Communion techno dance night finds a new home at Insert Coins
Centrific at Communion in 2011
Photo by Anna Gulbrandsen
Much like Nickelback performing in arenas while "real" rock bands grind it out in much smaller clubs, a new crop of more-mainstream producers and DJs have sprung up and exploded. Acts like the Swedish House Mafia and Avicii create endless amounts of interchangeable, formulaic EDM music that is devoid of anything resembling soul. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter compares these new strains of electronic music to an "audio energy drink", and said that "it's like someone shaking you, but it can't move people on an emotional level."
This division between the underground and mainstream/commercial electronic music has led to some ugly events. In the past year and a half, house legends Dennis Ferrer and Mark Farina, as well as DJ Shadow have all been kicked off the turntables at fancy clubs in Miami and Las Vegas.
In each case, a DJ with decades of experience was booked to play the music that made them famous, only to be told by the people who run the club that they needed to play something more commercial. When they refused, they were told to stop playing. It may come as a surprise that we nearly had our own story from here in Minneapolis to add to the list. Luckily, ours has a happy ending.
Local DJs Steve Seuling (AKA Centrific), Dustin Zahn and Jay Tappe (AKA Strangelove) launched Communion, a weekly techno and house night every Sunday on the Solera rooftop in 2007. After four successful years, a combination of a management change at Solera and Tappe being hired as the newly opened downtown Crave's in-house DJ paved the way for Communion to move across the street to Crave.
By all accounts, the first year was a success, which Crave Marketing Director Zach Sussman attributes to "outstanding weather, the brand-new venue that people were dying to check out, and the crowd/reputation that the promoters had built surrounding the Communion brand." But he adds that some promoters and guest exhibited "inappropriate behavior" towards the end of the first summer. Despite the hiccup, both sides believed they had put these issues behind them and looked forward to building on the successful first summer with another in 2012, and Communion stayed put at Crave. However, bad weather made it difficult for the event to gain steam, and according to Sussman only "die-hard' techno fans," were showing up.
As a result, the DJs began to feel more comfortable playing harder techno.
At the end of 2012, Crave decided to discontinue Communion, but Sussman says the promoters were offered a Sunday event revolving around a mix of EDM and techno aimed to attract a wider audience. With that, Evolution Sundays was born, with both Seuling and Tappe staying on. (Zahn had already decided to DJ in Europe this summer.) But the already fragile relationship was shattered for good the night of June 2, the second Evolution party of the summer.
Seuling was DJing the final hour of the party, when the CEO and owner of Crave Kamran Talebi left his massive VIP area, came into the DJ booth, and told Seuling to play different music. I was in the crowd at the time, no more than 20 feet from the booth, and while I was out of earshot of what was said, it was very clear from both mens' body language that an ugly scene was unfolding.
Seuling angrily pointed out to the dance floor, which was packed full. Murmurs went through the crowd. Talebi eventually left the booth, with both men looking unhappy, and Seuling continued to play the type of music he had been playing up until that point. According to Sussman, Seuling "had been playing nothing but 'hardcore techno' with heavy bass throughout the event, which is the type of music we have received complaints about in the past" and that he was approached by Talebi, who asked Seuling to "adhere to the previously agreed upon musical format."
Curiously, a more EDM-friendly DJ got on the decks as soon Seuling finished his set at 10, which is when the event ended every Sunday in 2012 and also the posted ending time of the event, and the volume of the music remained at the level it had previously been.
Seuling, however, has a different take on the events leading up to the argument in the DJ booth. He met with Talebi at Crave's offices several weeks before the Memorial Day weekend kick-off party to let Talebi know that he did not agree with the planned format changes and that "it was time for Communion to move on" as he did not want to "tarnish the legacy of Communion" by making it anything less than it had been in its first six years.
But Talebi, not wanting to lose Communion's fan base, told him that "they would come up with a good compromise that I would be happy with." Although skeptical, Seuling agreed to stay on board with Evolution and wanted to see how things played out at Crave, where he quickly found out that he should have trusted his instincts and taken his ball and found a new home, and that's exactly what he did.
It may be starting a month later than usual, but Communion is back, with an opening party being held Sunday, June 23 at its new home on the patio of the newly opened Insert Coins.
Seuling says he will have much more creative control at Insert Coins, and that the party would feel "more like a family barbecue than a sports bar." The opening party's line up suggests that he is not lying, as the final four hours will feature sets from local techno stalwart James Patrick, Seuling himself, and Zahn, who had already planned a trip back home before any of these events unfolded, and it will also include a barbeque menu and bloody mary bar. The sudden move has electrified the not-so-welcome-at-Crave Minneapolis techno community, as well as Seuling himself, who is eager to put the drama with Crave behind him and said that Insert Coins' management's main goal is "making our crowd feel comfortable and accommodating our needs."
Crave and Tappe will continue with the Evolution Sunday events, which now have the added bonus of taking the party to the newly-opened Marquee night club right across the street, where they can play music at any volume until bar close without disturbing their neighbors. Sussman says that Crave "anticipates an entirely new crowd of music fans" to come for the new format.
In a day and age where music of all types is getting more and more homogenized and commercialized at a frightening pace, it's refreshing to see that it doesn't always work that way, that the side with money doesn't always win and that David can still beat Goliath here and there. Seuling and the Minneapolis techno community have spoken loud and clear, and their message is this: We are not here to get our picture taken. We are not here to try to impress women with fake boobs with our VIP status. We are not here to chase a trend. We are here to get down to our music, just like we always have. This is not Miami, and this is not Las Vegas. This is Minneapolis, where the music still comes first.
Communion Opening Party 2013. 21+, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., free until 6 p.m. and $5 after, Sunday, June 23. Click here.
3 p.m. Al.ya 4 p.m. Tyler Przybilla 5 p.m. T.tauri 6 p.m. James Patrick 7 p.m. Centrific 8:30 p.m. Dustin Zahn
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