At this point, Steve Starks and Nacey need no introduction, and if you spend any time at DC’s weirder, deeper dance nights, you already know Lxsx Frxnk (aka Morgan Tepper). This Friday, the three will come together at Zeba Bar, a sleek neighborhood spot in Columbia Heights, for EASY. The promo mix provides an idea of what to expect: sunny dance tracks, groovy indie rock, and R&B-inflected bass music (and edits of Nacey’s upcoming project with Misun). Like the best things in life, the party is free.
Malha Funk – Vira de Ladinho
Spoon – Don’t You Evah (Mike 2600 Remix)
Wordlife – Reese Cup
Misun – July (Nacey Remix)
Douglas Greed – Back Room Deal
Cascandy – Escapade Escapade (Super Flu Remix)
Luscious Jackson – Naked Eye
Misun – The Sea (Steve Starks Remix)
Maxxi Soundsystem – There’s No Love
MJ Cole – Sincere
Brenmar – Let’s Pretend
Jacques Green – Another Girl
Outkast – Spottieottiedopalicious (Steve Starks Oh My Blend)
On the other end of the musical spectrum – both sonically and in tone – is a Sunday night concert at the Velvet Lounge that brings together three of DC’s darkest bands (and some like-minded Chicagoans). Headliner Washerwoman is a stripped down incarnation of Phonic Riot that delivers the same brand of post-punk. Live, vocalist/guitarist Angela Morrish and drummer Nathan Jurgenson focus their fury into something brutal. Similarly, Lenorable plays goth rock that is more expansive than their two-person configuration should allow.
Also featured on the bill are lo-fi thrash punks Lions & Tigers & Whales (LTW), fronted by local provocateur Denman. When not spinning grime and future bass, Denman is known for wielding his microphone, blowing out eardrums and bashing in skulls (usually his own). LTW’s performance promises to be a different kind of wall of sound than that of their show mates.
2012 begins as one of the musicians at the figurative center of the DC scene launches a residency at the literal center of the DC scene. This Wednesday, DJ/producer extraordinaire Nacey begins Lost Wednesdays at Lost Society, the lofty new hotspot that overlooks the intersection of 14th and U Streets.
Having established himself as a part of Nouveau Riche and KIDS (RIP), Nacey is branching out on his own this time around. He plans “to keep it deep, dark, and weird, but still dancey.” Whereas his other parties have been neon-drenched hipster havens, Lost Wednesdays promises a different feel from the maturing DJ/producer. It also fills the Wednesday night void left when DJ Lil’ Elle’s Ill Element ended over a year ago.
For a taste of what’s to come, download and listen to Nacey’s Lost Vol. 1 mix. Moody and melodic, the mix includes “The Look,” an unreleased original track that is ready for the dance floor. Don’t miss Lost Wednesday, and be ready to get weird.
Lost Wednesdays with Nacey is free at Lost Society (2001 14th St. NW) from 9pm – 2am.
Trentemøller – Shades of Marble
Dapayk & Padberg – Island ft. Caro (Noze Remix)
Tomcraft – Room 414 (Citizen Kain Remix)
Massive Attack ft. Hope Sandoval – Paradise Circus (Gui Boratto Remix)
Blaqstarr – Get Up On the Floor
Zomby – Digital Flora
Eats Everything – The Size
Tabi Bonney – Nuthin But A Hero (Nacey Martin Brothers Rocket Surgery Edit)
Recloose – Antares
Mighty Dub Katz – Magic Carpet Ride (Teaser)
Style of Eye – Wiz Kid (Audiojack Remix)
Subb-an – This Place (Nic Fanciulli Remix)
Nacey – The Look
Maceo Plex – The Feelin’
Joe Alter – I Feel You
Trentemøller – Shades of Marble (Trentemøller Remix)
For a few years, the best place to catch a DJ set in DC wasn’t a warehouse club like Fur, or a posh K Street joint, or one of the dozen Adams Morgan joints promising cheap drinks and cheaper women. It was at the far end of U Street, on the upstairs dance floor of DC9, on a stage graced by underground rock bands during the week, behind a well-worn loveseat of unknown origin.
