It was Saturday night at the Sound Table, and by 2 a.m., the crowd's inhibitions had long diminished as Rob Dowell's rhythms began to loosen up. Dowell, a founding member of Warm Art, an EDM collective that participated in last year's Edgewood Electronic Music Festival, is fascinated and fueled by the down-tempo music that house DJs usually play to warm up an audience. (Get it?)
The Sound Table crowd is usually an easygoing one. Whether a dozen or four dozen people are on the floor, they're always dancing if not strutting themselves into circles, or popping and locking, room-size permitting. On its long-running Proton Radio show, Warm Art doesn't toy with the bombast usually expected at clubs — not the bass artillery that dubstep seems to deliver every few minutes, or the radio shoutouts, or even the DJ dancing to his own shallow beats. As Dowell pumped his right hand into the air, ducking down every few minutes, he appeared to be playing some well-executed mixes. But even when the mix was left unattended, the whirring attacks and shrapnel of releases managed to send hands into the air.
Dowell's downtempo house rhythms were muscular and seductive, with squishy Nerf-gun synths, minor piano chords, and crackling claps peppered throughout. The bass was turned up just one notch at a time over the course of two hours, until it reverberated through the Sound Table's bar stools. Later on, a low growling voice instructed the Sound Table crowd to "go downtown," after they'd long since downed their cocktails and beers from goblets. Couples drew their faces closer to each other, recalling the cover art of Washed Out's Within and Without, as they bent their knees deeper and finally went in for that drunken kiss.
For the stray males hanging out, the sights and sounds seemed to amplify what they didn't have. One trailed behind a blonde until she caved and back her bouncy ass into his crotch, only to skip away and talk to another guy near the exposed brick wall. And then there was that man with the greasy bangs who kept trying to touch the woman in the flowy skirt no matter how far back she'd step — hardly the behavior I'd expected of a venue that regularly hosts international house talent and a crowd with sophisticated taste.
Suddenly I found myself standing in between him and her, stretching out my arms as I'd seen Scottie Pippen do so many times. "This is too painful to watch," I yelled over Dowell's now-booming bass, as the woman ducked behind me. "Take a hint."
"What are you trying to be," he asked, "Bruce Lee?"
Dowell wasn't playing around with subtlety anymore. And apparently, neither was the crowd.
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