SOULWHAT 3 YEAR ANNIVERSARY featuring GADJET, TRISTAN, SERIOUS, MIKE SITCHON, KOLA and LIVE GROOVES (live) at Una Mas (422 Adelaide West), Saturday (August 17). $10. http://soulwhat.cjb.net
It's tough being an up-and-coming dance music promoter in Toronto. While a number of experienced production teams have built loyal followings, new names come and go regularly without being able to carve out a niche.
Booking high-profile out-of-town talent is one way to get attention quickly, but it's far from being a surefire way to bring in the crowds if you don't already have a community established.
Weekly residencies can be a good way to develop an audience for your crew, but they're hard to sustain because of easily spooked club owners who will drop a night after a couple of slow weeks.
The Soulwhat crew have taken the slow-and-steady building approach and are now starting to see their vision pan out. Soulwhat is DJ gaDJet and percussionist Chico Pacheco, who started promoting parties together three years ago after a particularly successful event.
"We had no real intention of doing anything, but my it was my birthday," explains Chico Pacheco at their popular NASA weekly, Mellow Mondays.
"So we made a few phone calls and managed to get 200 people out to the Weave on a Wednesday with less than a week's notice. That was sort of where the Audiophiles started, before it was named that. We had gaDJet spinning and we were doing the live house thing, and we kept mixing in and out of him the whole night."
Mellow Mondays is now approaching two and a half years at NASA, an impressive feat for any early-week residency.
Pacheco attributes the success partly to their integration of DJing with other forms of performance.
"One of Soulwhat's goals was to subtly merge all the elements together. We'd often have guest artists come and paint on site, and some spoken-word artists as well."
DJ gaDJet is playing more events outside of Soulwhat, including frequent appearances at Roxy Blu on Saturday nights as well as guesting at many other local events.
Likewise, Pacheco is also busy beyond Soulwhat; his Live Grooves percussion group gets hired by other promoters to spice up their events. He's also a member of Samba Squad and the live house group Audiophiles.
Soulwhat have experimented with various formats, but they've settled on three party concepts. The Soulwhat parties and Mellow Mondays will continue featuring local rising talent. They'll also have Latasian Invasion, a bi-monthly co-venture with Poundhouse, focusing on Latin and Asian artists.
Finally, they'll be reviving the Ying Yang parties, which host deep house in one room and harder techno in the other.
"It's been a bit of trial and error. I think now we're finally ready this year to make some of these concepts reality."