finding some more under-represented, high-caliber house DJs that live here in Denver. That's what I'm going to be doing.
Learn more about House Revival and Starr's goings-on at www.facebook.com/pages/Supernova/130571217016421.