While the club still hosts its open bar, indie-dance party Liberation, its highpoint as a dance club was when first Saturdays belonged to KIDS and last Saturdays belonged to Nouveau Riche. Whether it was throwback jams at KIDS or the anything-goes atmosphere of Nouveau Riche, there was a constant: Starks and Nacey.
Steve Starks (né Bock) and Nacey (aka Andrew Wallace) grew up in the nearby bedroom community of Columbia, MD. Friends since high school, they returned to DC area after college. At that point, Starks had DJed at the University of Maryland, College Park and Nacey had massaged a handful of hip-hop tracks under the moniker Enaisee, but things didn’t come together until they joined up with party starter Gavin Holland for Nouveau Riche in 2006.
And while Starks and Nacey are some of the most skilled DJs in a city with more selectors than partiers, their true talent – and what portends best for continued success – is behind the boards. Their shared palette draws heavily from classic funk breaks, Baltimore club, and Southern hip-hop, all with plenty of bass. But as a painter uses the same colors to paint both a sunrise and a sunset, Starks and Nacey have each carved out their own signature sounds.
2009 saw the release of their self-released, self-titled EP. A true crate digger, Nacey’s samples ranged from the Emotions on the funky “Lose Your Love” to “International Player’s Anthem” on the gun-cocking “Money on the Dressa.” For his part, Starks ranged from grooving electro (“Don’t Let Me Go”) to pure Bmore (“You Don’t Want None”). The duo’s first official EP, last year’s TRO/Lydia (T&A Records), featured Starks experimenting with new sounds: big room electro on “TRO” and Latin house on “Lydia.”
Since then, Starks’ productions have continued further down the club tech rabbit hole. “Git Em” (also on T&A) has more bass than most dubstep tracks and a Baltimore beat like a blast from Omar’s shotgun; its EP mate “Witness” is the perfect track for when those late Saturday nights turn into Sunday mornings.
The finest moment in Nacey’s young career came with his remix of La Roux’s “Bulletproof.” With the mournful violin of Matt Hemerlein, Nacey’s remix is stark and dramatic, lovelorn in a way the original fails to be. One of DC’s secret weapons was unveiled to the world, as the track led off the Major Lazor / La Roux collaboration Lazerproof.
Nacey’s remixes, whether a subtle refix or a complete makeover, are organic extensions of the original, never du jour stylings. As with “Bulletproof,” he’s given new life to M.I.A.’s “Steppin’ Up,” re-purposing Maya’s vocal for a smooth bass jam that ignores the original’s industrial noise machine. He even did the unthinkable – remixing an Outkast track! – and infused “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” into warm, funky house. Yet the remix that I always return to is his Miami bass take on Paper Route Gangsterz’ “Hood Celebrity.”
Despite all their collaboration, Starks and Nacey are rarely credited together. While they’ve remixed tunes by Rampage & Nader and Old Money, their best official team-up combines their deep house leanings with their love of the Dirty South. The rhythm on “The Flip” and its “I’m known for the flip of that cocaína” lyric make this one addictive.
Starks and Nacey would have lost their DC DJ memberships if they didn’t touch the city’s finest export, moombahton. In keeping with their own styles, Nacey flipped A Tribe Called Quest into 108 G-funk on “Doin’ It.” Meanwhile, Starks’ “Get Fr33ky in tha Club” is a drum-heavy moombahton anthem, and headlines his upcoming moombahton EP.
Starks is also busy preparing his next EP for T&A, which promises to pick up where “Git Em” left off, if “Problem” is any indication. Only Steve Starks can take a Cardigans sample and craft something so fierce.
