3:20 pm Aug. 10, 2012
When Vivian Host moved from San Francisco to Brooklyn eight years ago, New York nightlife was in a weird fugue state.
In the aftermath of Rudy Giuliani’s enforcement of ancient cabaret laws to shut down everything from giant clubs like the Limelight to small spots such as Plant Bar, dance music had largely moved into the hideous realm of bottle-service clubs. Eighties revivalism, from the post-punk leanings of DFA Records’ early releases to the fashionista new wave of electroclash, held sway. Host, who D.J.s under the name Star Eyes, and Luca Venezia, a.k.a. Drop the Lime, decided to make something different happen.
“We wanted to make something that was fun and not chin-scratchy at all,” said Host, recalling the early days of the party crew and record label she and Venezia co-founded in the wake of that strange time. “We grew up going to raves and going to punk shows and feeding off that energy, and all of a sudden that energy didn't exist anymore. There was no trouble going on.”
Naturally, the name that Host and Venezia would ultimately give their crew was Trouble & Bass. As it’s entrenched itself in the New York City dancescape, Trouble & Bass has gathered a small but devoted base of fans for parties that vary in size but always have, at their root, a devotion to giant low end. Trouble & Bass celebrates its sixth anniversary next month, but before that, on Saturday, they’re taking to the water, hosting a smaller party on the good ship Clipper City (docked at Pier 17, on the South Street Seaport) with a “secret U.K. guest.” (Host allowed us one hint to the guest’s identity: He’s affiliated with the superb London dance label Night Slugs.)
The name Trouble & Bass was Venezia’s, but the concept was equally Host’s.
“I wanted to play a mix of grime and dubstep and U.K. funky and U.K. garage, all these niche underground genres,” she said. “I had this idea that they all made sense together with other stuff like Miami bass and Baltimore club. At the time, compared to indie dance and disco stuff, genres we were playing … sounded so much more raw and unhinged and in-your-face, much less polite and palatable, much more hyper and intense and tear-shit-off-the-walls.”
Host met Venezia seven years ago, when she part of a D.J. duo called Syrup Girls.
“We got asked to do a mix C.D. called Shotgun Wedding for this Tigerbeat6 sub-label called Violent Turd,” Host recalls with a laugh. Shotgun Wedding was a series featuring two D.J. mixes per disc; Syrup Girls shared their volume with Drop the Lime (who is pictured at left).
“He was doing this party called Bangers & Mash, and I was doing a party in the basement of Lit,” said Host. “We had this crazy night and bonded and became friends. We both come from a drum and bass background. He was like, ‘I wanna start this crew called Trouble & Bass.’ It was the pre-Diplo era—not that Diplo didn't exist, but through his popularity, in a way, in the States, he opened up peoples' minds to the fact that you could play a lot of different genres together. But that wasn't quite happening yet. Also, these genres [we played] were in their infancy. People didn't really want to go out to hear that yet. They were more interested in electroclash. Luca was the first person I met that totally got it.”
Patrick Rood, who also moved to Brooklyn eight years ago (from Savannah, Georgia, where he attended art school), joined T&B about a year after it began.
“I did a party in the Lower East Side called the Cut, at Bar Eleven on Orchard Street, which turned into the Annex, which turned into Tammany Hall,” he said. Host and Venezia were among Rood’s guest D.J.s at that party.
“Trouble & Bass started out at a party, which turned into a label,” said Rood. “We’d go [to] in-between venues. We’d do one, and after six months or a year we’d either move on or the place [would] shut down. Also, there are four of us always touring and moving around, so it’s hard to have our own residency when we’re not all in the same place.”
“The first party we used to do was in this place called Boogaloo—a coke bar that would not close until everybody wanted to leave,” Host said with a laugh. “I think the latest we were ever there was 9 a.m. We would basically leave when we would start to get scared: ‘This is getting really crazy. Somebody might jack us. We’d better stop D.J.ing.’ It was crazy, having this renegade space where you could do whatever you wanted with all these weird records that people haven't heard mixed with 2 Live Crew and crazy techno. We've been in search of that vibe again, which is why we've been throwing parties in spots like the Public Assembly Loft and Glasslands. It's hard to really go mental in a regular club. It really helps to have a more underground, raw, renegade vibe to fit with the energy of the music we play.”
That music is still all over the place, though the crew uses “heavy bass” as a catchall.
“We coined the term [so that] when people asked what music we played we wouldn't have to list off 14 different genres,” said Host. “We barely even use that anymore—by now a lot of people know what Trouble & Bass stands for. I think, also, coming from being into punk and rock and roll, and then becoming ravers, really influenced our aesthetic—going to a lot of warehouse parties, going to crazy raves in England, and then the D.I.Y., punk-rock [idea of] doing what you can on no money, but mak[ing] it fun and interesting.”
Though Rood and Host have yet to make good on their mutual, longstanding joke about D.J.ing from a pineapple-shaped smoothie cart, unusual venues are part and parcel with the T&B philosophy.
“We’ve played pools,” said Rood. “I’ve played a casino. I’ve played in a bowling alley. We definitely like the smaller, intimate parties, more than some big stage. Both [kinds of parties] are positive in their own ways. You get exposure to a lot of people. But as a label and a brand, it is good to identify with the people who are supporting you, coming to your events. We have people who have been into drum and bass, dubstep, and jungle for a long time who come out to our parties. And we've got a … newer, younger crowd who just really want to go out and party. We pride ourselves on having a very mixed crowd. It's not hoity-toity. No one is dressing up to show off.”
This is Trouble & Bass’s second time playing on the boat—they played last year as part of a series put on by local promoters Good People.
“It's a clipper ship and looks like a pirate ship,” said Host. “We were so blown away that we had to do it again this year..…I'm trying to figure out what my seafaring outfit is going to be, because I need some support hose—bad.”
Rood is a little more wistful: “I wish it were easier to find a pirate ship.”
Fair enough. But does all that bass threaten to capsize the boat?
Host laughs. “I don't think so,” she said. “It's pretty sturdy.”