The cab makes a left down a road toward a dead end. It’s the East Side of Buffalo, N.Y. and there’s no one around. “Where is it? Do you hear anything? Maybe just up there a little bit. Oh, that’s definitely it.” Feet scamper down the road toward a warehouse where a few other souls are found milling outside the building smoking cigarettes. There’s faint light spilling out. Someone, open the door.
Although Buffalo is a Rust Belt city and a primed breeding ground for artful events, it wasn’t until Strange Allure came to fruition just last year that there has been a boost of fueled excitement to the city’s typical party scene.
A man that calls himself Alan Frank was living in Cleveland, Ohio for almost six years before moving to Buffalo about two years ago. He was born in a town south of Cedar Point, right between Cleveland and Toledo, in the middle of nowhere.
When he was just a teenager, Frank was booking and playing punk and hardcore shows. While he was in high school he would book touring bands at a clubhouse by the local reservoir. Grind and extreme music exposed him to seeing the American underground music scene. But overtime, he says, the scene became oversaturated with bands and the payoff wasn’t ideal.
“I had always flirted with electronic music and techno, but all my friends were punk and we all liked hip-hop and dub.” Techno was his guilty pleasure. But Frank grew up with knowledge about turntablism and was semi-familiar with Detroit techno; occasionally he was able to pick it up on the radio due to his proximity being in Ohio. Artists such as DJ Shadow and any of that “moody groovy weird stuff” drew him in deeper. He started hearing more and more about DIY house and techno, and simultaneously began collecting records. A self-acclaimed Craigslist hound, he scored a collection of Detroit techno and dub techno and from that point forward he was convinced. Additionally, “in a crazy stroke of fate” he was able to flip a mediocre pair of turntables for a mint pair of Technics at a price that was somewhat unimaginable.
“I started collecting techno records and there’s a really sick shop in Cleveland called Bent Crayon, which is legitimately the best record store in the country.”
Frank would pay close attention to the owner’s favorite picks that he would showcase in the shop. Additionally, the shop’s owner would throw events and Frank found himself at Regis and Veronica Vasicka. “That was probably the first techno thing I’d really gone to … it was just freaks coming out,” he says.
When Bent Crayon brought Voices From The Lake, Frank ran into previous co-worker Adam Miller and from there they “went down the wormhole” together. Frank and Miller started going to Hot Mass in Pittsburgh in 2013. “That was huge to see – how cool a party could be and how un-club like it could be.
“It was funny because I really didn’t want to go … I was tired,” he says. His interest was piqued for psilocybin, nothing serious and without a very real intention toward it. But Miller approached him – unaware of Frank’s predisposition – and said he had some mushrooms. The romantics might call it fate, regardless, they both hopped on the Interstate 76 toward Pittsburgh.
“[Hot Mass] was unlike anything I’ve ever been to. You know, just a tiny dark room with a killer system. People weren’t talking, people were dancing. You could dance with other people. Totally uninhibited.”
After Hot Mass, Miller invited him to Sustain-Release and with hesitation Frank eventually agreed. “That’s when I got my mind blown about the possibilities of the intersection of DIY culture and dance music … I was dialed in throughout the whole weekend. It’s the most cohesive, perfectly built thing I’ve ever seen. It’s insane.”
The communal vibe of Sustain-Release was a clear inspiration which has worked as the oncoming structure for Strange Allure parties.
“Just seeing all the different people that would come out. Certain people, and groups like Discwoman, using it as a platform to approach real issues and talk about things in a very punk sense, it was really cool. The thing that was cool about Sustain-Release is how represented the female talent was, that was awesome. There have been things that I’ve been to that were clubby and just fucking bros … if there’s one thing I cannot relate to, or one thing that will drive me away, it’s that.” Sustain-Release, a total void of the surface mainstream EDM, became a beacon in his mind’s eye.
“Seeing the detail and the care that all these people put into building this thing and it turning out perfect … such a cohesive idea, seen all the way through – it was really cool.” — ALAN FRANK
Sometime later, friends of his were throwing a Halloween party and asked him to DJ. “It went way better than I expected,” he says and people urged him to continue playing house and techno. In the summer of 2015 he decided to explore something new and assembled a group of 10-12 fresh air punk homegrown people. With connections in real estate he started bouncing with the idea of curating an event in the city of Buffalo.
Frank had the name Strange Allure in mind a long time ago. Inspired by Mission of Burma, a post-punk band from Boston, Mass. in the ’70s-’80s, he scribbled the name down on a dry erase board in his bedroom studio hoping to one day use it for something. Next step was to figure out who to book for the first event. While in Toronto to see Jay Daniel, by happenstance arrived in time for doors; “I was there so painfully early and nobody was there except me.”
Stuart Li, otherwise known as Basic Soul Unit, was there and the two started chatting. Li agreed to come through to play in Buffalo and the first Strange Allure party was born.
After a slight location snafu before the launch party he cold called people for five days straight and eventually landed on the East Side space where Strange Allure held it’s first party. “I was so stressed out because I did not want to cancel that show because I thought we were going to be able to ride something really cool that was happening with Western New York and all this stuff that was coming to a head,” he says. In a warehouse that functioned for powder coating and as a lumberyard in the 1920s, the collective started to turn it into something different.
“That spot was totally haphazardly thrown together. We got in there maybe two days before the show,” he says. “I had no idea how to build it up. We made everything out of stuff that was found there. The sound system, we built that little makeshift stage and all it is was are pallets and drywall. We dropped the subs in front of it and it was perfect, totally flush. The speakers fit perfectly. That bar is just an old headboard. The car seat we put in the lounge area. The table we were using at the door was already there. Everything was just in there.”
The day began at 9 a.m. to prepare the party and after loading in and loading out they cleared the warehouse by 9 a.m., a few hours after the party ended.
Prior to the launch party, the crew put together a fundraiser event at SolRise studio on Buffalo’s East Side. “It wasn’t a great turn out but the people who came out were really excited to see techno in the city,” he says. “We really tried to build it up and promote it as a community-based party and make people feel welcome and make people feel like they’re part of something.”
Working hand-in-hand to create something together, an evening of Strange Allure is one worth exploring and full of surprises.
For the next Strange Allure installation, catch Detroit’s Erika and BMG [Interdimensional Transmissions] on Saturday, June 18.