Sunday, January 30, 2011

Event Review: Elektroschock at Grand Central (Baltimore)

This was one of those weekends when none of my social plans managed to come together; my Friday night bootie call got sick, and I wasn't able to get in touch with the guys who I wanted to have over for a movie night on Saturday evening until Sunday afternoon. So, faced with the prospect of another night holed up in the apartment playing video games (Fallout: New Vegas, if you really want to know), I decided to check out Elektroschock, a goth/industrial night at Grand Central, the "disco" that's about a half block from my apartment in Baltimore. It was fun to get in touch with my industrial roots once again, and the $2.50 Jack and cokes until 11 AM put me in a convivial mood, but, like many nights out I've had in Baltimore, Elektroschock felt more like I was sneaking into someone's private party, full of their friends, than going out to a club.

The disco at Grand Central is a good space, with a horseshoe-shaped main bar, and a spacious dancefloor with another bar in the back (though for this party it remained unstaffed). The intelligent lighting system threw biohazard symbols around on the floor and walls, but the overall space was suitably dark - it would have been nice to have had some visuals on the flatscreen that hovered above the back of the main bar, but this crowd was more interested in socializing than watching a TV, something that should commend the night as already being an improvement over the typical sports-on-TV experience of most Baltimore bars. I can't quite figure out how Grand Central competes against "the" Baltimore gay dance space, The Hippo, which is on the opposite corner of Charles Street, but I think it's because it presents a more intimate, and honestly comfortable, space than the Hippo, despite the latter's far more elaborate sound and light system. There's no sitting at the bar in the Hippo dance space, and a crowd this size, probably no more than a hundred or so at the peak, would seem rather sparse in the Hippo. Overall Grand Central presents a much better space for a small crowd, most of whom seemed to already be on a first-name basis with each other, to just hang out and make an occasional move toward the dancefloor.

It's been a long time, probably a decade, since I've been to an industrial night, though I was seriously involved with that scene in Atlanta in the 90s. I was so involved, in fact, that I got a bit tired of the scene, and what seemed like an endless rehash of the same tracks over and over again. One of the best things about Elektroschock was that I couldn't name a single track that played in the two hours or so that I was there. The DJ was taking requests, which resulted in some odd juxtapositions, and it was easy enough to recognize the genre markers in various tracks - heavy stomp beats perfect for clomping around the dancefloor in combat boots, wistful lyrics sung in German backed by shimmering synth pop for twirling around in a skirt - but what really struck me was the was the heavy influence of trance, from the tempo of the tracks to swirling arpeggation to lyrics like "A-B-C, D-M-T, M-D-A." It made for a much more European sound than what I had expected, having always associated industrial with guitar-driven bands like Ministry and even KMFDM. Clearly the current crop of industrial producers have been spending some time listening, and probably dancing, to influences from other electronic genres. In talking to one local industrial kid this past week I was surprised to hear him name Juno Reactor as a band he was really into, so now my curiousity is piqued to hear more of what's being produced in the industrial scene these days. (You can check out setlists from previous nights by hitting the link above.)

When I used to go out a-gothing in Atlanta, it was to a club night, Pandora's Box, where I knew the promoter and almost everyone else who showed up. It was small, tight (some might say incestuous) scene, and it was more like our weekly social get together than a club night. Much the same vibe prevailed at Elektroschock; I briefly talked with a guy who had just moved here from Philadelphia who wanted to know about other nights, so I steered him toward The Depot, but, so far as I know, Elektroschock is the only regular goth/industrial night in Baltimore, and I got the sense that the folks who showed up are much like that group I knew in Atlanta - there were lots of excited greetings as people made their way into the club, and lots of clustering in groups around the bar and to the side of the dancefloor. Everyone seemed friendly enough, and if I had been feeling more outgoing I might have made some further conversation, but, like most of my experiences in going out in Baltimore, I couldn't get over the feeling that I was crashing someone's private party full of their friends. I did enjoy the many variations in industrial fashion and watching the dancefloor, and even found myself nodding along to the beat, though I never felt it really move down into my feet. I don't stomp so much as shuffle these days, to be honest.

Elektroschock happens on the first, third, and fifth Saturdays of the month at Grand Central, and, at $6, the cover seems a little heavy to me, but between 9 and 11PM all drinks are $2.50. If you're into dressing in black and raging against the machine every now and then, then it's a great Saturday night destination.

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