In 1991 Brooklyn-based house DJ Todd Terry released his dance classic “House Is a Feeling.” The track borrowed its title proclamation from spoken-word poet Chuck Roberts, who famously encapsulated the flavor of house music with his impassioned speech on Rhythm Controll’s “My House.” Back then, pretension played a lesser role in the nightlife’s underground; downtown revelers headed to Club Shelter, Sound Factory Bar, and Body and Soul to catch a regular rotation of local DJs. Variations of those nights are still around, but the past decade has given way to “clubbing”—a word that makes some cringe, evoking as it does images of bottle service, Jersey Shore cast members, strobe lights, and mega-DJs like Tiësto and David Guetta who have spent recent months putting their imprint on pop radio.
The website Resident Advisor, celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month with a series of parties around the world (including one at (le) Poisson Rouge on Saturday), brings the spirit of the old underground to the Internet, allowing its users to get a feel for scenes from other parts of the globe. Birthed in 2001 by co-founders Nick Sabine and Paul Clement, the dance-music hub now attracts more than 1 million unique visitors from 96 countries each month.
“The thing is that it grew organically,” says site Sabine over the phone from his apartment in London. “We had people who wanted to write for fun during their lunch break,” he explains. “Then we let anyone who wanted to get involved in the discussion.” Soon, fans, labels, and musicians from all over the world share their tastes and scene happenings with the rest of the matrix on the site, which boasts discussion forums, downloadable podcasts, event listings, and reviews and interviews.
But the let-it-all-hang-out ethos of the Internet is twisted by the party’s hook: The identity of the night’s headliner is a secret until he/she walks onstage. (The Voice couldn’t even score an anonymous interview with the entertainer in question.) “We wanted to make the point that all of this is not so much about a particular artist as it is to come celebrate with us,” Sabine explains. “X” did hand-pick the night’s other performers, who operate in genres spanning from jazz to deep house, dubstep, and soul: Mala of the British dubstep duo Digital Mystikz; Chicago vocalist Peven Everett; Canadian dance band King Sunshine; and secretive turntablist Masashi Nakazawa.
While digital platforms have made it easier for superstar DJs to gain global notoriety, they’ve also forced both audiences and DJs at every level to step up their respective games. “Artists have created a tolerance and acceptance of different genres coming together in a clever way,” explains Sabine. “As a result, audiences expect that and the DJs have to keep up.” RA’s string of fetes will do their best to mimic this mentality, in which the Internet’s lack of geographic borders allows local music scenes to have greater global influence.
Meanwhile, there’s a top-down influence going on as house music seemingly takes over the top 40, and despite the shudders the word “clubbing” sends down some spines, Sabine sees it as a boon to the culture. “It can only be a good thing for electronic music artists,” says Sabine. “Maybe these kids are listening to David Guetta when they’re 16. But then they’re going to see Chemical Brothers when they’re 18 and by the time they’re 21, their tastes might have evolved so that they’re going to [the New York City parties] ReSolute, Blk|Market Membership, or Mister Saturday Night, you know?” As Roberts so famously bellowed on “My House” 20 years ago: “You may be black, you may be white. You may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make no difference in our house. And this is fresh.”
RA X takes place Saturday at (Le) Poisson Rouge