System revives techno in the Record Room

System is Aaron Litschke, behind the decks toward the front, and Mike Gervais, behind the decks toward the back.

System is Aaron Litschke, behind the decks toward the front, and Mike Gervais, behind the decks toward the back.

Before we get into System, the techno dance night that recently returned to First Avenue's Record Room, let's first get into a little history.

After the popular Too Much Love dance party graduated to First Avenue's Mainroom in 2007, promoter/DJ Nick Gunz took over Saturday nights upstairs in the darker, intimate VIP/Record Room with his house night called Home.

Gunz brought in DJs Jesse Jakob and Aaron Bliss to help him run Home, and later in 2007 he let them take over for a night, which became the techno-focused dance night they called Black. The party was a huge success, so much so that Black became a weekly event featuring mostly techno DJs, including international heavy-hitters like Ben Klock and Marcel Dettman.

In 2009, Gunz left, at which point Jakob and Bliss brought in several different groups of promoters, each of whom took over one Saturday per month. With the exception of the house night HotDish, Saturday night in the Record Room was all about techno. Although all of the parties fell under the Black banner, they all had unique names and styles thanks to the different promoters taking turns. However, by the fall of 2012, as attendance at the parties in both the Mainroom and the Record Room dwindled, First Avenue moved Too Much Love back upstairs, and that meant dropping Black (with the exception of HotDish, which continued to run monthly until 2014).

Seeing the writing on the wall at First Ave, Mike Gervais and Aaron Litschke, promoters of Black-aligned dance nights System and Loud and Clear, respectively, started working on what became a weekly show at the Bolt Underground in downtown Minneapolis. With help from Jakob, the transition was smooth at first, but soon regulars diminished, which Gervais attributes to the cavernous new location. "People didn’t really want to seem to go to Bolt like they did First Ave," he reports. "We lost maybe half our regular crowd just based on the venue change.”

The smaller turnouts made it harder for Gervais and Litschke to stay motivated. “It takes so much out of you. You’ve got to be there for five to six hours every week, and some weeks aren't that fun," Gervais says. ”It’s like another job.” After about a year at the Bolt, System stopped running in the fall of 2013

Although both promoters enjoyed the break from the grind of a weekly event, the fire was not put out for good. Gervais was itching to play at a good local party again.

“I thought I could do something to support somebody who’s already doing something that I like and work with them.” Gervais says. “So I talked to [Too Much Love creator] Peter Lansky about maybe doing something regularly at Real Fun. He was super in to the idea, and the first one Aaron and I did, we had a really good turnout, I think we had over 200 people.”

Weeks later, First Ave announced that Real Fun, Lansky's post-TML endeavour, would be ending and most of the weekend nights would change hands. Gervais asked First Ave to let him try out his new party called System and they gave him a shot. The audition was a success, and First Ave agreed to let System take the second Friday of every month. Litschke said that while the turnout at the first few parties was good, it wasn’t until local techno icon DVS1 played a beyond sold-out show in May that the promoters realized that System had legs.

That said, it is not always easy to throw an underground techno show in Minneapolis. Gervais says the scene is not very large and booking bigger shows can be tough. “There is a real hesitancy in this city for people to pay higher cover charges for big names," he says. "We can only go so high." On top of that, System spares no expense on extra sound, lighting, and visuals, so its overhead is quite high.

The small size of the community isn’t all bad, though. There is an email chain between 10 or so local promoters to ensure a minimal amount of stepping on each other’s toes. Litschke says that while not all of the members necessarily get along, there is still plenty of respect and camaraderie.

Additionally, Gervais and Litschke’s connections have been paying dividends. They have been able to collaborate with the record labels Blank Code and Droid in Detroit and Los Angeles, respectively, as well as several other promoters to share costs and bring bigger acts to Minneapolis.

Case in point: Regis will be at the Record Room for the July installment of System on Friday. The Downwards Records label boss known for a harder, industrial style of techno has been highly regarded around the world for over 20 years. It will easily the biggest show System has put on since they brought Speedy J to town in 2012.

“I’ve been a fan of his for almost 20 years," Litschke says. "To get someone of that caliber to come out for a good deal is rare, and credit to Jeff Derringer from Chicago, who totally helped us out with this. We knew he was going to be in the Midwest. It was a no-brainer.”

Litschke and Gervais are excited about the System's momentum and are already working on bookings for later this year. In the meantime, they couldn’t be more thrilled with their July show. “It’s a treat to have someone like him out playing at a club that holds 260 people sold out," Litschke says. “It just doesn’t happen.” Except sometimes it does.

Regis @ System

When: 10 p.m. Fri. July 10, 2015

Where: The Record Room at First Avenue

Tickets: $15

More info here