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Glaude grooves

Ocean Grooves celebrates another year of thumpin’ the South Sound with a party Friday at The Swiss.

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Listen up, Tacoma. The death of electronica in the South Sound has been greatly exaggerated. Come get smacked upside the head with evidence of its vibrancy on Friday, April 20, when Ocean Grooves celebrates its Eighth Anniversary at the Swiss. Headlining will be native DJ-gone-global Donald Glaude, DJ dAb and DJ Omar. That’s right. Deck wizard Donald Glaude at the Swiss.

The times they are a changin’…

The last time our home-town, world-renowned, house music pioneer was at the Swiss, Toni Braxton was topping the charts and P Diddy was still Puff Daddy. Ocean Grooves co-founder Calvin Murphy will help welcome him back, carrying high hopes that Glaude’s world-class skill will be enough to convince the locals that techno is worth a try in Tacoma.

“I was talking with Donald, and I gave him three options — The Siren, The Loft, or the Swiss,” says Murphy. “He wanted the Swiss. We’re trying to break a lot of barriers down by doing it at the Swiss. You don’t have to get all dolled up for this show.”

Despite his renown, Glaude is still a down-to-earth guy. According to his bio, he has always preferred an emotional connection with his audience to commercial claims to fame. Born in Tacoma, his love for music began at an early age. He grew up listening to Parliament, Funkadelic and R&B radio. His instrument of choice? An upright bass. In fact, the would-be golden boy of house music spent four years studying classical music before his plans were decimated by listening to his first house record. After falling in love with the precise, hypnotic, bass-heavy sound, Glaude amassed a huge record collection before he ever got his hands on a mixer. At the time, few shared his love. It was a lonely place for a boy in Tacoma.

In a Tacoma club scene vacuum, Glaude taught himself to wreck records with a pair of mismatched turntables and a Radio Shack mixer. He began to DJ anywhere he could in the Seattle and Tacoma area, working the same clubs as another up-and-coming DJ by the name of Dan. In short order the pair managed to spark a rave scene in Seattle and  developed masses of underground fans.

Before Glaude, few DJs had attempted to spin using house records. Glaude pioneered the technique, and his ability and mechanics set new standards and gave birth to a new style. He is truly a demigod in the techno pantheon. 

Unlike many DJs, Glaude’s work on the decks consists of more than switching between overplayed club tracks. For Glaude, spinning records is an art. In fact, he claims that his artistry is intended to provoke the soul. During the past 14 years, he has been responsible for seeding vibrant musical landscapes for audiences up and down the West Coast.

After helping to birth the Seattle rave scene, Glaude’s unparalleled energy and showmanship helped him gain residency with San Francisco’s legendary Funky Tekno Tribe.

Glaude has since produced five full-length CDs and more remixes than I can count. He’s produced dance floor burners such as “Get Up” and “Soul Cha Cha,” both of which belong in the history books. Constantly honing his production skills, Glaude has since launched two record labels — Eden Recordings, with fellow DJ Rick V, and Durty Records, a collaboration with friend Vince Lombardi.

His 2005 work double CD, This is Me, boasts 35 tracks and shows off Glaude’s always-evolving skill. He is currently hard at work on another double, For the People, a live recording with original tracks produced by Glaude. Also expect new releases from both Eden Recordings and Durty Records.

While Glaude was launching labels and touring the globe, his home town struggled to honor it’s techno heritage, says resident DJ Omar. During the past 10 years or so, Ocean Grooves’ Murphy, Sean Ober, a.ka. DJ dAb, and Omar have thrown more parties than just about anyone in Tacoma. As the house scene grew there, Omar slowly realized that despite its domination of club scenes in Seattle and other metros, techno was destined to be an underground phenomenon in T-town.

“The first three years of doing this, I realized we were part of an underground scene,” says Omar. “There is still this idea that we are a bunch of glow-stick toting drug addicts, which is totally not us.”

Ocean Groove’s Sean Ober, a.k.a. DJ dAb, contends that despite the dumb stereotypes, the techno scene is experiencing a rebirth. Driven by electro-punk and other techno-fusion mutations, Dab expect to see a strange revival in coming years.

“The scene is building up again. We’re going to see a lot of genre‘s together again, which is great,” says Dab. “As long as people are open minded and willing to listen to new sounds, we’re going to have so much fun.”

In Tacoma, the rebirth of techno will may just begin at the Swiss, says Murphy. Making room for something other than Top-40, he hopes, will be easier as the local club scene grows.

“Right now you’ve got rock, hip hop and jazz,” says Murphy. “Hopefully we’ll be able to expose people to the cultures of electronic music. If people respond to it, we’ll bring them more.”

Ocean Grooves Eighth Anniversary Party

With: Donald Glaude, DJ dAb and  DJ Omar

When: Friday, April 20. 9 p.m., 21+

Where: The Swiss, 1904 S. Jefferson, Tacoma, 253.572.2821

Cost: $10

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