OPTIMO'S JD TWITCH with DENISE BENSON and ANDREW ALLSGOOD at the Gladstone (1214 Queen West), Tuesday (October 18). $12. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNNN
Tired of going to dance clubs and hearing the same boring house and techno? You're not alone. The deep dark secret of the current club scene is that many DJs are just as bored with mixing 4/4 tracks all night long.
The Glasgow-based Optimo duo of JD Twitch, aka Keith McIvor, and his Belfast buddy Jonnie Wilkes decided to do something about it.
Every Sunday night at the Sub Club, they'd shelve their conventional dance-floor fodder and play the old new wave, electro and garage rock records along with whatever else they happened to be listening to at home.
Word of the anything-can-happen kicks at Optimo quickly spread, attracting a whole new crowd of kiddos delighted to hear whether Twitch really could swing from Konk's Loft classic Your Life into Roger and the Gypsies' New Orleans funk bumper Pass The Hatchet and onto A Certain Ratio's Do The Du.
Yet McIvor insists their reputation for dropping unusual tracks isn't a matter of being eclectic for the sake of eclecticism - it's just unabashed self-indulgence. Fortunately, they have exceptionally good taste.
"I hate the term 'eclectic,'" says McIvor from an Amsterdam café. "We're really just playing different records that we love. That's the way it used to be back in the early 80s when I was going to clubs. The only reason what we do seems unusual is because dance music today is so micro-genrefied."
Even before rumours spread that Alex Kapranos wrote Franz Ferdinand's song Michael while recovering from a wild night at Optimo, Twitch and Wilkes were well on their way to international notoriety, and all the big-money requests to remix shitty tracks and spin at celebrity after-parties that come with it. Word is that the Franz boys will be stopping by the Gladstone Tuesday night after their Ricoh gig.
All the critical acclaim, rock-star fawning and public adulation don't seem to have turned the Optimo twosome into insufferable celebrity DJ yobs. The fact that they're genuinely nice chaps just makes their gigs seem even more like a neighbourhood house party where the good-natured vinyl junkie next door is playing records from his collection. Could this be another telltale sign that the days of the overhyped superstar jocks are numbered?
"We don't book any DJs for our Optimo nights, just bands. All the guests we have are people who actually perform - not that I have anything against DJs personally, but the situation was getting pretty horrible.
"I'd been booking those celebrity DJs for years, but I found their fees were getting to be outrageous and they seemed to be becoming more and more arrogant. I felt the cult of the celebrity DJ had just gone too far. So we decided it was time to wipe the slate clean and focus on the music rather than the DJs."
Why exactly has Optimo become so successful playing music that isn't on any contemporary charts and that most industry trend-spotters wouldn't consider fashionable? It could be that Optimo is just proving that good music, despite the genre or era, will always have an audience. McIvor has his own theory.
"Younger people are less tribal about their music listening. When I grew up, you were either a mod or a rocker and that defined the records you'd buy, but today young people seem to be more into tracking down whatever sounds good to them without the need to put it into convenient boxes.
"Also, all the techno trainspotters used to gather around the turntables each night to see what the DJ was playing so they could write it down and buy the single the next week. But now they just type the name of the track you're spinning into their cellphones and download everything they like by that artist as soon as they get home. There's been a huge shift."