DOMINIQUE KEEGAN with DENISE BENSON and ANDREW ALLSGOOD at Andy Poolhall (489 College), Friday (February 27). $5 before 11 pm, $7 after. 416-923-5300. Rating: NNNNN
Last year's Plant Music compilation of indie-rock-inflected house, The Sound Of Young New York, captured a snapshot of the scene at Dominique Keegan's Plant Bar in New York City. This meeting ground for expats from the dance and indie rock scenes was one of the spots where the new wave of eclectic open-format DJing and indie dance developed. Much-hyped dance punk band the Rapture had a residency there, and some members worked tending bar. The Plant Music label was in the same building as DFA, whose producer extraordinaire, James Murphy, is said to have put together the sound system for Plant Bar.
Unfortunately, its hipness didn't stop the city from prosecuting the club under its ridiculous anti-dancing bylaw, which requires any establishment that allows dancing to have a cabaret licence. Plant Bar was forced to replace the DJ booth with a jukebox.
"We've had sporadic DJing here and there, but without being able to advertise there's not much point," laments Keegan from his New York home.
"I don't know if Plant Bar will be able to go on much longer. There was talk of changing the law, and I was waiting it out, but it's not happening."
Instead, he's more interested in reviving the Plant Music record label, which has been quiet after distributor problems. He's already almost finished the sequel to the compilation, and at the end of March is returning to the 12-inch vinyl market with a single by his own project, the Glass, featuring a thumping remix by Junior Sanchez. He's also signed the Voices, an indie rock disco two-man band from Toronto featuring DJ/producer Steve Yanko.
Keegan isn't an indie kid who discovered dance music and can't mix - he's been DJing regularly since he arrived from Dublin in 1994. For much of that time he was better known for house music, and before that for breaks and downtempo. Opening Plant Bar in 1997 with his DJ partner Marcus Lambkin was a way for him to get away from the restrictions of playing big rooms like Centro-Fly.
"I've never claimed to be ahead of anything. I've just followed what was going on. For a while when we were playing bigger clubs we were kind of stuck at this house trough, but Plant allowed us to get out of that. I still love house, but I'm not interested in playing a whole set of it."
It's a strange time for house music, but letting some crossover happen with rock is probably a good thing. Even soulful Latin house icons like Masters at Work are threatening to release a rock-influenced album with harsher electronic sounds and vocals in the vein of Morrissey.
"I'm not surprised they want to do something like that, because they've always been open-minded and they spin everything," says Keegan. "They've been typecast as a certain kind of house, but they're into so much more than that."