Dance of Death
Jen Boyles on the local dance-music scene's continued woes
Being an electronic-music lover in Minneapolis is a frustrating affair these days, and our weekend entertainment options are only getting slimmer. The drought became more pronounced this month when First Avenue--just five years ago a dance-music hub--cancelled the nearly one-year old "Ba-sik" Saturdays, thus snipping the thin thread connecting it to the dance-music scene. "Ba-sik was not only not growing, but lately it had been doing worse," says First Ave's booking Manager Nate Kranz. "Two Saturdays previous to their last, we did our worst business on a Saturday night in at least eight years."
Kranz says he talked to Ba-sik promoters Zak Khutoretsky, Adrian Herrara, and Steven Lee about improving attendance and consistency, but was unsatisfied with the results. "They played starkly contrasting styles week after week, and some nights they brought in DJs that were really bad," he says. "I wanted them to do something more along the lines of what System 33 did--and that is to be consistent so the night can grow and build a fan base."
But former First Avenue concert manager Chris Olson, who helped launch both System 33 and Ba-sik before leaving his post in November, is dismayed, if not wildly surprised, by Ba-Sik's shuttering and the club's general direction. "First Avenue was never electronic friendly," he maintains. "A lot of the guys there are old rock guys. They're all 60-year-old men who don't know what the young kids are listening to. I'm a rock 'n' roll guy too, but I realize how important the dance culture in this town is. I knew when I left that dance nights would be the first thing to suffer--besides the morale of the club--because there was nobody there who had a passion for it."
Kranz admits he doesn't really understand dance music, but insists that has nothing to do with the cancellation. "I wouldn't have had my job here for seven years if I made decisions like that," he says. "They clearly stated they hate our music," Khutoretsky counters from his studio, overenunciating for effect. "The bottom line is that the club never helped us advertise--they refused to--and they never promoted or supported us."
Kranz says he recognizes dance music lovers' passion, but it wasn't enough to pull in the numbers. "To be totally honest, I wouldn't care what style of music [replaces Ba-sik]," says Kranz. "I don't like Top 40, but if I knew that 800 people would come here for that style of music, that's what we'd be doing. No doubt about it."
As such, the legendary stop on any Minneapolis bar hop will be toting a night featuring "cutting edge hits of yesterday, today, and tomorrow." For now, they're using the old "Danceteria" moniker and resorting to DJs using laptops to churn out the hits, which, on a recent Saturday included Gwen Stefani and Tears For Fears, played for a smattering of people.
On the topic of hunting for a new spot, Khutoretsky says he's trying: "We are looking, but unless there is a hidden club that we haven't found yet, it might be a while." --Jen Boyles