When most people think of Champaign-Urbana, Dubstep probably isn't the first thing that pops into their mind (Cornfields, UIUC, and REO Speedwagon seem to be the frontrunners). It probably isn't even the first musical style. However, the local electronic scene will cap off an extraordinary year this Friday at Cowboy Monkey with Dubstep Massacre: The One Year Anniversary.
To hear DJ Belly, one of the central players in the local scene, tell it, the genesis of Dubstep in Champaign can be traced to a single house party, "I got asked to play this benefit show for Kate Hathaway, and this guy, Joe Castro [aka Substr8] got booked...and he started dropping some of the first few Dubstep tracks that were ever put out...so I heard that, and we just started talking a lot". Eventually, in December 2008, the first monthly Dubstep show started. "We had like four days notice on it, and not too many people showed up, and we did it again in January, again not very many people showed up". However, once the Dubstep Massacre name was chosen for the February 2009 show, something strange happened. "40-50 people tops, that was what we were expecting, but then as soon as we put the first record on, that place was place through the roof packed and people were going nuts, hands in the air. All of us were just amazed, and it's kept happening to the point where we can keep building the scene and bringing in people like DZ [from San Francisco] and Skream [one of the originators of the entire genre]".
While Chicago and St. Louis are well known for their hard, grime-influenced sound, the Champaign scene is a different animal. "The scene here is a little more intense and packed than Chicago and St. Louis...they get all these big names coming through, but it's not the same type of thing", says Belly. "Whenever any DJ who plays regularly here in the Massacre plays in Chicago, people are like 'I didn't know Dubstep could sound like that'...we kind of look more into the various undertones, beneath just the super-heavy stuff".
What's in the cards for the next year of Massacres? The expansive and diverse online community provides access to an endless array of new tracks, remixes, and samples that can be incorporated into a set, but the most important influence on a DJ, and by extension the music, is the scene itself. "Some of the best moments are the on-the-fly ones, you just happen upon something that's more fitting to the time and place than you ever could have planned out". Additionally, a Chicago-Champaign-St. Louis touring circuit is starting to solidify, resulting in more touring acts, including DJs out of St. Louis next month. Ultimately, according to Belly, "it's a genre that's really gonna start being a lot more up front over the next few years, kinda like House and Drum & Bass were for a while, it's the next evolution".
Dubstep Massacre: The One Year Anniversary goes down at 11 pm this Friday at Cowboy Monkey with DJ Belly, Positive Vibr8ions, Mertz, and ISM, along with Agent Mos and Harsh on the mics. For a taste of what you'll hear Friday, check out Belly's "Original Sin Vol. 2" and Mertz's "Natural Rarities" below.