If you’re a house-music fan who’s wrung all the fun available from Asheville’s meager offerings in that department; if your ears are bored and your feet simply aching for a new outlet, this party’s for you.
If your late-night shift serving trout to tourists keeps you hustling tables too late to let you enjoy much Asheville nightlife (most of which wraps up well before the wee hours) — this party, which goes full-swing till 4:30 a.m., is definitely for you.
And if you wouldn’t know “deep house” from an Irish jig, this party is especially for you.
As the main promoter of Asheville’s increasingly regular DJ dance parties at Stella Blue, local DJ Joe Livingston has more on his mind than merely preaching to the choir. Besides providing a venue for dance-music enthusiasts and keyed-up restaurant employees, his aim is to acquaint the reluctant or merely uninitiated with what he calls the “healing powers” of the genre by providing the highest-quality dance music around.
“I’m not out to change anyone’s opinion, but this is something different that a lot of the kids are not familiar with. [We’re offering] world-class house music,” he states with pride.
(For those still in the dark about house music, it’s a throbbing, pulsing, electronic, decidedly urban dance sound that actually encompasses several genres — “techno” being the best-known.)
Livingston, who will represent the Asheville scene (as well as his own music label, Release), is sponsoring two of Atlanta’s hottest club DJs, Chris Bailey and J-Luv (who are, in turn, representing their respective retail music stores — Satellite and Rewind) at Stella Blue on Saturday, Aug. 1.
“Asheville is years behind,” declares Livingston. “With a smaller population, there will [always] be a smaller number of people wanting to pursue the dance scene.”
But things, he says, are changing. “The small [Asheville] groups that now get together, like the Starchild parties at Metro and the dance nights at Stella Blue, are helping Asheville get a good reputation,” he notes — though he can’t help adding that the blues-and-rock-laden Bele Chere could really use a DJ booth.
Livingston concedes that western North Carolina — which clings fiercely to its traditional roots — is unlikely to spark the kind of spontaneous eruption of infectious dance-scene energy found in more volatile environments. The lively scene in Orlando, his former home, is a natural outgrowth of the city’s air of perpetual vacation and surplus of service-industry employees, he observes.
“In Orlando … you have the beach, and rows of dance clubs. Florida is a country in its own,” says Livingston wryly (if not exactly nostalgically).
But house music, he insists, is not the exclusive entity it might seem to be. Perhaps its least-appreciated virtue, he contends, is that it offers something for everyone. At the Stella Blue party, Livingston will also showcase the talents of Asheville DJ Sam Rubin, whose tribal vibe Livingston sees as crucial to nurturing an Asheville scene.
“A more soulful sound would [be popular] here, as opposed to hard techno — more of a tribal sound,” Livingston muses. “This city definitely has a tribal element to it. Maybe [that] will eventually cross over to the clubs, where people can dance to [an] electronic shaman/DJ.”
Another challenge is the differing taste of older and younger dance-music fans, Livingston admits. While taking care not to knock the teen-and-younger-college crowd that was weaned on the hip-hop beat and craves the lighter forms of the genre, he will acknowledge that those careening toward 30 may crave a fuller plate. And their DJ peers stand ready to sate them.
“I’m not saying one [form of house music] is better than the other, but I think the older crowd is looking for a harder sound. Older DJs, like [Asheville’s] Scott B., tend to have a more sophisticated sound that fits [an older] age group,” says Livingston, who plans to feature that emerging local DJ in a future show.
J-Luv (whose sound Livingston pegs as “progressive house”) is inclined to agree: “Older people like more of a mature sound, whereas a lot of the young kids just want to dress up and fit the description of what a raver should be.”
But, like Livingston, he’s low-key in his criticism. Even those determined to shun electronic music altogether receive nothing more than J-Luv’s gentle encouragement.
“Blues and rock is all great stuff,” he says, “but by not listening to house, jungle, techno, people are missing out on an energy they won’t find with traditional music. … They’re missing out on the cool dance-floor vibe. … They’re missing good mixing, the sight and sound of a DJ building a groove.”
And, if that’s not enough to get naysayers shaking their butts (instead of their heads), “They’re missing out on the most technologically advanced music in the world,” he adds, quietly but firmly.
If you’re already a dance-music enthusiast who’s been lamenting the lack of a recognized Asheville scene, Livingston — who, as DJ “L,” has his own gigs coming up at Asheville’s Djed’s + Melanie’s II, spinning acid jazz and down-tempo beats — urges you to put your money where your mouth is.
“Without support, there isn’t a scene,” he proclaims, adding, “Support your favorite DJ!”