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Washington, DC’s ROAM dance party finally makes its U Street Music Hall debut on Friday. Much more than a fantastic dance party, it’s a story of a journey and of DC’s now well-progressed dance culture.

Let’s all stop and realize that on March 17, 2015, U Street Music Hall celebrates its fifth anniversary. For as much as the venue’s quick rise to iconic global renown is due to the likes of veteran DC DJ/producers like Nadastrom, Tittsworth and Will Eastman, it’s in understanding the motivations of the next generation of DC area DJs and producers that is arguably where the space provides its greatest worth. ROAM’s resident DJs (Lisa Frank, Chris Nitti and Sami Y) are a rare breed of DJ in DC who have been largely birthed by a club and community and now work within said club and said community (Nitti and Frank in booking and promotions at U Street Music Hall, Sami Y as a former music writer at NPR – he now covers education – and a concert reviewer for the Washington Post) – their development is important and attention must be paid.

Erring more on the side of disco, techno and deeper house than anything you’re hearing on top-40 radio these days, this is a night where a new generation of no-frills, music-first spinners play sets that mirror their own “roaming” journey to find fresh, connective and intriguing sounds within the ever-broadening world of music as it mirrors the ethos of the club that birthed them. I had the chance to catch up with the trio and send along a few questions about life’s journey, love and music that provide a look not just into the party, but to the spinners as people, too.


Brightest Young Things: How did the party come about? All of you have at various points been playing out, throwing parties, dabbling in production, etc? What was the final piece that pulled this all together?
ALL:  The three of us hit it off big time at [Detroit Electronic Music Festival] a couple of years back, and after that we’d thrown some gigs together here and there. The response from the DC community was always super supportive. We knew we had to do something regular. So when Sami moved into his new house on Sherman Ave, he pitched the idea of a day party there. We agreed it was a good place to start, but wanted it to be able to move around to different venues so that it stayed fresh. So “ROAM” was born.
BYT: Insofar as creating a work/life seamlessness instead of a work/life balance, is there something gratifying about finally having the party at U Street Music Hall? For all of you it’s been a place that on multiple levels has been important in both work and life, so how does it feel to finally have this all come in some ways full circle?
Chris Nitti: It’s extremely gratifying. U Hall is home. Really, between working there during the day and going to shows I probably spend more time at the club than my house. To be able to take a concept like Roam there is a dream come true. So grateful that Will gave us the opportunity.
Lisa Frank: Roaming to U Street Music Hall is very gratifying. It’s where I “grew up” as a DJ and promoter. All three of us have gained priceless knowledge by working for and with the team at U Street Music Hall. I’ve learned a lot just by osmosis – going to club nights & constantly being surrounded by people who’ve been doing this for years.  Will Eastman (owner of U Street Music Hall) stopped by ROAM IV last July at Bardo and noticed how much love and effort we put into the party. Soon after we were granted the space for ROAM V, and we all feel very honored to host it there.
BYT: As far as being DJs, where are your ears and sets trending these days? I feel like there’s a cool place between the underground and mainstream that’s growing wider and deeper the longer that “EDM (good, bad, ugly)” stays in the general cultural consciousness. Thus, as far as ROAM is concerned, what can people expect to hear?
Sami Y: Depends on who’s playing, I think Chris, Morgan (Lisa Frank) and I each bring something different to the table. But for the most part its focused on house and techno that we like, and doesn’t venture into the EDM side of things. Personally I’ve been really into what local labels like Future Times and Must Have Records have been doing.
Chris Nitti: Like Sami said, we each have our own personal tastes but generally we bounce around between house and techno.
Lisa Frank: We try our best to not follow too many trends. Evolving as DJs and people are key to what we do at ROAM. Right now, we’ll play anything from Berlin techno, to soulful house to disco. Personally, I tend to include tracks that are melodic, percussive, deep and booming. Chris has told me several times my sets sound like a jet engine 😉
BYT: As far as DC overall as compared to say, five years ago when all of you were getting your feet wet as party throwers and DJs, where do you see the greatest evolution? Furthermore, where do you see yourselves in that evolution on the DJ level?
Sami Y: More parties, better DJs, bigger scene. I think that U Street Music Hall has been huge for the dance community here. Hopefully events that my friends and I have thrown have helped this out in some way, just out here trying to make people smile and dance.
Chris Nitti: I think DC has seen a really strong dance music community blossom. So many people doing great things and supporting each other’s endeavours. Both the quality and quantity of parties in the city have made clubbers increasingly spoiled for choice. It’s a really great time to be in DC.
Lisa Frank: Five years ago DC didn’t have proper underground clubs. People threw parties in rock venues and smaller bars. The parties were fun, but the sound wasn’t always ideal for techno, bass music, house, etc. though. Five years later we have solid clubs like U Street Music Hall and Flash and they both have been a game changer in many ways. Martin Audio & Function-One sound-systems. People are more motivated to DJ and produce now more than ever and the community’s tastes have evolved. DC now gets the respect it deserves. Because of this, I’ve felt more comfortable exploring and evolving my personal sound as a DJ and my respect for the art of DJing has grown exponentially.
BYT: What’s the most significant thing that DJing has contributed to your growth as a person? Still being so young but having an access to the ability to grow so quickly, I’m certain that the ability to play records, oftentimes after hearing great DJs play great records, takes on a new level of meaning…
Sami Y: I feel that to do my job well I have to come to a club prepared, and the only way I’m truly prepared is if I’ve done my homework where the music is concerned. Playing records is the last piece of the puzzle, finding the music to play is where the real work happens. It’s during that process of digging for tunes that I feel like I’m growing the most. It’s all about learning…about the music, its history, how it plays in different contexts. I think thats helped me grow up in a whole bunch of ways, not all of them directly related to the dance floor.
Chris Nitti: Playing records is theraputic — the self expression, interaction with the crowd, getting lost in it all. All that stress we humans tend to accumulate during the day just melts away a few tracks into a set. Kind of hard to put a finger on the specifics of it, but having this creative outlet has definitely helped me grow as a person.
Lisa Frank: DJing allows me to express my inner emotions, thoughts and feelings in ways I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing otherwise. When I see the crowd in front of me listening to and connecting with sounds I’ve connected with, it makes me feel like I am understood on a deeper level. I’m very thankful to those who listen.
BYT: This party happening at U Hall is a really cool thing. What are some of the other cool things that you’re aspiring to do with your careers either in the immediate future or further down the line? 
Sami Y: Working at NPR is just about a dream job for me, also I started a new label called 1432 R, I write concert reviews for the Washington Post and I’m making music. Excited to be doing all of it!
Chris Nitti: Working for U Hall and regularly playing gigs has been a dream come true. Not totally sure where it’s all going to take me but I’m enjoying the ride.
Lisa Frank: I’m looking forward to getting my feet wet on the production side of things. I just finished a club mix for my friend Outputmessage, that should be coming out this fall. It’s a totally different ball game than DJing and I’m looking forward to expressing myself through the sounds I create as opposed to the sounds others create.