Soundcheck, the Panorama Productions-owned nightclub located in the K Street NW space formerly occupied by Lotus Lounge, opened last Wednesday evening. Arts Desk visited the next night, and was greeted with a throwback to an age of dance culture familiar to few under the age of 30. That vibe is a good fit for a city growing, once again, more comfortable with dance music.
We’re roughly a decade into dance culture’s reascension into the American pop consciousness. Just as nightclubs like Nation, Zei, Eighteenth Street Lounge, Red, and Club Five defined D.C.’s response to dance’s national explosion 20 years ago, Soundcheck joins Echostage (which shares its owners), U Street Music Hall, Flash, the still successful Eighteenth Street Lounge, and Tropicalia in serving a growing community of partiers with diverse and mainstreaming interests in EDM and its many variants.
Soundcheck’s 4,400-square-foot basement space can hold 300 patrons, who’ll dance to a $200,000 soundsystem that pumps out up to 80,000 watts of sound buffered by walls embedded with four inches of soundproofing foam. The sonic treatment of the club eliminates any feedback from the system that would make it difficult to speak at a normal volume to a close neighbor. Soundcheck’s claim to be the “quietest club in D.C.” may prove to be true.
For those asking the obvious question: Yes, Soundcheck is similar to U Street Music Hall in that both spaces are underground. But there’s a definite nod to a more fanciful turn-of-the-21st-century Europop dance vibe in this new space. U Hall is a black box similar to German techno haven Berghain, which is known for its austere sense of cool and stark presentation. The music is the main event at U Hall, above everything else. At Soundcheck, the vibe is about music and dancing, but maybe also about meeting a new mate while sipping a cocktail, spending some time in the roped-off VIP section in the back of the club, and enjoying an intimate version of Echostage’s big room nightlife experience.
One of the managing partners of Soundcheck is Panorama Productions co-founder Antonis Karagounis, who has definitely woven much of his personal nightlife history into the space. Born in Greece and fond of his club experiences there, Karagounis‘ now-massive Club Glow events have roots in rooms very similar to Soundcheck.
“Unfortunately, [Washington, D.C.] in the past couple of years has lost a lot of its esteem,” Karagounis told the Washington Business Journal. When he began promoting parties in 1995, he said, “D.C. was the center of nightlife. Especially 14th and K, where we are right now.”
Glow events have taken place in such disparate venues as the D.C. Armory and Echostage. But Soundcheck’s throwback to a simpler age likely comes from Karagounis and his partners predicting a future for dance that seems to favor hundreds of people dancing to deep melodic grooves over thousands pumping their fists to bass-heavy bangers. (This future looks likely, for reasons as diverse as a cultural shift in music tastes and a general perception that music festivals are unsafe.) The evolution of American nightlife—from standing in rapt awe of DJs on stages to learning how to dance again—is going to take a bit of time. Soundcheck could be an excellent incubator of the sound and vibe of where dance culture in America is likely to be headed.
Panorama’s talent booker and Soundcheck managing partner Pete Kalamoutsos tells Washington Business Journal, “In addition to booking the superstars, we’ll be able to take more risks by welcoming up-and-coming talent during our new Afterglow party on Sundays. We want to be a part of their growth as artists.” BBC Radio 1 and iHeartRadio host and DJ Pete Tong is booked to play Afterglow on Sept. 27, while most of Soundcheck’s other dates feature acts that are gaining in renown yet lacking significant mainstream recognition.
Last Thursday, when U.K.-based house-spinning headliners Amine Edge & DANCE assumed the decks, half the crowd rushed to be as close to the raised DJ booth as possible. A few in the back shuffled along to the techno-styled house tracks. And then there were those who were happy to mingle at the bar or in VIP, just taking in the vibe. Soundcheck might be a natural home for all three club types. But the venue could really shine if it’s able to turn those who ogle DJs like rockstars into those content to just get down.
Soundcheck borrows concepts from underground nightlife and blends them well with an ultra-mainstream experience, fitting evolving expectations of dance music-centered nightlife in D.C. and across the country. As a space where talents can be nurtured in front of a pop-leaning crowd of people who love to dance, Soundcheck is more than ideal.
Photo via Soundcheck