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We Saw a Glimpse of the Next Big Club Crew, and It’s Called ‘Etopia Underground’

A look at the future of good nightlife relationship building (and great music)

Last month we told you about Altered Visions and Etopia Events, a label and events collaboration respectively headed by young upstarts Dominic Fowlkes & Alex Mckenna and Peter Forster & Austin Languille. The two duos have found a partnership with The Underground, organizing a series of events called Etopia Underground. Our initial interview with the guys pointed out their dedication to being “progressive and judgment-free,” and their desire to bring new talent to the mix.

What we didn’t tell you is what an Etopia Underground show is actually like. To do that, we attended the recent Etopia Underground 2.0 with Dominic and Peter. What we discovered is two dynamic and genuine showrunners with a knack for building partnerships, making their shake in a growing venue, and creating a show experience that is as exciting as it is still imperfect.

The Power of Nightlife Partnerships

Nobody makes it on their own in nightlife. Dance Music Northwest has benefited immensely from years of industry partnerships built slowly and through the grace and goodwill of the scene. The industry is just too large, too intricate, and changing too quickly to achieve “mega” status with no help.

The first readily apparent thing about Dominic and Peter was their ability to build partnerships. It’s price of entry in nightlife to be good at “making friends.” To grow a business those friends need to become partners. What should be a two-way street is often “do for me” instead of “let’s work to benefit each other.” This is not the case with the Altered Visions and Etopia duos.

Midnight Raver Clothing was set up to sell, their crew granted immense floor space in the small venue. (If you haven’t met them yet or peeped their incredible merch, we encourage you to do it now) Dominic flitted about the venue, snapping photos and checking on artists between showing us around. Peter pulled double duty on sound and lights, working with a growing but modest setup. The Underground has made strides in the sprint toward becoming a “full-grown” venue. Seeing two young companies making that in-progress system work for them was a real treat.

Great Music and the Art of Making It Work

Of course none of this matters without great music. Altered Visions sells themselves as a label in addition to an events producer. This sets the bar for their local DJ choices higher. We won’t belabor the point: The quality of the music and production were on par with a much older crew. There was never a sniff of “let’s just get our friends to spin and get drunk and maybe make a little scratch.” Everyone came to play.

Our favorite acts also happened to be the two openers, Aliens Exist and Revel. What was striking about them (along with Keano, Cramer b2b Diet-Z, and Stone Lynx that followed) was their insistence on good song selection. Too many times young crews just play the hits for maximum floor impact, or try to one-up the game by being the “fastest,” “filthiest,” “deepest,” “heaviest.”

We experienced none of this genre non-specific record crate dick measuring at Etopia Underground. What we got was a family of DJs playing sets true to them, spawning countless happy Shazam-It moments. Most of the tracks were too deep for Shazam sadly, but this only furthers the point. If your edict is “be progressive and judgement-free” you can’t employ DJs who play cookie cutter sets. Thankfully the Etopia crew generated a good deal of ID hunting the next morning.

Emerging from The (Etopia) Underground

Our readers don’t need us to tell them that The Underground is the hottest new club spot in Seattle. They may have achieved their core fan base by shoveling up every A-List trance artist ignored by the mainstream and passing through Seattle, but diversity is the future of any nightclub and their management clearly recognizes that with shows like Basis and Etopia Underground.

Attending a show at Underground run by Altered Visions and Etopia Events was a bit like visiting an artist in the middle of painting a masterpiece. The show series attendance numbers are still growing (thanks, Shambhala), the club’s VIP section is very much in process, lights and video equipment had been flown hours before the show, and the VIP bracelets were endearingly and mistakenly labeled “General Admission.”

The entire experience left us with the sense that Etopia Underground is right where it’s supposed to be. Young kids with a generous helping of talent, and a club brimming with tons of potential, both still a little rough around the edges. That contrast of genius and chaos is almost certainly what’s drawing feet through the doors here. Everyone wants to be a part of the next big thing at the ground level, or in this case — just below the surface. For now.