Tony Fairchild was born and raised in a creativity desert. Living his formative years between Toledo, Ohio and Monroe, Mich. he was inspired to seek beyond his roots to satisfy his need to discover the unknown.
“I can’t attribute any profound musical experiences or sage tutelage to my time spent in either place, but I can definitely credit the lack of art and culture in both cities with instilling in me a thirst for unique and transgressive experiences of all sorts. When you are raised in the middle of a cornfield or a faceless Ohio suburb, your thirst for adventure in all forms gets pretty real,” he says.
It took some time before he delved deep into the house and techno realm. As an early teen living in Monroe, he says, “I used to impatiently wait for the techno shows on WJLB and 89X to end so I could resume making mixtapes of Limp Bizkit and Ludacris. Only much later did I start to appreciate this music that was being broadcast in my backyard, again thanks to radio; in the form of Ben UFO’s Rinse FM show.”
After graduating from Ohio University, Fairchild spent five years living in Columbus. His time there came to a close soon followed by a decision to move to Pittsburgh, Penn. “I was fired from a long term job and ended an even longer term relationship. The time was ripe for me to explore a new future and there were no strings attached to prevent me from doing so,” he says.
He has since made a name for himself as a DJ, promoter and label head. At Hot Mass, Pittsburgh’s favorite after-hours spot, Fairchild assists throwing events through Humanaut. This came to fruition quickly upon attending his first Mass as a fresh Pittsburgh resident. Soon he would find himself being wrangled into the mix by Aaron Clark.
“Aaron Clark approached me with his signature brand of endearing enthusiasm and told me pretty squarely that he needed help with Humanaut. It was never a question; more like, ‘Hey you! Join the team!’,” he says. “As anyone that knows Aaron can attest, he is the ultimate mover and groover and an amazing community engineer. Aaron brought me into the fold as a Humanaut resident and connected me with the rest of the Hot Mass family. I couldn’t have asked for a warmer welcome to my new city.”
Between Hot Mass’ resident parties (Honcho, Humanaut, girlFX, Detour, Cold Cuts), The Weekend Send events at the Ace Hotel, and smaller up and coming parties like MESH, Pittsburgh has established itself as a hub for Midwest techno and house.
“Right now I see Pittsburgh as being the exemplar of sustainable underground partying in the U.S. We have somehow managed to carve out for ourselves not only a present, but also a future as party organizers in a mid-sized American city with 2 a.m. closing laws. I see Pittsburgh as proof that this thing can work if the right people are brought together in the right circumstances with the right resources. Luck is no small part of the equation.” – TONY FAIRCHILD
He has witnessed how Pittsburgh’s success has inspired smaller metro areas to bring life to barrenness or expand on an already established smaller scene. Hot Mass continues to play an integral role for many cities within the American Midwest and Rust Belt, and has become a reputable destination on an international level.
Fairchild says, “I know that Hot Mass was a major source of inspiration for myself and the co-founders of Midwest Fresh. Seeing the team throw a weekly party that goes till 7 a.m. while maintaining a certain level of organization and professionalism is really encouraging in a country that tries to stifle this exact sort of thing. We are also now seeing Pittsburgh bring more attention to the broader U.S. scene in the global sense. Word has gotten out that Mass is a great party to play and artists are starting to plan tours around playing the club. This has bridged the (sometimes quite large gap) between the EU and U.S. scenes to the point where relationships are built that increasingly bring EU artists to the states and visa versa.”
In addition to Midwest Fresh, Cleveland’s In Training parties are another that have been influenced by Pittsburgh. Instilling and growing small but concentrated music scenes in these rather desolate areas are necessary for cultivating creativity and providing safe spaces. Regarding Ohio he says that “in a state so devoid of culture, these parties are absolutely crucial. In Training and MWF in particular are some of the last bastions of cool shit in their respective cities. Thanks to them, Ohioans have a chance to experience something more novel than the weekly special at their favorite overpriced brunch establishment. On a more positive note, I have seen the nexus of MWF and IT summon an entire generation of incredibly smart, funny and immensely kind party people from the woodworks. These people have become DJs, promoters, producers and contributors to the scene, both locally and globally. Most importantly they have become a community of friends. Today I count almost all of my closest friendships as products of the intersection of MWF, IT and Hot Mass in the past three years.”
