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Tomorrow night, Southwest D.C.’s sublime Blind Whino will play host to Trapitol Hill, a dance party aiming to unite the dance music crowd and art lovers for a night of debauchery at the revitalized former Friendship Baptist Church.
To gain a better understanding of the party, Washington City Paper spoke to organizer DJ Slugworth. The Florida native explained what he hopes Trapitol Hill will be, while also discussing the mainstreaming of EDM.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Washington City Paper: What is Trapitol Hill’s overarching mission?
DJ Slugworth: I think the mission is to create something that combines street art and electronic music to make a unique party that reminds people of the underground rave scene from back in the day, while still being legal and permanent.
WCP: Why Blind Whino as a location this time around?
DJ Slugworth: I’ve been trying to book this venue for over a year. I’ve known Shane [Pomajambo of Blind Whino] for a long time. When I heard he was working on this church, I immediately said, “I’m going to throw a party there.” So I asked him about it, and he said no. I asked him about it again, and he said no. I kept hitting him up, and he finally agreed. Shane has the best taste of art, venue-wise, of anyone I’ve ever met. I just wanted to combine my experience with music and his experience with art to make the coolest event anyone has ever seen.
WCP: The party is billed as one that makes others “jealous.” What does it have that other parties in the same vein lack?
DJ Slugworth: The art in Blind Whino is the biggest difference between our party and another party. You can buy a ticket to see somebody perform at U Street Music Hall, Echostage, and 9:30 Club, and you know exactly what you’re going to get. You’re going to show up, there’s going to be bass music pumping, you’ll be able to buy some drinks and there will be some visuals. With Trapitol Hill, there’s more mystery. There’s this church that’s covered in street art, and you don’t know what you’re going to get. When people show up, they’ll see the exterior of the building that’s amazing, and there’s the interior of the building that’s also amazing. They’re going to see art on display in the gallery in addition to the music, and it’s an opportunity for other people to showcase their creative endeavors. One of my friends makes food and donates her profits to adults with disabilities, and she’ll be there cooking up food for people. It’s really just an opportunity for the entire community to get together and have a lot of different people participate more so than one of these mainstream shows where the venue, a promoter and the artist benefit, and everyone else is a spectator.
WCP: How do you feel about trap music and EDM becoming less of a subculture these days?
DJ Slugworth: I have mixed feelings. On one hand, back in the day, when parties were underground, you really had to know someone to find out about them. When you did, you’d go, and it was peace, love, unity, and respect. It was really inclusive, and I think the scene nowadays has less of that. It’s become really mainstream. It’s just you and your friends and a bunch of strangers. On the other hand, it’s created huge opportunities for people to do huge things that they never could before. If you’re making good electronic music, you can achieve levels of success that were unimaginable a few years ago…[T]he ceiling is so much higher now. It creates more incentive for people to make good music, and I think there’s a lot more good music because of that.
WCP: In that same respect, has DJing gone the way of dance music? Some people don’t spin vinyl and anyone can go to DJ school or download a program and call themselves a DJ. Do you think that’s left the artform watered down?
DJ Slugworth: For the record, I spin vinyl, but I’m probably one of the few. It’s interesting; like you said, anyone can go to Guitar Center and buy themselves a controller for $200 or something and start calling themselves a DJ. At the end of the day, you still have to do something to get people’s attention. But I think the more DJs there are, the more good DJs there will be, if that makes sense. I think the quality and volume of good music that’s created right now is unparalleled with any other era in electronic music, or music in general. Anyone can download Ableton and start messing around with it, and there’s been more tracks released, both good and bad. The flipside of everyone being a DJ is that there’s a lot of good music out there, you just have to find it.
WCP: The response to Trapitol Hill has been pretty strong. Are you looking to draw more than the typical EDM crowd?
DJ Slugworth: Yeah, we’re looking to go after the art crowd as well. I think there’s a significant amount of people interested in street art, and will come out just for that side of the party. The music is just an added bonus. In the last couple of years, I know EDM has blown up, but I think street art has really blown up parallel to that. There aren’t too many people bringing them together. There are a couple of people doing that, one of them being the BUKU Music + Art Project in New Orleans. I think they’re doing the best job of combining street art and EDM, but there’s more opportunity to cross-promote between the two groups.
Trapitol Hill begins at 7 p.m. at Blind Whino, 734 1st St. SW. Tickets, $15–$60, are available via Eventbrite.