Baltimore Club Scene

My boyfriend, a Portland-native, is usually on the cusp of whatever’s hip. (While I wrote this, he muttered surreptitiously, “The Black Keys suck now.”)

In the seventh grade, he and his Boy Scout friends listened to “Samir’s Theme” while practicing their tennis backhands. When our Valentine’s Days plans fell through due to a sudden snow downfall, it seemed serendipitous and appallingly lucky that Debonair Samir would be playing only a five minute drive away.

Although the snow made the five minute drive a bit more treacherous, we entered the Metro Gallery for Space is The Place Records’ “Art Royalty” EP release concert-party. “Art Royalty” is TT The Artist’s first full-length album featuring nine thumping tracks.

Space is The Place Records describes themselves as  “Brooklyn/Baltimore Boutique Electronic Music As Curated By Astrolith and Kate Boss”. After her set, Boss informs me that .rar Kelly, or Teddy Duvall,  is another co-producer. She said, “He’s the man putting the acts together.”

Save for a few scarf-donned beer-drinkers by the bar, the space was empty — only filled with a vivid blue light emanating from the inactive projector.  Kate Boss was on the turntable. Boss, a co-producer of Space is the Place Records, is originally from Pittsburgh. For the past eight years, she’s traveled back and forth between home and Baltimore. She’s worked with Baltimore club music scene giants Spank Rock and Rod Lee, both of whom rose to fame in 2006.

Throughout her set, Boss’ shaggy dark, green-tipped hair swayed. Although the dancefloor was deserted, Boss’ beats weren’t despicable; they were sexy and cool, catchy and low. The crowd just wasn’t there yet.

After Boss exited the booth, there was a pause before Normaling began – a pause in which the projector was set up, radiating a throwback Rainbow Brite-style Space is The Place logo. By now, I was one coffee in – my boyfriend one beer in – and both of us were ready to start dancing.

Normaling was next. The two men effortlessly filled in for one another, jumping in, adding something more. Their music featured sped up Nas and Die Antwoord tracks, but other than these familiar tunes, Normaling’s remixes were monotonous and the beats too repetitive. As the music came close to resembling white noise, one felt the collective spirits of the barely fifteen people in Metro Gallery deflate. We wanted something to dance to, something to gyrate to. We welcomed the tonal breaks as opportunities to catch up with our dates before the next pattern began pounding.

Lexington, Kentucky-based producer Ellie Herring began. Most notable was her Beatles remix, a piece that caused me to contemplate the nature of club music. Would the Beatles approve of this progressive transmutation of their music? Is the club form of musical innovation similar to the auditory-lifestyle revolution of the sixties? Just like the rockers of the sixties bopped to the Beatles in low-ceilinged clubs, high on speed, we too breathlessly listen to what could now be considered “pop” music. Most college students are encountering club remixes on a regular basis while drunk off Natty Boh in fraternity basements.

Meanwhile, Debonair Samir drank a red bull at the bar. My boyfriend sidled up to his side and told him about his seventh grade passion for Samir’s Baltimore-classic. I followed. Samir was more than happy to talk to “the press”.

DJ Debonair Samir's Google Plus photo.
DJ Debonair Samir’s Google Plus photo.

Samir got his start in 1999. DJ K Swifft played his music on the radio. The underground music scene in Philedelphia and New Jersey liked his sound. Interestingly, although Samir is known as one of the founders of the Baltimore club music scene, he’s actually from New Jersey. Right now, he lives in Atlanta. For the past eight years, he says, he’s been transitioning to Baltimore.

In 2006, Debonair Samir traveled around the world — mostly Europe — with Swiss Beats and Lady Gaga. Samir’s music has been featured in videogames, television shows, and commercials.   When we talk about his success in the music industry, he said he could have been a billionaire. His music inspired No Doubt and MIA, but he still needs to pay the bills. He drank his Red Bull and said, “It is what it is. It’s the music business. It’s a means of survival which I enjoy doing. Club music is the last thing – my first thing is soft rock and jazz.”

Next up is Bond Street District. A large man in a black jumpsuit embellished with gold sequins shouted to the crowd, “Look bitch! I’m about to make an entrance!” This man is Paul Hudson. A slim, white, bearded rapper stands behind him – DDm. After one booty-jamming song, his accomplice jumps to the stage, wearing a black-fringed 1920’s style dress. The crowd danced with her.

Paul Hutson of Bond Street District.
Paul Hutson of Bond Street District.

Finally, TT The Artist took the stage in a flat brimmed hat and orange sports jersey. She had two backup dancers who bopped around her. TT rapped, “Don’t want no car, don’t want no cash, don’t want no date/ I just want my pussy ate.” She performed the Baltimore two step, a contagious left-right-left dance move.

After TT’s set, most of the crowd cleared out. The blonde-bobbed club promoter was taking photographs with TT’s dancers. Samir was working the tables. His poignant theme, at once recognizable, transformed to something more organic – something that felt less technically geometric and sharp – something more open.


Space is The Place… For Lovers
Debonair Samir, Bond St. District, Ellie Herring, TT The Artist, Normaling, Kate Boss
Metro Gallery
1700 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD, 21201

For more information on Space is the Place:

Emily Menken is a New York/Baltimore writer with a penchant for crashing automobiles.


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