Nacey’s next musical endeavor is a bit of a departure for someone who has built his name spinning hip-hop, club, and electro for eager club kids. He’s currently putting the final touches on an EP with DC vocalist Misun. The singer has the soulful, smokey voice of Adele (without the histrionics), and as he’s done with those remixes of La Roux and M.I.A., Nacey’s instrumentals key in on a song’s essence and never let it go. The recently released “July” is a bouncy summer jam, updating funky disco hallmarks without falling into pastiche.
Drinking at DC9 is still a lot of fun, but dancing there isn’t quite the same. After two years, KIDS ended this summer. Last April, Nouveau Riche took the next logical step and moved down the street, where the crew turns U Street Music Hall into a rave every second Saturday. The location may change, but Starks and Nacey are sure to be there, rocking the party.
BONUS: Nacey’s remix of Kingdom’s latest “Take Me” just dropped, and it’s a killer. With a beat somewhere between club and house, Naomi Allen’s vocals slink over a “Show Me Love”-esque bassline. And watch out for those strings!
The impetus for KIDS was a shared love of hip-hop, skateboarding, and city culture – the same terrain as the film. Started during the height of the hipster, electro obsession, it gave four budding DJs the chance to spin the music they truly love. After two plus years, the group of DJs – Lil’ Elle, Steve Starks, Nacey and Jackie O – chose to end it, even though the party is still successful. They admit it was a tough decision. “DC9’s been a home to us and the staff is like family… We can’t wait to come back and throw a party at DC9, it just might be a little while.” The move will give everyone time to focus on other things, and a chance to, as Elle says, “put this chapter to rest for now.”
The KIDS crowd was a unique one, combining friends of the DJs, a dedicated group of devotees, and random party-goers down for anything. But in a transient city like DC, the scene is constantly in flux. Lil’ Elle laments that the party “lost the homie mentality.” That mentality was due in large part to the vibe: KIDS was a grown-up version of a high school house party, paradoxically both laid back and irreverently out-of-control. The spot of many memorable nights, one in particular stands tall.
In February 2010, during the second blizzard of the season, KIDS went on as planned. “I’ll never forget walking with the crew up the middle of Florida Ave, which had no cars on it, thinking nobody was coming out to KIDS,” Nacey remembers. “We considered canceling it. Two hours after rolling up, the place was bubbling. By 3am there was a massive snowball fight outside.” Before devolving into a snowball fight, premiere DJ Dave Nada jumped on the tables and treated the sweat pants-clad crowd to a hip-hop, turntablist clinic – a rarity from the club/house DJ. “Tittsworth ended up flipping a couch,” laughs Lil’ Elle.
With a fixed set of songs that fit the 90s rubric, there were bound to be songs that felt played out; Elle names R&B jams “Return of the Mack” and “This Is How We Do It” as songs that got old but continue to be crowd pleasers. Thankfully, favorites outnumber duds: Biggie’s “Going Back to Cali” for Elle, Smif-n-Wessun’s “I Love You” for Nacey (“That piano loop gets people every time.”)
Steve Starks took a different route: “[It’s] kind of funny, cause I started playing crunk sets, which were my favorite moments at KIDS, which I hadn’t done at the very beginning. Those tunes weren’t really throwbacks in the 90’s hip hop sense, mostly early/mid 00’s. Anyways, that music is my shit! Lil Jon, “Whatcha Gon Do.” The party always boiled over with that one.”
What’s next for the KIDS crew? Lil’ Elle, who recently relocated to San Francisco, is getting deeper into the Bay Area music scene, DJing, promoting, and connecting visiting DJs with locals. Along with remixing, Nacey is writing and producing songs with Misun, “an amazing vocalist in DC who hasn’t really been discovered yet. She’s got a lot of soul and has a ton of ideas.” Steve Starks has “a rack of new original tracks coming out, and some remixes.” Jackie O continues to DJ in DC, with residencies at Velvet Lounge and the 9:30 Back Bar and appearances across town.