Party energy is pushing out beyond Chicago and Detroit and growing in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Cleveland, also stretching to the edges of the Rust Belt in smaller cities like Buffalo and Rochester. The Midwest Rave is alive and well. That classic rave feeling can come in so many different forms, and although inexplicable the existence when experienced is undeniable. How does Fairchild define it? “No Way Back 2013 or whatever year they sold out of water and I had to drink Snapple all night to stay alive in the 95+ degree heat. Any party that nails that feverish, unhinged and diehard vibe shall be knighted as True Midwest Rave.”
As a DJ he has contributed to the growth of the scene not only in Pittsburgh but with his booking beyond. He recently returned from an international stint where he played in Denmark and at Berlin’s Tresor. Prior to that he was found in Detroit at this year’s Industry Brunch, Service at Smartbar in Chicago, Washington D.C.’s Flash, In Training, and many times on home turf for Midwest Fresh. On the horizon he’ll be sharing the night with Hot Mass resident Naeem for REDUX in Buffalo as well as the next Jack Dept. in NYC for a Hot Mass showcase.
Additionally, earlier this year he launched his own record label. Is / Was “seeks to put out future-proof new releases that will be as listenable in 20 years as they are today.” Complimenting that mission, sublabel Was / Is will reissue classic cuts to “serve as reminders to dancefloors of 2017 and beyond of the origins and possibilities of this music.” Output includes releases and represses from Archetype, Dwayne Jensen, Mark Ambrose, Cube 40, Omni AM and 4E. Dropping Monday, September 25 will be a limited run of Cube 40’s “You Make Me Function” reissued and remastered. Attesting to the vulnerability of change he comments on how his initial drive to show a reflection of the “true lineage of American dance music” has evolved.
“The vision and concept of the label are currently in flux. I was just talking to Brian Bohan and Shane Christian of In Training about how I feel like I have no coherent curation for the label at the moment. At first it stressed me out, but I’m settling into the fact that the only coherent thread through all releases is that they represent a moment in my exploration of the wide realm of dance music in all its forms. My recent obsession with UK garage is even leading me to drop the whole ‘true lineage of American dance music’ thing. My only goal right now is to put out what I feel to be important music in whatever moment it comes to me. Right now I’m salivating over the idea of putting out a comp of 1995-1997 proto-UK garage tracks for instance. In three months I will most likely have moved onto some other compulsion and will pursue that until it haunts me no more. No matter the format or genre of the release, I suppose the goals for each label are always the same.
“It’s no secret that I am disappointed by the lack of funk, swing and experimentalism in today’s music,” he continues. “I hope that I can steer both labels to exemplify how I’d like to see this music continue to progress.”
Music was a gateway beyond normative minutia of his surroundings. It continues to be a guide into the past and future. “Music has opened a whole new world of exploration and connection to me that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’ve had some of my deepest spiritual experiences thanks to music,” he says. “I’ve connected with people from all over the world and forged almost all of my deepest relationships through a mutual love of this one thing. Not having access to this would be like emotional and developmental equivalent of having your ISP turn the internet off.”
COLUMBUS – The first Residual presents event will bring in no other than Christopher Rau!
His work on the Smallville label as well as many other imprints has won him a legion of fans throughout the world. A unique style that is both emotive and firmly footed on the dancefloor.
The Berlin artist will be making his Ohio debut.
Residual Recordings boss Titonton Duvante will be opening up the night.
