All words: Jeb Gavin — All photos: Kevin Hulse
For all those looking to curate a night out, take note: this is how you throw a party overhand. The Bass Showcase Friday night (or more accurately, Saturday morning) was advanced partying, not for amateurs. Held in an unassuming and cracked out warehouse loft off New York Ave. in North East DC, the Showcase was one of several parties/concerts/happenings (they’re gonna hate that word) presented as part of Forward Festival, DC’s best (perhaps only?) electronic music festival.
For five days, music nerds and psychonauts scurry from one danceable space to another to hear new music from DJs people tend not to hear about until they’re spinning for 100,000 people on a beach in Brazil, or remixing middling pop songs on stage at a music awards show. Granted, this is all a prologue to the bass.
Again I say, possibly haunted building, decorated like prom for the Lost Boys. Rooms set up on multiple levels and outside, each with their own DJ booth. The kind of wattage the military would use to excise a drug trafficking despot from a Vatican embassy. More bass than a commercial hatchery. Each room had a theme, but for the life of me, I couldn’t discern one from another, save for the type of music being played. Oh, except for the come-down room. That was pretty spectacular, all Moroccan themed, with a big-ass kaleidoscope, soft pillows and blankets on the floor.
In one room, someone I was told was Salva was spinning as we entered. The beats were not nearly as bass heavy as I was expecting. There was a techno flavor to it, ponderous, echoing droplets bouncing from speaker to speaker. It wasn’t until I moved on to the drum and bass room I really got the full effect of the evening. You didn’t really walk anywhere in the room, you’d sort of vibrate across the dance floor at whatever beat the current DJ decided was a good pace.
The next room over, doubled by a wall of mirrors (amazed there weren’t more people trapped within them, Superman III style) DJs were spinning what you might consider more mainstream EDM, but at this point it was shades of oscillating gray. Backtracking and trotting down a few staircases to the scorched blacktop lot behind the warehouse, three projectors were firing what looked like digital fireworks up on the adjacent wall, while acrobats and fire jugglers strutted confidently in their pen behind the DJ table.
Outside the music was mostly techno remixes of current underground rap singles (if there’s a bad techno remix of “Ice Cream Paint Job”, I haven’t heard it. But then again, I’ve only heard one.) While I’d of liked to stay and watch the pretty girl in a bikini spin in circles within a fiery hula-hoop, the next man on the decks opened his set by dropping the bass, and I didn’t want to dubstep in any of it.
Walking out of a party like that, there’s this feeling of Brigadoon, unsure if that really happened. If you returned, would it even be there? Events like this, these festivals, their downfall is the same thing that makes them special: exclusivity, either by design or because people just aren’t that curious about new music, no matter how good. Here’s hoping Forward is around, uh, going forward. Otherwise it will just be a weird memory.