After weeks of planning, the picnic thrown by Deep Connections, a twenty-member-strong collective that focuses on house music, saw its format drastically altered when the Shawnee Mission Park police called two days before the event to state their opposition to a "rave" being held on the premises. Live music was prohibited, which nixed the scheduled lineup of The House Coalition, Simply Soul Syndicate, Miss Michaela, Nina Lishious and Joe Cummings, but Deep Connections e-mailed everyone on the original invitation list to confirm its intentions to "get our grub on and jam out to the boom box." Unfortunately, the latter activity proved controversial, as park officials persuaded a reluctant crowd of roughly 150 to go sans music -- although alfresco diners at nearby shelters continued to play their radios.
Given the lengths to which legitimate rave promoters have to go to stage their all-night events, holding a questionable event in a public space in broad daylight would seem absurdly disingenuous, but House Coalition and Deep Connections member Joey C says it's not surprising that his organization is suspected of such stupidity. "They think we're drug dealers, thugs, hoodlums, vagrants," he says, sitting behind the counter at Deep Fix, the record store he co-owns. "Why not call us artists or entrepreneurs or creative people?"
Deep Connections has devised some creative ways to escape the smothering scrutiny given to dance-music events. On April 21, the group held its first members-only party at El Torreon. By ensuring that everyone in attendance registered as a member in advance, Deep Connections enabled its all-night bash to qualify as a private party, thus eluding the city statutes that traditionally plague raves. Not that the group was interested in flouting the law -- Deep Connections hired off-duty police officers to conduct searches at the door. Rather, Joey C says, Deep Connections just wanted to throw a party in midtown by any legal means necessary.
"We could go to the suburbs and get away with having an all-night party at a skating rink or whatever," he says. "Every major metropolis has something like that going on in the suburbs every weekend, and Kansas City has more suburbs than anyone. But everyone talks about revitalizing downtown, reigniting this great love affair with the city of fountains, and we want to be a part of that. We want to utilize the great venues and spaces available in the city, where everything is."
Deep Connections' next event takes place at El Torreon on Saturday, June 16, but because there's another show on the same night (The Big Iron, Kosher and the Rol Models) for which the venue has acquired a liquor license, the dance-music portion of the evening's entertainment will shut down at 3 a.m. Because of the relatively early stop time, this all-ages event, dubbed Rhythm on the Rise, won't be a members-only gig -- anyone willing to part with $15 may enter. Well-traveled Chicago-based DJ Mark Grant headlines the bill, which also includes house DJ and recent Wichita transplant Shelley, local deep-house/techno hybrid master Danny Ward, feisty jungle spinner Pheylene and the jungle team of 1-800 and Scenario. "Scenario is one of the top drum-and-bass MCs out there," Joey C says before clarifying this distinction for the benefit of the hip-hop nation. "In hip-hop, the DJ complements the MC, who's out in front. In drum-and-bass, it's the opposite. The MC serves as more of a crowd coordinator."
Noticeably absent from the roster is Deep Connections' own The House Coalition, which also sits out the DC-sponsored Thursday night Shades of Soul showcase at Spark Bar. "We try to keep the performance and promotion aspects separated," Joey C explains. "It can be hard, but we check our egos at the door and try to be patriots for the scene." THC continues to spin regularly out of town, with recent treks to Iowa, St. Louis and Wichita.
On Mondays from 5 to 8 p.m., Deep Fix hosts Manic Mondays, an in-store jungle jam featuring 1-800, James Bond and other members of the Nightbreed Operations clique. An impromptu, informal performance often takes place on Fridays, when DJ Roland arrives to sample the newest arrivals. The store's DJ-heavy clientele often hangs out at the store until the latest shipments arrive, waiting to take the fresh wax out for a spin. And lately, those who test the vinyl over the shop's louder-than-usual sound system have been taking their records home -- Deep Fix has been topping its sales record nearly every week. But as the name of the store implies, its owners crave a fix, and all of the proceeds from sold records go into purchasing new ones. Joey C, who works a full-time job in addition to putting in an average of three full days a week at the store, lists a litany of pressing needs -- oil change, new shoes -- that he'll ignore to afford the latest beats.
Deep Connections doesn't exactly rake in the profits from its events, either. In fact, Joey C says he feels fortunate to break even. "There's so much math involved," he says with a sigh, listing all of the permits and expenses that all-night dance parties entail. "It's sickening."
But then, he already knows better than anyone that being a rave promoter is no picnic.