21 and up
Sweaty bodies, a wall of lights and a sound system that pulls you in and won’t let go. If you have experienced Hot Mass, you understand. Aaron Clark, co-founder of the Pittsburgh party, is in charge of co-curating resident nights Honcho and Humanaut at the after hours spot.
While growing up in Ohio, Clark wasn’t very active in the music scene. Mostly a bedroom DJ he says “I was still coming out of the closet and trying to pull away from my church. Once I turned 18 I started to hit the parties happening at Red Zone in Columbus and Moda in Cleveland.” Shortly thereafter he moved to Pittsburgh for university, unfortunately right when the city’s rave scene was in a lull.
When it comes to Clark’s background as a DJ, he says “I sort of tripped into it.” He would hear electronic tracks in the background of commercials and scour the internet to identify them, which would turn out to be “stupid stuff like Chemical Brothers. This was Napster days, so I’d download that stuff, but then realize that people made remixes of these things, which led me to more underground producers. It was kind of a rabbit hole situation,” he says. “I know a lot of people don’t believe in folks coming in from the commercial side of dance and landing in a good place musically, but it happens.” In high school he was introduced to his friend’s boyfriend, Rob, who had a full DJ setup and PA. This piqued Clark’s interest and pulled him to the performance side of electronic music which he says “really helped me start separating quality from bullshit.”
Before Hot Mass became one of the most prominent parties for today’s scene Clark spent about eight years throwing large scale events. While seeking a place to throw small after parties for their main events they stumbled upon Club Pittsburgh, a private men’s bath house located in the city’s historic Strip District. The space is relatively small, with small dark spaces for private encounters.
He reminisced about the beginning stages of their parties in the bath house. “When we first checked it out, we weren’t even sure how to use it. The space was super weird, not laid out in any sensical way for dancing, lots of hallways and cruisey rooms (as part of the bath house) but we could go late. So we took it, and had Kirk Degiorgio play a second set after his first one. It went off! I think we pulled the plug on a full dance floor that morning around 8 a.m.? Up to that point we would struggle to hold a crowd until 4 a.m. max. We were all really blown away by the crazy energy that room had, so we kept going with it.”
John McMarlin, manager of Club Pittsburgh, proposed that the after party events become a weekly which ultimately brought Hot Mass to fruition. Clark says, “That sounded insane to us, as everyone knows how impossible it is to keep a weekly party going. It’s torture. The idea was that maybe we could pull it off if we had four separate crews as part of the larger collective, and we all took a different week so we didn’t burn out.”
Hot Mass as a whole is comprised by four parts: Honcho, Humanaut, Detour and Cold Cuts. Each Saturday of the month is accounted for. Honcho is held the first Saturday followed by Humanaut on the second. The city’s record label collective Detour showcases the third Saturday and new to the roster is Cold Cuts, an event which curates an affinity for disco and hoagies on week four. I inquired how each of these facets play a significant role not only within their space but also to the scene at large. “This is a tough one to answer. I think all four crews touch different sounds of dance. Humanaut heads straight to techno, Honcho loops in the gays and does all genres, Detour is heavy on live sets as they’re so production-minded due to their label, and Cold Cuts is just a great fucking time. It’s positivity music,” Clark says. “You kinda touch all corners, and funnel everyone into one club together, making it easier for people to figure out what they like and dig deeper. Ideally, we are always giving up-and-comers a shot on the decks as well. It’s something I personally want to push further in 2017.”
The four crews work together to maintain the integrity of the space and progress the continuity of energy and quality talent.
“We’d all vote on the larger rules of the club, keep the door cover consistent, and operate under a unified brand – Hot Mass,” he continues. “We wanted the general public in Pittsburgh to think ‘it’s always a good time there’ and not get hung up on who was promoting the party. Amazingly enough, it worked. And over the past four years we’ve just tried to improve the place one piece at a time as we got the money, knocking out walls, moving the dance floor, new sound.”
