MILK/RNB SUMMER VOL. 2 featuring PETER & TYRONE , FELIX & GANI , RICHARD BROOKS , ALI BLACK at Sunnyside Pavilion (1755 Lakeshore West), Friday (July 2). $12 advance. www.milkaudio.com
If you want to be a DJ playing underground music, you need to be a bit of a promoter, but few are good at both. If you can't pull people out to your events, you stop throwing them and fade away, yet if you make it as a promoter, it's harder to get noticed as a DJ. Talking to Gani Shqueir (of Milk Events), though, you get the sense that it doesn't bother him that many of the people who have partied with Milk over the past eight years still don't know who he is.
"I enjoy doing the door, going out there and meeting people, getting my hands dirty. A lot of people don't realize I do the door, because promoters don't usually do it themselves. Sometimes people come to the door with stories about Gani putting them and their friends on the list, so I should go talk to him," he laughs.
You could say that the centre of the Milk sound is deep house, but the party is also able to bring in people from way outside that scene like Bobbito, ?uestlove, Gotan Project and even Perry Farrell. Despite the wide range of underground music presented, Milk usually gets more than just the heads out, which is essential if you want to break even.
"In the beginning, people didn't necessarily know who Felix and I were, but they knew it was a good party because it was Milk. There are lots of people who go even if they don't know who our guest is."
They established that brand early on with distinctive black-and-white posters and flyers and fun parties that weren't focused on any one genre or scene.
Originally a larger collective, over the years it's boiled down to Shqueir, his brother Izzy, his DJ partner, Felix Bianchini, along with design help from Lawrence Williams. Shqueir is at the centre of it all, organizing and promoting as well as running the two-year-old Internet radio site milkaudio.com.
This summer will be busy, starting with a series of parties in partnership with RNB at the Sunnyside Pavilion, a beautiful outdoor venue that's prime party real estate for the first summer of the smoking ban. Along with the season's parties, Izzy has just finished tying up the loose ends on purchasing Gypsy Co-op, which they plan to slowly revamp in the next few months. It's hard not to be reminded of Hotstepper's transformation over the past year from party promoters to club owners with the opening of Tangerine and more recently Tangier, particularly since they're also a family business dedicated to the deeper side of dance music and have just celebrated eight years of parties as well.
Considering the glut of new clubs opening and fierce competition for smaller numbers of partiers, Shqueir is cautiously optimistic. After all, they are still here after eight years, and still fill big venues for relatively obscure artists. And the people are still dancing.
"It's been good. We've taken a beating here and there, but there's been continuous support. I like standing at my party and watching people dancing and having fun. Even if I've lost money, they're having a good time and they'll be at the next one, and hopefully I'll make it back then."