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In Tampa Bay clubs, dubstep continues growing in popularity

On a slow, balmy Tuesday night on Central Avenue in St. Pete, the sound of bass pounds from a smoky, dingy bar. The vibration sets off car alarms, shakes away nearby homeless and rattles the walls of the neighboring convenience store, much to the chagrin of its proprietor.

More importantly, however, the bass moves the patrons of Fubar to dance. To jump, bounce, and get down to the sounds of dubstep, the latest "in" music of the underground.

Originating in London, Dubstep found its way to Tampa around 2005, slowly making inroads in the clubs of Ybor City. "You had a new type of music that was just starting to put its feet on the ground," said DJ Clearwater Hawes, who runs the local record label Tuff Love Dubs. "Now Tampa and the entire area is covered in dubstep. Absolutely covered."


The first few years of dubstep in the area were slow as DJs only occasionally incorporated dubstep songs into their performances. Interest exploded in late 2009, however, because of two events.

In October, several local DJs and promoters joined forces to put on "Super Ghouls and Ghosts: A Dubstep Spectacular" at the Honey Pot in Ybor City. The event drew hundreds of fans, both those accustomed to dubstep and those looking to see what the buzz was about.

The second was the establishment of the first regular dubstep night. In November, several DJs took over an open-mic night at Fubar and christened it "Turbo Tuesday" in the name of dubstep.

"At the moment it's more of a weeknight thing," said Sidedraft, one of the main DJs at Fubar. "But there are some people who will actually change their work schedule so they can listen to the music."

Another regular DJ, Jason Feder, a.k.a. Subpirate, believes Fubar was the perfect place for dubstep as the music and the bar share similar features.

"Dubstep, beer, and dive bars, all being grimy and dark, create a good atmosphere," Feder said. "A party atmosphere."

Since the establishment of Turbo Tuesday, other bars and clubs have picked up on the new genre and hosted their own Dubstep nights. Besides Turbo Tuesday, there is "Dangerous" Friday at The Social in Ybor City, and plans for other weekly shows on Thursday and Wednesday nights.

But although the music might be the same across venues, there are subtleties that set apart the St. Pete scene from the regular Ybor City scene and scenes in other parts of Tampa.

First and foremost, Turbo Tuesdays at Fubar must adhere to St. Pete's new "21 and up" restrictions. Hawes said this limits the ability for teenage fans to find and celebrate a new musical genre that could stay with them throughout their lives. "Young people say, 'This is my music,' " Hawes said.

Another big difference between the Tampa and St. Pete dubstep scenes is the use of glowsticks and other electronic music paraphernalia. While dance floors at the Scene Premium Nightclub in St. Pete light up with patrons twirling the spinning sticks, the powers that be behind Turbo Tuesday have prohibited the practice at Fubar.

"If you have people in your establishment playing with glowsticks and you sell bottled water, that immediately considers it paraphernalia and opens you up to search and seizure," Feder said.


Wherever it is played, dubstep is growing in its allure. Across the board, many DJs believe this is due to the slower tempo of the music. At 140 beats per minute, often slowed to half time, dubstep is more akin to hip-hop than any other faster genre, such as breakbeat, trance, jungle or drum and bass. Feder said this slower pace makes it easier to move to.

"It's easy to dance to," Feder said. "That's what got me into it. Not that I am a big dancer or anything, but that's what got me."

Hawes sees the benefit of promoting similarities with mainstream genres as an attempt to draw people in.

"If you speed up the vocals a little bit and if you give what you know and can associate with a little more energy, that works," Hawes said. "Having the ability to connect to things like hip-hop that people know, already enjoy, and understand the concept and speed of, and you merge it into this new music, it makes it a lot easier for people to want to check it out."

As the dubstep community grows throughout the area, shows and events are starting to draw more people. Whereas they once started small, major dubstep events now draw hundreds.

In June, the Ritz Ybor was nearly full for prominent national act Borgore. Ritz spokesman Okesene Tilo said the show was a success and may be a forebear of even more dubstep events.

"For more than 900 individuals to attend a late-night dubstep show on a Wednesday night is a testament to the popularity of the dubstep movement," Tilo said. "Where there aren't any dubstep acts confirmed on our calendar, there are plenty of acts that we are seeking and hoping to have in our venue." That includes Excision and Cookie Monsta on Sept. 9 and Skrillex on Dec. 16.

According to Feder, the growth of dubstep is all about the fans and their need to escape, celebrate, and have a good time.

"Music is a tool to move energy and feeling," Feder said." And if the feeling is right, people will move. And if people move, people party. And if people party, then people have fun. And that's what everyone wants to do."

Find your Identity

Leaders of the nocturnal music scene arrive Wednesday for the inaugural Identity Fest. Altogether, these electronic acts and light-show specialists churn out an assault on mind and body so penetrating that they make the once-wowing ways of big-name DJ's like Paul Oakenfold and Tiesto seem like community theater. Accordingly, these are the artists now playing the late-night sets at major music festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo. Dubstep fans, and they are legion, will turn out for headliners Kaskade, Rusko and Datsik. Fans of electronic hip-hop will dig Pretty Lights. The Disco Biscuits will offer a taste of live "jamtronica," and Australian sisters Nervo will provide a little Ke$ha-style pop excess. Pitchfork-minded hipsters will dig Holy Ghost! and Hercules and Love Affair, while newbies will recognize boldface-name DJs Steve Aoki and DJ Shadow. Other artists on the bill include the Crystal Method, DJ Chuckie, Booka Shade, Afrobeta, Jessie and the Toy Boys, Le Castle Vania, the Eye, White Shadow, LA Riots, Manufactured Superstars, Doorly, RioTGear, Burns, Marshall Barnes and Figo. It starts at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301 N, Tampa. Tickets are $20-$97. (813) 740-2446.

— Carole Liparoto

In Tampa Bay clubs, dubstep continues growing in popularity 08/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 1:51pm]
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