But what exactly is it that makes this Pennsylvania party so special? The size of the space is small bringing an inherent intimacy to any party. Sexuality here is open and free and there is an undeniable consistent energy when you make it until 7 a.m. and those lights turn on. “It still feels crazy that we have this beautiful thing. I think being attached to the bath house (Club Pittsburgh) is incredibly important. Right out of the gate, it’s a gay space. That helps with crowd quality immensely and is really an inseparable part of it all. Once you have that base layer, you add the layers of good friends, techno heads, and out-of-towners coming through each week,” he says.
Honcho was established in 2012 while Humanaut was founded in 2005 and run by the collective efforts of Clark, Paul Fleetwood, Paul “Relative Q” Zyla, Benjamin Kessler and Tony Fairchild. Through both Honcho and Humanaut the floor of Hot Mass has seen talent from the likes of Bill Converse, Derek Plaslaiko, Shawn Rudiman, The Black Madonna, Claude Young, Ectomorph, Bicep, DJ Minx, Sassmouth, and so many more. Last summer Clark assisted hosting a Honcho Summer Campout in the West Virginia woods and sometimes you can catch a set by Honcho, which is comprised (give or take) by Clark, George d’Adhemar, and Clark Price.
“[Hot Mass] is one of the only places in town where different peoples bubbles crash into each other. Pittsburgh is not known for being a diverse place, which can feel suffocating at times. Hot Mass is a bit of an antidote to that.” – AARON CLARK
The dance floor at Hot Mass is one of which that allows freedom, tests your limits, breaks borders and pushes boundaries. There is no pretension, and with Club Pittsburgh’s environment these parties bring everyone together by serving to both the gay and straight community. Clark believes that these attributes of a party are “important because these moments don’t happen enough. As we’ve all seen, everyone is content to live in their own personal bubble these days. Gay people need to party with straight people, and vice versa.” He explains that this outcome won’t happen at a typical gay club which serves mostly as a place to get drunk. “I think the important part here is that there’s something for everyone to bond over other than a bar – the music.”
When he’s not bringing in talent or throwing down sets himself, Clark can be found working as a Cultural Engineer at the Ace Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. Through this position he wears many hats working with community relationships, marketing, event programming and social media. “I was attracted to it because I had respected the Ace brand for years, and I wanted to force myself outside of my comfort zone of just throwing techno parties.” Through this avenue they are collaborating with The Andy Warhol Museum, hosting independent markets and panel discussions, as well as pop-up dinners. Although a small component of what he does at Ace, Clark incorporates small music events at the hotel, with an occasional Hot Mass day party outside.
No matter what Clark does, both day and night, his love and drive for music will run deep and with passion. “Music is one of the only things that can overtake my emotions completely. I remember one time at a Bunker show in NYC, Magic Mountain High was playing live. My partner and I had just gotten to the club, completely sober. We’re standing on the dance floor and we just started crying. The music was so beautiful, it was involuntary. That’s really cool. There’s a lot of beautiful stuff in the world, but music consistently does crazy things like this, over and over again.”
Catch Aaron Clark make his Western New York debut on Saturday for the two year anniversary party of Rochester’s Signal > Noise.
Signal > Noise, Rochester’s party oasis of house and techno, will be putting together a special intimate event for the first Signal > Noise Sessions. Hailing from Columbus, Ohio, Titonton Duvante [Residual, God Particle, Planet E] is a face to recognized in the world of house and techno. Known for a more abstract take on productions, Titonton began his work creating music in the ’90s. Currently he curates a series of underground events in Columbus as part of the Midwest Fresh collective, maintaining the area’s status as a hub of fine underground dance music.
TITONTON DUVANTE [Columbus]
DJ FLEX [Rochester] [Signal > Noise, Sky Baby, La Selva]
Location TBA in Rochester. 21+ with ID.
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.
Strance Allure presents NYC’s Patricia [Opal Tapes, Spectral Sound] live, as well as Ohio’s Prostitutes [Opal Tapes, Spectral Sound, Diagonal] and Echelons.