By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
It's tough being a hometown hero — just ask Vaski, a.k.a. Alex Brouwer, a young, multi-talented DJ and producer hailing from Savage, Minnesota. The quality of Brouwer's cranium-smashing dubstep cuts have catapulted him from bedroom producer to international success in less time than it takes to earn a bachelor's degree, but even though he's a huge draw in other parts of the globe, his presence in the Twin Cities has been largely confined to the underground dance scene. Now that's about to change.
Amid relaying stories of being mobbed by rabid fans in Australia ("They had to get security to escort me out," he recalls), Vaski unveiled a recent collaboration with the Varsity Theater to create Skyline, a new bi-monthly event that will give the burgeoning performer the opportunity to deliver his unique vision of the perfect party. After playing shows for a number of other promoters, Vaski started seeing pieces of the production that could be improved upon and wanted his chance to curate an event where he could exercise a greater degree of control.
"The DJ table might be too low, and that makes it difficult for me to perform in the way that I want," says Brouwer. "In other cases, the stage is weird or the sound isn't good. After playing a lot, I know all these little things that can go wrong, and I want to make sure that they don't."
Vaski presents Skyline with Jantsen and Nostalgia on Thursday, September 20, at Varsity Theater; 612.604.0222.
But Skyline is not just about the details backstage; Vaski's put a lot of thought into the experience being had by the party people who attend the event.
"We're going to have a pretty awesome light show," he says, beaming. "These guys I'm working with are going to be doing projection mapping on these screens, so it's going to look really great. I don't want to say too much of what we're going to do, but we're planning on having people in costume and maybe some appetizers for the crowd — just things that don't happen at regular shows."
Even considering the anything-goes, neon-clad nature of most dubstep events, the idea of a "regular show" seems to be the exact opposite of where Vaski is aiming this new series of club nights. The rather plush Varsity Theater is a far cry from the concrete-and-drywall austerity of the Loft above Barfly (where the majority of Twin Cities dubstep shows are held), not to mention the grimy hedonism of an underground, barely legal rager.
"I really like the decor at the Varsity," Brouwer adds. "They have a good sound system, and I like the size of it, too. The Loft is bigger, but it's really long, and in the back it's more difficult to see. At the Varsity, I feel like there isn't anywhere you can't really see, where you don't feel like you're involved."
In another break from typical dubstep parties, Vaski is using the venue to aim the events at college kids rather than the high school crowd that's currently infatuated with massive bass drops and skull-caving snare drums.
"A lot of high school kids like this, but it's an 18-plus club, so they can't come out," says Vaski. "A lot of people that listen to the music but that don't normally come out to shows can come and feel more comfortable here."
Between booking all the acts himself, orchestrating the sound and lights, and cooking up ideas that will set him apart from the rest of the dance pack, Brouwer is undoubtedly the driving force behind Skyline. Still, he's considerate enough to understand that a club night is only as good as the number of minds lost on the dance floor, and has taken special pains to ensure that everyone in attendance takes something away from the night.
"I play a variety of EDM — mostly dubstep, because that's what I make — but electro house, trap, moombahton, and breakbeat, too. Whatever I'm seeing the crowd get into," he explains.
Even with all the effort put into getting the myriad details just right, Vaski's still not sure how the inaugural night will turn out.
"I can't say how many people will be there," Brouwer says with a pause. "This is the first time I've done this, and everyone's kind of looking to see how this will go."
If Vaski has his way, Skyline could prove to be a new breed of party, and one that engages all of the senses at the same time. It's an imaginative step away from cookie-cutter dance nights that rely on drink specials and radio hits to do all the heavy lifting, leaving promoters broke and audiences unsatisfied. The world at large may get their mitts on Vaski the DJ, but Vaski the Party Mastermind? That's a Twin Cities exclusive.