There will be an evening of House and Techno dance music at the Blue Moose tomorrow, ending a drought in Iowa City of ‘real’ dance music events.
In the late 90s on the heels of the US music industry trying to make a ‘thing’ of ‘Electronica’, Iowa City had a mini-boom of dance music. I was an active participant, being part of the Rotation crew that put on regular (weekly!) dance music nights at Gabe’s. Since the early 90s, there had been a rave scene in Eastern Iowa, and a confluence of factors — teenage ravers entering the University of Iowa, it becoming fashionable in the local high schools, and the quaint idea of late night all-ages events in a bar — meant that for a year or two, House and Techno and Drum & Bass were bigger than Rock & Roll in Iowa City.
For a while there, Rotation could do no wrong. We flew people in from Chicago, Detroit, New York, and LA to headline shows. Legendary DJs threw down to a throbbing mass of dancers. When Terrence Parker played, people would drive from all over Iowa, Missouri and Illinois to pack Gabe’s to capacity, and sweat would roll down the walls.
Then people graduated, the high school kids moved on, and 9/11 happened, which seemed to make everything less fun, and we wound down Rotation after losing a few thousand dollars between us. But anyone who was there knew that for a while, Gabe’s on a Friday or Saturday night was absolutely the center of the dance universe, where the best music got played, people partied like it was 1999, and the music was more important than how you dressed, or whether you were straight, gay or whatever.
DVS1’s appearance here — with Matt Rissi, DJ Uplift, and Jethro — will be a time for you to have a taste of what that time was like. So go, not out of nostalgia, but because REAL house and techno is still alive. Matt and Brandon (Uplift) and Jethro (Jeff) were all integral to the Rotation scene back in the day, and continue to DJ regularly, in Cedar Rapids, Cedar Falls, and elsewhere. They my boys, and you need to show up and represent.
I don’t want to speak ill of the people putting on local dance nights at the Moose and Yacht Club, really. The people that DJ there — some of whom are my friends — are playing the music that appeals to them, and they have found an audience.
But a lot of what you’ll hear on those nights is pop music or mashups, or hip hop. It’s not connected to the real underground dance music tradition. That’s an unbroken chain of sweaty, dark nights that started at David Mancuso’s Loft in NYC, came to the Music Box in Chicago in the late 70s, touched down at the Music Institute in Detroit, and infected Iowa in the 1990s. It’s something real, and exciting, and full of soul, and it will be in the house at the Blue Moose tomorrow night.