Electric youth

Where can the under-18 crowd take their music? Asheville High School junior Nate Wilcox-Pettit smiles wide, when asked. "We can make it anything we want it to be," he says. "It can go anywhere."

DIY: High schoolers DJ Salinger (seated) and Nate Wilcox-Pettit create their own music and their own venues. Photo by Gabe Chess.

Nate is part of a young and small electronica scene that didn't even think of itself as a cohesive group until asked about it. "I guess the scene starts here," Nate says. It's hard to say how many young people make electronic music in Asheville, but the seeds and potential are there. According to Jake Louzon-Hadley, aka DJ Salinger and a junior at Odyssey Community School, he doesn't really know anyone else making the music in Asheville, but he does know people who quite enjoy listening and dancing to it.

DJ Salinger was inspired to start making music when he took a trip to N.C. State University, where he met someone who was mashing (creating a song or composition by blending two or more songs, often by by layering the vocals of one song over the music of another) music on a program called Virtual DJ. DJ Salinger came back to Asheville set on making music himself and bringing it to fellow teens. Local teenagers already had shown interest in electronic music: Girl Talk, a massively popular mash-up DJ played shows at the Orange Peel in 2008 and 2007, drawing sell-out crowds and an arsenal of local teens.

DJ Salinger began making the music and quickly found a teenage fan base for it. He learned more about Virtual DJ, and sought the critique of other electronic music fans, especially Nate. DJ Salinger and Nate collaborate, with DJ Salinger making the music and Nate offering his opinion and advice. Recently, Nate introduced DJ Salinger to a more sophisticated sound-mixing program called Ableton.

Nate has also helped DJ Salinger find venues for DJing parties. Excepting a handful of all ages shows, the club scene is reserved for audiences age 21 and older. For these two budding artists, that means a different world than that of the drinking-age crowd. DJ Salinger mostly does house parties, and those can be tricky. "Finding a quality sound system is always the hardest part," Nate says. Or sometimes things just don't go according to plan. For example, one weekend recently, DJ Salinger was prepared to go to a house where he would DJ, only to learn at 9 p.m. that the party wasn't going to happen.

But, despite the challenges, when a party does come together it's a good time for everyone. "My favorite part is throwing a party and actually watching it happen," Nate says. "There's nobody who doesn't want to come to a house party. I tell anybody about a party and they are always excited. Everybody's basement becomes a club."

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