Take a look around. One of them could be standing right next to you. Maybe it’s the guy in the skinny jeans and V-neck T-shirt from American Apparel or, perhaps, the woman wearing the neon flannel and oversize sunglasses from Urban Outfitters. They’re easy to spot, but it’s difficult to distinguish exactly who “they” are. Much like the film Fight Club, within Salt Lake City’s downtown population, lurk hidden societal members who subscribe to a lifestyle that thrives in the night. They are “the hipsters,” “the scenesters,” “the indie kids,” but this club doesn’t fight—it dances.
The group is as difficult to classify as the music that drives it. Across the United States, heads nod to the hip-hop bass beats, sneakers jump to the hard-hitting electro sounds and fists pump to the anthematic indie choruses. These sounds come from electro acts and world-renowned DJs like Flosstradamus, Steve Aoki, Cobra Krames and, perhaps the most recognizable of all, Grammy-nominated artist M.I.A. Now, her world-famous DJ, Million $ Mano, is preparing for his first-ever appearance in Salt Lake City.
“The essence of a hipster is in the same realm of the ’50s, when they had the beatniks, and the ’60s, when they had the hippies, and the late ’70s, when punk bands started coming around, and the ’80s, when hip-hop started,” says Mano in a phone call one week before his scheduled W Lounge appearance. “People want to be above average and try shit that nobody knows and being on their own shit before it’s actually cool.”
Aside from his music with M.I.A., Mano is known for his work and friendship with indie-rap group The Cool Kids. Mano says he’s excited to see “the scene” in SLC and offered a history lesson about how and where a lot of the musical genre fusion first started.
“In Chicago, we’d have Daft Punk play under their regular DJ names, and the next week, we’d have DJs like myself play,” he says. “Everyone was into different shit, but the same scene. I went to a rave, and it was crazy to see all these kids breaking on the floor.”
Mano saw people break dancing at raves while also noticing that hip-hop was getting more electro influences. “It’s an eclectic realm because the kids that were molded by the likes of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. They made it cool to not be of the norm,” he says. “Disco punk and French electro and French house and new wave are all a conglomerate of these people being influenced by different shit. That’s why you see all these rap songs being made into electro remixes.”
The music has created a dance craze that Matt Engle (who works at City Weekly) has watched develop firsthand as a club promoter for W Lounge. Engle began as a promoter in the late ’90s, a time when rave music was popular at nightclubs. “There’s hipster, indie, scenester—there are so many types of music genres, it’s tough to classify. Lots of different folks like it, from snow-bros to average Joes,” he says.
As a promoter, Engle brings DJs from all across the nation to Salt Lake City. He enjoys listening to mash-ups that include many styles of music from different eras and he loves the music for the same reasons that people in other circles hate it. Much how rockers hated disco in the ’70s, the words “hipster” and “scenester” are considered four-letter words in many “hardcore” circles.
“A lot of people hear the word ‘scenester’ and think it’s bad,” says W Lounge owner Casey Staker. “We feel it’s more of a hot style than anything.” Staker has brought local and national electro acts to his club and plans to continue the tradition with what he calls “Scenester Siege Wednesdays.”
“It’s fun to watch scenes grow. We are definitely trying to live up to the scene in other big cities. Kids are starting to recognize the bigger name DJs we’ve been bringing out on Wednesdays. The scene continues to grow all the time,” he says.
If locals don’t immediately recognize Mano, he looks forward to recruiting a new group of followers.
“I’m excited,” he says. “I like playing venues where nobody knows me because it’s a test of skill. I always have two types of fans, ones that really like my set and ones that will get down to whatever the hell I play.”
MILLION $ MANO
358 S. West Temple
Wednesday, March 11