An afterthought. The highway between New York City and Boston. Home to the insurance capital of the world. Endless phrases expressing the mundane can be used to describe Connecticut, but what about a strong EDM undercurrent?
Although thought of as a suburb of New York, Connecticut has three EDM scenes: long-standing, house-centric Hartford; New Haven, catered to the college crowd of Yale and other area schools; and Fairfield County, with Stamford leading with club G/r/a/n/d. It’s not just local DJs coming playing at these clubs, although the ones that do are considerably skilled. Along with well-known Connecticut-born performers like DJ Kered come world-renown producers making stops in Hartford or Fairfield County.
Kered, whose career kicked off in the mid-1990s at a New Haven venue called BAR, then with David Dresden as the resident DJ, spoke about the early days of electronic dance music in the state, saying: “Hartford has always had, or rather it had, a pretty cool club and house music dance culture. It dates back, gosh, to the late ‘80s, when Joe Giucastro was doing a night called Riot, which, at the time, was a really groundbreaking night. He was one first DJs to play Detroit, Chicago house and techno records, which at the time no one really heard before. And, he really had a really mixed crowd that would come every Friday and Saturday religiously. It was an interesting, amazing time. And, that was club culture.”
Kered is currently one of the resident DJs at Hartford’s Room 960. Located downtown in part of the former G. Fox & Co. department store building, Room 960 attracts the talent of Pacha NYC and its décor reflects a Miami lounge. The club operates Wednesday through Sunday, with Saturday being the prime night for house music. Over the years, Chris Lake, Sharam, Roger Sanchez, Kaskade, Danny Howells, Gabriel & Dresden, Sander Kleinenberg, Dubfire, Above & Beyond, Jonathan Peters, Markus Schulz, John Acquaviva, Chus & Ceballos, Seb Fontaine, Dirty South, Victor Calderone, Robbie Rivera, Boris, Oscar G, Cedric Gervais, Benny Benassi, Hector Romero, DJ Dan, Mindcontrol, David Morales, and Hernan Cattaneo have played sets at the club.
Aside from being both a literal and figurative beacon in Hartford’s EDM-related nightlife, Room 960 essentially changed where house could be heard in the state’s capital. Kered explained: “[Clubs] went from being these dark, little secretive places that were off the beaten path to now becoming trendy, glitzy, table-serving crowds.”
Room 960 may be the most prominent venue for EDM in Hartford, but it’s certainly not the only place. Also downtown, The Russian Lady hosts rooftop party Terrazza, a summer series that began on July 21. The Warehouse, located in the city’s South End, occasionally hosts EDM DJs, such as Joe Nice.
Not far away is New Britain, home to Central Connecticut State University. Although the city had club Arkadia, which played dance music on Saturdays, for a number of years, Elmer’s Place is developing into a greater draw. Closer to the university, Elmer’s Place hosts a night of underground dance music, presented by Suspended Underground, with an emphasis on dubstep and drum and bass.
Nights in New Haven, roughly a 40-minute drive south of Hartford, generally keep college students in mind. Elevate, part of club Alchemy, offers a similar vibe as Room 960, although the mainstream talent is not as consistent, and Toad’s Place, a small concert venue, hosts its own electronic night. Dubstep, electro, and house are emphasized at the latter, and in the past, the night has attracted Laidback Luke and other nationally-known performers.
Although all of Fairfield County’s coastal cities have electronic nights, such as DEEP at Acoustic Café in Bridgeport and Episode Ultralounge in Norwalk, G/r/a/n/d in Stamford is the area’s greatest attraction for EDM fans. G/r/a/n/d won twice for best nightclub in the state and has a weekly Friday night managed by Midnite Society, the promoters who brought Avicii to the Webster Bank Arena in April. G/r/a/n/d, as well, is a destination for seeing well-known EDM acts and has been doing so for the past five years.
Midnite Society promoter Ilario Altamura, from the Stamford area, explained: “When we first started this, we took a risk, bringing in New York City DJs, not knowing what it was all about. And, in the past two years, it’s really exploded. People that used to listen to hip-hop are now transforming into dance music and electronic music, it’s just taken over.”
G/r/a/n/d and Room 960, with their high-caliber talent, are particularly seeing the effects of the current EDM trend. Crowds are growing, but greater mainstream acceptance, especially for house and trance, diminishes the spontaneity such nights once had. Talking about the changing scene trends, Kered said: “The crowds, today, come to the clubs, expecting their local DJs to sort of do that [mainstream house] and when I first started DJing, and even going out, I liked to be surprised. I liked going to the clubs to hear things that I didn’t really know. Yeah, it’s cool to hear a remix of a Madonna track that you never heard before, but for the most part, you went the entire night without probably not knowing 90 percent of what the DJ was playing, but one thing was for sure – you knew it was a great time, and you were out there dancing.”
Mainstream EDM success could additionally propel Connecticut’s scenes forward. Altamura has plans of clubs and events that could be fair competitors with those in New York. Aside from bringing other big-name acts to the Webster Bank Arena, such as possibly Afrojack or Tiesto, he is developing another club night in northern Connecticut. While he cannot give details at the moment, the club could be the largest in the state. Additionally, a Connecticut or Northeast-area music festival, one mirroring and perhaps rivaling the events on Governors Island, could be in the cards. Altamura explained: “My goal is to put together a strong force of promoters within the state of Connecticut, and put together a huge dance festival… that’s something to look forward to in the future.”