For DJs that want to establish an event or party with the staying power of something like KIDS, the key is passion. “It’s really important that your heart is in it; we really wanted to spin this music,” says Ellen; Starks and Nacey feel the same way, but note that “the free malt liquor didn’t hurt either.”
Join Nacey, Jackie O, and Steve Starks at DC9 for the final KIDS this Saturday, July 2. Free entry, condoms, and malt liquor before 10PM and only $5 after. Hip-hop all night.
DC’s own Nacey is having quite the year. His remix of La Roux’s “Bulletproof” (TGRI’s song of 2009) kicks off the Major Lazer x La Roux mixtape; it’s now the number one track over at The Hype Machine. His EP with partner-in-crime Steve Starks debuted on T&A Records, and Nouveau Riche took the next step by relocating from DC9 to the U Street Music Hall (a club so electric that even a massive blackout couldn’t stop the party).
Nacey is staying busy, trying his hand at a remix of “Steppin’ Up” off M.I.A.’s M A Y A. The original, produced by Rusko and Switch, is literally industrial noise – samples of power tools punctuate the entire song. Nacey’s version is more polished, stripping away the grime and replacing it with a simple piano line and a down-tempo bass groove.
As usual, the track is hotter than a plate of truffle fries. And as a bonus, here’s another Nacey remix from a little farther back: his Miami bass, WMC inspired take on the Paper Route Gangstaz’ “Hood Celebrity.” Enjoy.
Starks and Nacey are no strangers to the DC scene. The two are a big part of the city’s hottest dance parties: the electro freakout Nouveau Riche (coming soon to the U Street Music Hall aka “Temple of Boom”) and the hip hop senior prom KIDS. The pair released a self-titled EP last year, showcasing their musical range: from Bmore club (“You Don’t Want None”), to exotic electro (“So Sexy”) and all points in between.
Released today, Time Run Out / Lydia EP (T&A Records) finds the duo going further down the rabbit hole. “Time Run Out” kicks off the EP; with its heart-palpitating rhythm, grimey synth stabs and a rumbling bassline, it builds to a fist-pumping crescendo. The track is a deep, layered beast ready for the dancefloor. Starks gets a little funky on “Lydia,” a Latin house romp that blew up Austin dancefloors throughout SXSW (keep watch for a Moombahton remix). Nacey’s contribution here is “Work for This,” a re-release from the initial EP. The looped horn sample over reverse cymbals gives the song a sexy, hypnotic appeal.
Remix duties are handled by friends of the group. Label-head DJ Ayres gives “Time Run Out” a two-step feel and focuses on the ricochetting synthlines. Both Smalltown Romeo and Sabo take a crack at “Lydia;” the Canadian collective / recent Plant Records signees amp up the electro funk and vocode the vocals, while Sabo takes another route and accentuates the track’s Latin roots. Rounding out the EP is Nouveau Riche partner Gavin Holland’s ravey reworking of “Work for This.” In trademark style, Gavin adds both the drops from Rob Base’s seminal “It takes two” and the smooth synth from Snoop’s “Sexual Eruption,” taking the track to the next level.
Starks and Nacey are currently laying seige to Miami as part of WMC festivities, and EDM fiends of all stripes will eat up the tracks on this EP. But hopefully they’ll also hear tracks from the guys’ first EP, as well. While “Time Run Out” and “Lydia” are fun tracks, there is nothing on the EP as exciting as the disco banger “Lose Your love” or the breathy groove on “Don’t Let Me Go.” Still, TRO/Lydia gives some of DC’s finest DJs a chance to take their game to the next level. And that’s exciting on its own.
When I first moved to Washington, I heard plenty about “the two DCs:” two disparate cultures, ostensibly with transient denizens of the Capitol Hill-K Street-Georgetown axis on one hand and native Washingtonians on the other. The separation was cultural and economic, with racial undertones. The reality, as with all generalizations, is much more complicated.
