Featured Music: Wednesday, August 4, 2004
The Beat Goes On

DJ culture is slowly bubbling back up in Cowtown.


Think of raves, and images of ecstasy, glow sticks, and pacifiers dance in your head. Throughout the ’90s and early ’00s, the mega-parties rose from nearly every warehouse and empty field, attracting thousands of partiers from miles away. These happenings were where to be at 4 a.m. In the center of the chaos were the DJs. The venue of choice in Fort Worth during the time period was Ridglea Theater.

Then the music stopped. The parties ended. The DJ scene became almost nonexistent.

Now, however, there’s a renewed interest in DJ culture here, in small part from a new generation of fans but mostly from those ’90s-era kids who are now adults -- responsible adults, ones who aren’t afraid to let their freak flags fly.

"The scene is more grown up now," said DJ Philter, former resident DJ at Club Vivid. "All the kids have turned into adults. The [drug-influenced] rave element has taken a backseat."

Local DJ crew the Disco Agent (Philter and Jason Peacock, a.k.a. Jason Phunk) started weekly club events at the Ridglea and were the first to put on raves in the area. The Ridglea events made for some of the most populous nights the club’s ever seen. And with an increase in patronage, there was, according to Philter, an increase in disreputable people, the kinds of folks who ultimately gave raves a bad name. "When the shows grew larger and larger," he said, "some people became less concerned with the music and promoting the dance scene than they were in promoting drug trafficking."

Drugs weren’t the only thing increasing, however. Soon complaints began pouring into Fort Worth police about noise, litter, and loitering. Police began pressuring the club to either get the scene under control or risk being heavily fined or, worse, closed down. The Ridglea, according to co-owner Wesley Hathaway, decided to shift its focus away from raves and concentrate on making live music their specialty.

In the intervening few years, DJs in general have gained respect as musicians and are no longer seen as no-talents with really cool record collections. This past January, Fort Worth’s first dance-friendly record store opened. R Type Records was built, according to owner Jason Gurecka, to cater to both working turntablists and "bedroom DJs" the 85 percent of his customers who collect and spin music for their own enjoyment. They don’t actually spin at shows, he said. "They have personal set-ups in their homes." The shop’s clientele is small but growing. He cites evidence the fact that turntables have outsold guitars over the past three years, "so that niche must be growing."

Nightlife spaces are catching the vibe. Randall’s Gourmet Cheesecake and Zo╬ have stayed open late to cater to this sophisticated, new dance crowd, while both the Wreck Room and the Sapphire Lounge, among others, feature DJ nights in which everything from dance to hip-hop to acid jazz is spun.

Then there are the big clubs, such as Babylon, Crystals, and Club Fusion, a hip-hop/Latin club that opened three months ago and has been steadily packed since.

The 18-and-up locale, off Rodeo Plaza in the Stockyards, has been so successful that the Saturday crowd, which started at 100 to 200, now reaches the club’s maximum capacity of 800. Fusion personnel laud their guest DJ’s, including DJ Miracle from 97.9-FM The Beat, as the key to their success.

The only venue that seems to be falling off the boat is Club Vivid, which opened in October with hopes on recreating the fever of the ’90s-era dance scene. It got off to a good start, attracting lots of attention, word-on-the-street respect, and patrons. It’s a perfect place for an upscale, grown-up dance crowd, with its velvety red seats, rich multi-colored walls, and subdued lighting. With two floors, it’s also big enough to accommodate non-dancers.

But last week, Vivid let go of two of its small cadre of resident DJ’s, Philter and DJ Merritt, leaving the club’s dance policy up in the air. (Repeated phone calls from Fort Worth Weekly to Vivid went unreturned.)

The club’s changing complexion may have something to do with its downtown location. Awash in mainstream, family-friendly bars and clubs, downtown isn’t designed to accommodate anything out of the ordinary. There are no tattoo parlors, few independent nightclubs, and lots of chain establishments. Lots of movers and shakers understand this, which is why the South Main part of South Side has begun attracting interest. Local entrepreneur Mike Waind plans on opening a dance club there, not too far from where Randall’s owner Jerrett Joslin and Wreck Room chief Brian Forella will open a 700 capacity rock club. "They call Fort Worth ’Sleepy Town,’ ’Panther City,’" said Joslin. "We’re trying to wake the panther up."

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