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At first glance, "Bassgasm" looks like an incomprehensibly filthy word. If its mere utterance doesn't create the mental image of a bodily mess created by frequencies that shuffle internal organs like a fleshy deck of cards, now it has. In reality, we're talking about a semi-annual party that utilizes every square foot of First Avenue to showcase electronic dance music on a large scale. Calling it a dance night, a disco, or—to use another dirty word—a rave is not far off. None of those terms are quite able to capture the nature of the event, though—partially because none of them fully address the true star of the show: the sound.
World-renowned DJ, producer, and Twin Cities resident Woody McBride is the mastermind behind Bassgasm, and his track record of coordinating local shows with over-the-top sound rigs stretches back to the '90s, when events like Stairway to Headphones and Soundburnt wowed (real) ravers with a massive wall of sternum-rattling bass. Now that McBride has slowed a relentless touring schedule, he's settled back into a role as an event planner and promoter.
"I was ready to start a new concept, one that was a way of saying 'thanks' to Minneapolis," says McBride. Of course, his way of showing gratitude is with thumping drums and a low end that can be not only heard, but felt outside of First Avenue's black brick exterior.
Along with speakers stacked to the ceiling, the previous five events in the Bassgasm series have featured an assortment of globetrotting headliners, along with imaginative room layouts and unique art installations that keep every iteration looking fresh—a feat in a venue as well-worn as First Ave.
"It's really hard to put it all together and keep the cost at $15," McBride admits. "But I got my start at First Ave, and I wanted to do something there that breaks down the barriers of what people think is possible in a club setting."
The no-one's-looking freedom of the Midwest rave movement dissipated with the turn of the millennium, and those who enjoyed dancing until sunrise in grimy warehouses became skeptical of the kind of events that could be held within the context of an established, above-board nightclub. Meanwhile, a whole new crop of electronic music fans who had never known the forbidden pleasures of an all-night party started to emerge, and thanks to the popularity of offshoot genres like dubstep, that group continues to grow with each huge single. As an event, Bassgasm bridges the generation gap with a show that the old guard thought was gone forever and one the young upstarts had never seen. It turns out rave was never dead; it was just having a bit of a nap.
But the levels of acceptance this series of events has managed to attain wouldn't be achievable without the broad spectrum of DJs and producers that show up in droves to be a part of McBride's brainchild.
"When Kevin Cole was running Depth Probe at First Ave in the early days, you could see a house DJ, a trance DJ, a jungle DJ—you could hear it all," muses McBride. "I wanted to do that same thing."
Bobby Kahn, club regular and host of MPLS.TV's "So You Think You Kahn Dance," has been at every installment of Bassgasm, and applauds the variety. "I like to have a choice at shows like this...I have always been able to find something that I like somewhere in the building at any given time," Kahn says.
The sixth event to bear the Bassgasm name will play host to more than 50 performers, including old-school favorites like Detroit Grand Pubahs and bass music legend Tipper alongside newer names like Billy Blacklight, and promises to be yet another feather in McBride's cap. When asked how many of these parties he plans to throw, McBride says that he "will live to be 100, so there will be a lot more to come."