DAMIAN LAZARUS with MISCHIEF & FRANKIE at Li'ly (656 College) tonight (Thursday, July 30). $5. 416-532-1419 Rating: NNNNN
In its 30-something-year history, underground dance music has had a consistently awkward relationship with the mainstream music industry and the business of making money from music. Sure, the superstar DJs rake in unfathomable fees, but most of the industry is small potatoes financially. Sadly, even at the underground level, the scene is finding it increasingly hard to support itself financially.
Just as UK DJ Damian Lazarus tells me how he's heard good things about Boa-Redux and is excited to be playing here, credible rumours start surfacing that the club's state-of-the-art sound system has been repossessed in an internal ownership struggle.
Calls and e-mails to the club reveal that Boa's sound system has indeed been repossessed and that Lazarus's gig tonight (Thursday, July 30) has been shifted at the last minute to Li'ly.
Last weekend word started spreading that deep house institution Roxy Blu is going to be turned into a restaurant, making the local options for underground dance music even smaller.
What's going on? In the average big city, there are way more dance clubs than live venues and a much larger number of people going out to see DJs than bands. That's not reflected in record stores, partly because the music is very much focused on the club-and-party experience, and partly because it's still based on vinyl and singles.
Faceless studio projects and the DJs who play those records aren't marketable in the same way that pop music is, and the target audience trusts major labels about as much as the average Fugazi fan.
Lazarus himself came up through the last attempt the record industry made at trying to sell dance music as pop, the short-lived electro-clash fad. Since then, he's started up his own label, Crosstown Rebels and specializes in that currently unnamed sound that sprang up in the aftermath of electro-clash.
Lazarus doesn't foresee intrusive industry attention any time soon.
"The music industry has had its fingers burnt too often with dance music, so it's happy with its guitar bands."
On the bright side, the new dance music coming out is more creative and exciting than it's been for years. Now it just needs a proper home.