When was the last time that you got tired of listening to that corporately owned radio station playing the same dance hits over and over again? Think about it. Did you try to come up with a new idea of something to listen to? Perhaps the plethora of underground electronic music crossed your mind. But did the electronic-music scene?
The electronic-music scene can be defined as the events that occur around a city to allow a non-geographically linked village of listeners to connect to their underground electronic music of choice. Madison has an electronic-music scene that it is full of DJs and promoters that know their electronic music. However, it seems that in a few cases the venues just are not conducive to the scene.
The quest of searching out the scene in Madison began Friday night with a visit to the Inferno Nightclub on the east side of town. Its web site is updated often, with the calendar of events planned well in advance. The club itself does not look like a business establishment from the outside. It only has two blue lights outside, shining on the name of the club, making it hard to find.
Inside, there is an array of visuals and lighting that lend a teched-out feel to the Inferno, including the arrangement of teal and silver on the walls and contemporary lighting. This setting in combination with lights and visuals can provide an environment that is conducive to dancing. The music that played early that night, however, was not. Countless times I watched an eager dancer try to catch the grooves to no avail during Prism’s psy-acid-tech set. A struggle that is painful to observe as a DJ. Unfortunately, Prism didn’t notice.
Overall, the lineup at the Inferno gave the impression that it would attract a decent crowd of dancers and electronic-music enthusiasts alike. Especially because they brought in Janel Roland from Chicago to spin a house set. It seemed that the venue was there, but perhaps the DJs leading up to her performance were not enough to attract a large audience.
Saturday night, the review committee traveled to the Bluefin nightclub on the east side of Madison, just a few blocks away from the Inferno. Bluefin was an interesting experience, because it is a restaurant that serves oriental cuisine by day and is a nightclub by night. An interesting concept that many of the State Street bars employ to keep their business appealing to customers both young and old. This is not a bad idea, if the venue is able to weather the transformation and provide ample space for the crowd.
Unfortunately, the Bluefin had the proper talent without the proper venue. It was awkward to have a dining room turned into a dance floor with a less-than-adequate PA system. In one of the three rooms, you’ll see the buffet tables pushed against the walls while you try to imagine that you are at a nightclub. This is less than conducive for a club atmosphere. The group that put the lineup together apparently made sure that it brought in appropriate talent; the only problem was the insufficient dancing area.
Later in the evening, we paid a visit to the Cardinal Bar for its new Shakedown Night. The Cardinal Bar is a great place. It has a nice wooden bar with contemporary lighting. The dance floor is different, very long and surrounded by mirrors with lots of great lighting to provide the scenery for dancing.
During the visit, there appeared to be a lack of connection between the DJ and the crowd of dancers, because the DJ was in a booth behind a glass window at one end of the dance floor, which made him difficult to see. That is a problem. How can a crowd and a DJ interact when the crowd can barely see the DJ? This is something that is important, because it can provide greater enjoyment for those in the audience as well as the DJ.
But the sound quality at the Cardinal Bar impressed me. Saturday nights, the Cardinal claims to “feature the best in club music from all genres.” That is simply not what I observed during my time spent there; a lot of popular, but dated, club tracks played.
Understandably, the reasoning may be to try to attract the largest audience possible. What about the crowd that seeks out true electronic music? Nevertheless, the Cardinal has a great venue for those that would like to chill at a bar and listen to electronic music or those that just want to hit the dance floor.
The last stop on the tour of the electronic scene landed us at the new addition to the downtown electronic-music scene, Club Majestic with Nick Nice on the turntables. Yes, the Majestic’s $7 cover may be a little pricey for the college-student budget (the Bluefin also charges $7) but it is well-spent.
The Majestic is the product of an old theater transformed into a nightclub. Imagine the seats ripped up and replaced with comfy couches with a bar in the back of the room. But, wait, there’s more. The Majestic utilizes the stage as a dancefloor with the DJ booth parked in the background. There is another dance floor in front of the stage in case it becomes full.
Club Majestic’s sound system is absolutely amazing! The thumping bass and rich sound will keep any clubber dancing all night without fail. And Nick Nice’s mixing style doesn’t hurt either. It is simply impossible not to dance with this combination. Needless to say, the Majestic has the best sound system that I’ve heard in a very long time.
This article is not intended to present the absolute facts of the electronic (club) scene in Madison. That is impossible to do by paying one visit apiece to four venues. Perhaps each of these clubs may have “off nights,” and perhaps I caught a few of them on such a night or time.
The venue is something that remains static and cannot be changed by anything short of a complete makeover. The venue is a very important part of an electronic-music event; equally important is the inclusion of good, quality talent. And if you don’t know what kind of underground electronic music you would like to hear, watch for the electronic-music activism column — coming soon to an independent student newspaper near you.
For events in Madison: www.madfam.com.
Clubs: www.clubmajestic.net, www.cardinalbar.com, www.bluefinclub.com, www.clubinferno.com