As an artist whose style can’t be categorized, it isn’t surprising that NYC-based Wyatt Stevens, better known as MoMA Ready when he’s performing, put together an eclectic lineup of DJs all under one roof at H0l0 in Queens. It was refreshing to see not only gifted artists of color, but a huge range of musical genres for MLK weekend.
The event name, Cryosleep, a process where astronauts in sci-fi movies are put into a state of suspended animation via a chamber or freezing, is reminiscent of the music’s black roots in futurism, turning the night into somewhat of a techno history lesson. What’s more, the event was a throwback to underground nightlife with no event page on Facebook and no pre-sales on Resident Advisor. Just one flyer:
The event was held on Saturday at H0l0, a two-room bar and industrial performance space in Ridgewood, Queens. I walked through the ordinary gray door, escaping the rain and heading down the steps that led to the entrance. I could already hear music...but it wasn’t the free-flowing machine music I was expecting.
A middle-aged rock band appeared to be finishing up their show for an audience of four standing around the tables. Stevens and his crew hurried around to set up shop. Chairs were moved out of the back room and people ran into a room behind the bar to get equipment.
The band, having gone over time, set Cryosleep back about an hour. Stevens appeared calm despite the delay. He helped haul cases of DJ gear and moved swiftly, black trench blowing behind him. Stools were put back at the small, round tables in front of the bar and a long table with CDJs was carried towards the entrance.
While Stevens walked around with an incense stick as a final blessing, weird housey tunes started coming from the back room. I pushed through the big sound-proofed door, then another one and closed it behind me.
It was Dee Diggs, a Boston SHAKE resident now Brooklyn-based, playing under the alias, Black Jade. She carefully fused dreamy house rhythms with touches of acid and a crushing bass. Vocals came in and faded into saxophone melodies, moving me and some early comers in no time. Little by little the dancefloor started to fill up. The sensual elements of Black Jade’s set were reflected in her body language as well with hands gently touching a knob only to drift it back up in a wave, head leaning back with eyes closed. She feels the music. At one point a scratching record sent us into a break-beat jam. Before I knew it I was front and left as Underground Resistance chanted, “I AM. YOU ARE. WE WILL. RESIST.” Needless to say, the energy was high at this point. Tone officially set.
Meanwhile, in the front room, Astor Clement held it down with some trippy techno. He delved into harder, industrial sounds and bounced around with breakbeats seamlessly. The label head of Buck Down Records is known to lean towards jungle, drum ‘n’ bass, and house, but as I was beginning to notice, this night wasn’t about categorizing the music.
As his underground lifestyle label, Haus of Altr suggests, Stevens along with his friend and frequent collaborator, AceMo, are focused on disrupting this tendency and bringing new energy to the city's house and techno community.
H0l0’s front area was cooled down, the perfect space to sit and catch up with friends or grab a Yerba Mate to recharge. That was all I needed before I was on my feet again, eventually making my way to the back where Stevens was about to take over the decks.
With a composer's precision and stylish rectangular glasses to boot, he wasn’t Wyatt anymore. MoMA Ready’s body moved to the music with such ferocity, it was contagious. The crowd screamed and bounced along as high-energy, uplifting sounds developed into a crushing set with industrial elements. Breaks smoothly drifted into euphoric, spacey techno before jumping acid beats took over.
Both rooms were nearly full of people, something I wasn’t expecting as a crowd often favors one act when two are going on at the same time.
Mathematician-turned DJ, Neon Nuckles ripped a hypnotic techno mix up front, lacing old reggae tracks like Mr. Vegas’ “Heads High” and some hip-hop. With all of the venue’s lights turned off and fog flowing, it really started to feel like a rave. Neon Nuckles' deep warps and lasers felt like being sucked through a wormhole. Then hard-hitting tribal beats came in, forcing her to jump around behind the booth. The crowd followed as soulful vocals and abrasive rap lyrics weaved in and out of each other.
Soon Juke Bounce Werk member, Swisha, took his place in the front area, mixing the likes of Sade and Ginuwine among others in his percussion-laden set. Groovy, with a heavy kick, was a far cry from the more futuristic melodies Neon Nuckles had just played and an even farther cry from what was brewing in the back.
ALKHEMY cofounder, Xiorro set up and wasted no time crushing the last remaining ravers with his signature industrial energy. I swear the whole room shook. Fast and furious drums made my chest vibrate while machine and outer space sounds sent me into another dimension. The contrast of musical styles at this point was too stark for my taste so I stayed in the back and stomped away to the pummeling, dark techno.
Black Jade returned for the final hour, this time to the front room playing soulful house grooves, an indicator that Cryosleep was coming to a close. It was a perfect comedown for the night.
While the turnout wasn’t normally as big as what you’d see at one of Steven's parties, the energy was still present and for a chilly, rainy night, that was all I needed.