DC is a creative class city. Even the Wall Street Journal knows that. With residents of every national and international origin, DC has developed a multitude of cultures. As a whole, the District rejects homogeneity and is all the better for it (the same can’t be said for some of its parts, i.e. the aforementioned Capitol Hill-K Street-Georgetown axis, but I digress). And while this fragmentation has let scenes develop for every individual taste, pigeonholing not seen since high school lunch tables keeps apart people who should be socializing, communicating, and most importantly, partying.
It may be ambitious, but the new monthly getdown All Killer No Filler aims to end this, at least partially, by bridging the gap between the urban and alternative dance scenes, whose aesthetic and musical tastes have more in common than not.
Joint Chiefs, the cultural Voltron of Winston Ford of The Couch Sessions, Sonya Collins of The Glass House and Marcus Dowling of True Genius Requires Insanity, three of DC’s leading tastemakers and trend-spotters, planned, executed and hosted the inaugural All Killer No Filler on Thursday, October 1 at Liv Nightclub (2001 11th Street NW).
The evening began with two of DCs finest DJs on the turntables, spinning tunes guaranteed to get the crowd of early-adopters ready for an exciting night. First up was DJ Cam Jus, whose inventive mixes and eclectic musical tastes make him a perfect fit for everyone in this crowd. This is a selector on the rise: check out his excellent edits of Nike Boots and Bang for a taste of his style. Next up, the ever-present DC DJ Trevor Martin (Sneakers in the Club /$weat$hop), spinning hip-hop hits from ’89 to ’09. These tunes are tried and true – who doesn’t sing along when “Juicy” comes on?
Just as Liv’s bar and dance floor started to fill up, it was time for the night’s featured performer: up-and-comer RAtheMC (Strange Music). Here’s an artist who truly embodies All Killer No Filler’s ideals: a rapper-slash-singer whose skills on the mic are undeniable, who still tries to push things forward with fashion and style. Ra, backed by live drums and keys, wasted no time, rapping over “Uptown” and “D.O.A” before performing her own songs.
Any female musician who brings a combination of rapping and singing will be unfairly compared to Lauryn Hill (see: Estelle, every article about). Luckily, this doesn’t discourage Ra, whose re-working of Ms. Hill’s “Lost Ones” is a highlight of her set (check out the brand new video for this track). Ra definitely takes the MC part of moniker seriously, engaging the crowd every second she’s on stage. And as someone who had braces, I can’t imagine rapping with that much metal in your mouth (okay, so it’s no “Through the Wire” accomplishment, but nothing to sneer at). Her new mixtape, the Twitter-inspired “Trending Topics,” drops on October 6 and features production by Mick Boogie and DC’s own Judah (on the beat).
Accompanying Ra was frequent collaborator Mz. Mimz, whose mixtape “Thoughts While Getting Dressed” introduced DC to its newest soul chanteuse. Her sound reminds me of another DC R&B singer, Wayna. Hopefully, All Killer introduced the audience to another Next Big Thing.
Closing out the night were two of DC’s most in-demand DJs, Steve Starks and Nacey, who wasted no time in dropping the hottest in club/electro/dance bangers guaranteed to keep the crowd’s energy up. From their own songs (“Lose Your Love”) to brand new tracks (Duck Sauce’s “aNYway”) to the classics (Ghost City DJs’ “My Boo”), these are songs that if you’re not dancing, you may be broken.
Anyone who’s spent some time in the District knows there are more than just “two DCs:” there are countless subcultures and scenes, with something for everyone. But between the promotion the Joint Chiefs are known for, and the word-of-mouth growth similar events have garnered, All Killer No Filler is sure to change that, for the better.
Upset you missed one hell of a party? See you on November 5 for an All Killer No Filler guaranteed to push the limits of what a DC party can be.