Drum 'n' bass is making a weird comeback lately, which is great news for South Florida, since we were basically the cradle of all things grimy in the premillennial USA.
"Beat Camp was really influential," Dale Nibbe, AKA Element, says of the popular, late-'90s/early-aughts party that blew up Mission on South Beach every Thursday night. "Up until that point, the D'n'B scene was really small. We'd play the raves and stuff like that, but it was still very small. And when Beat Camp came around, the Miami scene in general really started to blow up."
It's a place and time heralded by bass junkies as a golden era: when the music was ugly, the vibe was raw, and the Mission was the spot to be. The hottest DJs of the period had a blast, but they hung up their hats quite a while ago, until now.
"This Decades of Bass night is really bringing back a lot of the older DJs, a lot of the older tunes that were classic back then and made the scene," Nibbe says. He just played his first gig in five years a week ago, and he can't wait to do it again.
"It was actually fairly easy, and really, I missed it," he says. "I missed the vibe that I got with those guys. We DJed so much back in the day, it was good to get back in with them, get the vibe of these old tunes. We're playing stuff that not many other DJs are playing down here, so maybe it's something fresh."
The old crew is back to mainline the goods on bumping speakers, featuring eight of the scene's legendary spinmasters, from Marco of Beat Camp to Mendez of EvilBase, Element, Too Future's Rekone, and more. It seems the time is right to dust it off and teach the kids a lil' something about perspective and where all this bass music springs from.
"I saw that drum 'n' bass scene now was really pop-sounding," he says, and so did his old pals. "DJ Rekone, he's the guy that got us all together and said, 'Hey, let's start playing these old tunes again that are really good and grittier, heavy and darker, and not happy and poppy. A little bit nastier, kind of a raw vibe, not happy and EDM-influenced. Nothing against EDM, nothing against the pop d'n'b DJs, but this is the vibe that we're on."
In a sense, the old South Florida DJs helped pave the way for what's going on now, but Nibbe thinks a whole lot of factors came together to get us here today.
"Maybe the internet had a lot to do with it," he says. "Technology is so easy to access. Not just drum 'n' bass but across the board: house, techno, drone music, anything, ambient. It's a lot easier to get your hands on something to be able to create something."
Though these guys spent the past ten or 15 years outside a booth doesn't mean they've stopped paying attention to the scene. They find remnants of the old style in new artists around the world, from Gridlok in California to Levelheads and more. True to the party's time-spanning title, Decades of Bass will celebrate new artists carrying the torch just as much as it'll champion classics.
"A lot of it is good; a lot of it has actually really influenced me," he admits, "but then again, you have the opposite. A lot of it's crap. Unfortunately, that's a lot of the stuff that becomes really popular."
Back in the mid-'90s, when they struggled just to find places to spin their noise, Nibbe and his peers could never have imagined the heights dance music would reach.
"It's really a part of pop culture now," he says. "It used to be this sound you'd go in some dingy club to listen to because nobody else wanted to listen to it. Now, you go to a club and get bottle service, pay fucking $200 to go see a DJ that gets paid $100,000 or more. It's very strange."
Young kids might not understand, but there's something lost in translation when a genre moves from the underground into the mainstream. Nibbe thinks it might be an honesty. When things become about money and followers and shiny lights, the music and the craft are forced to share the spotlight, often getting sidelined in favor of spectacle.
"DJs now are like, 'OK, man, I've got my Facebook page, I've got my Twitter page, I've got social media, I've got to have a logo for my name.' Instead of just being a dude who selects records, plays them, and plays them in away that's going to make people move. We were almost invisible. Now, it's a totally different thing. It's the DJ is the god."
Some DJs may want the fame, but not these dudes. When they got into DJ'ing, it wasn't even really an option. It was just something to do for the love of bass, and that's the only thing that's brought them back. That being said, bring your earplugs and expect "really, really fucking good sound."
"We want to focus on making everything sound really good, because we want these tunes to be heard," Nibbe says. "Ryan from SeleKtion chooses all these DJs because they have a similar mindset. You come to dance. You come to get the vibe that we used to have back then. It's not pretty. It's not about fashion. It's about the music, and it's really that simple."
Decades of Bass, featuring Marco, Mendez, Element, and more. Saturday, January 31, at Blue Bar & Bistro, 113 S. 20th Ave., Hollywood. Ages 18 and up. The party starts at $10, and cover is free until midnight, then $5 at the door. Call 954-924-1010, or visit facebook.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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