DJ Keoki on the origins of rave culture and his new Ybor City gig
It's the late '80s or early '90s, and Superstar DJ Keoki spins what becomes the soundtrack of the club kids — the bored-youth-turned-paid-partiers who helped create the rave scene.
Keoki came to New York from Hawaii. He joined into the party scene when he met infamous club kid Michael Alig, jailed for the grisly murder of a scene drug dealer. He started bussing tables at Manhattan's Danceteria in 1985, unsuccessfully begging club promoters and owners to let him DJ.
His big break came when the DJ didn't show up to a celeb's birthday party at another Manhattan night spot where he bused. Keoki said he had records and could spin. The manager's reply was half encouragement, half pragmatism — a blunt "I don't give a f--- what you play, kid. I just want this place packed," followed by: "Go get your damn records."
Rave's heyday might be over, but Keoki Franconi recently started a Saturday-night residence at Ybor's new Club Tantra. On a recent night, costumed clusters and solo dancers with glowsticks rocked to gritty, deep beats with spots of light electronics.
"My music is out there — dark and different and really dramatic," he says. "It'll create an atmosphere, you'll be able to feel it. I think that people were always pinpointing that I was doing something new."
For more with DJ Keoki, check out his interview with Victoria Bekiempis.