On July 16, A.G. Cook took over Elsewhere, one of Bushwick’s most iconic venues. Just a few hours earlier that night, the future of the scene that he helped to pioneer was boiling over from LA into New York City.
Elsewhere’s “Zone One” stage was being taken over by Subculture Party, a queer-centric monthly rave series centered around hyperpop, EDM and dance culture that was started in 2019 by Gannon Baxter and Tyler Shepherd. Just as they were trying to get Subculture off of the ground, the pandemic hit. They were forced to move the raves online, but what seemingly spelt the demise for Subculture actually proved to jumpstart its success. Hyperpop was taking off online, and Subculture provided the sprouting fanbase with a way to see their favorite artists from the comfort of their own home.
Subculture moved back in person in July of last year, with the Elsewhere rave being just their third event in New York City. It featured a headliner performance by CMTEN — a glitchcore artist from Salt Lake City who had been performing at Subculture’s Zoom events throughout the pandemic after going viral online in 2020 for his boisterously sad song “NEVER MET!”
For his set at Elsewhere, CMTEN threw in a mix of his music, remixes and music by other artists, gravitating particularly towards dariacore — a hyperpop offshoot scene started by Jane Remover under her alternate monicker “Leroy,” where she took the general public’s least favorite aspects of Jersey club, dubstep and hyperpop and fused them together into the auditory equivalent of chugging five Monster energy drinks in a row.
According to CMTEN, “there’s really no other environment in which that’s been possible for me,” telling PAPER that he’s “immensely grateful” for the opportunity to perform at the event in real life. He premiered his new single “alive” at the show, out now everywhere.
Despite their success, Subculture has still mostly just been an LA phenomenon, only occasionally dipping their toes into New York City. They’re ready to change that.
PAPER sat down to chat with Gannon Baxter and Tyler Shepherd from Subculture ahead of their upcoming shows in Chicago and LA to talk about the arduous process of kickstarting the raves and what’s in store for the future.
How did Subculture start?
Subculture Party actually started in a queer-owned taqueria in downtown Santa Ana, Orange County in 2018 named El Rincon. We would throw crazy themed events like “Toxic Future,” “Heart Destroyerz,” “Dungeons & Dragons,” “CarnEVIL” to name a few. We got to a point of working for and going to so many different events and nightlife establishments that we wanted to try it our own way and play the music that we wanted to hear. Turns out everybody digged it. Eventually, we outgrew Orange County and headed to Los Angeles, first at a dive bar and then moved into a larger club space to accommodate everyone.
Subculture ironically seemed to take off during the pandemic, an event that should've been the kryptonite to anybody trying to get a foot into the live music industry. Why do you think that is?
When the pandemic hit, we thought it was over for Subculture. It was a really depressing and stressful time for us. When we were about to throw in the towel, some of our friends suggested we try bringing the party online. It actually began to gather quite a bit of steam, and we threw these online shows every single Saturday night for what seemed to be a year or more, which was truthfully exhausting but also a lot of fun and definitely gave the community a place to hang out and let loose. One thing led to another and suddenly some of our favorite artists were reaching out to DJ or perform virtually. It was kind of insane and we’re so grateful!
What has it been like starting up Subculture events in person again, since COVID restrictions have lifted? What challenges came along with it?
When we planned our first party back in LA post-pandemic, we were super nervous! We wondered if anybody would even show up since we’d been strictly online for a year. We weren’t any strangers to throwing and planning real parties, but the scale of everything increased. We posted a little teaser announcement with the date and a title “Subculture IRL” — ironic because we had always been IRL, but we thought it would be smart to clarify. Before we even released the lineup three days later, the event had completely sold out! The community was ready to be together again.
What are the main differences between hosting events in LA and New York City?
Truthfully our LA family is always so hyped and energetic, and it was really heartwarming to see the same energy in a city we’ve only been in three times before. We think the main difference between preparing for these events is wondering if we can gather the same type of positive and accepting energy our crowd is known for, and the New York Subculture didn’t disappoint! In our heads we wondered if anybody would show up at 6 PM since that's the earliest event we've ever thrown and it was awesome to see so many icons showing up fully glammed and ready to turn it out with the sun still out!
Subculture is a super queer-friendly space. What does that mean to you?
We like to consider Subculture Party a queer-centric space. The atmosphere and energy is loving, accepting, wild and daring, but overall safe for anybody to attend and have a place where they don’t have to worry about being judged. We’re so thankful that even as the event continues to grow, it seems like people understand the vibe and keep the positive and welcoming energy. Lots of people have shared stories of attending alone and leaving with new friends, and that’s super important to us.
Subculture has an event coming up in Chicago with siouxxie sixxsta, Xadvoi, and Lucas Lex on August 19. How are you guys preparing for that?
Everybody performing for that event had actually collaborated with us during quarantine. We would get messages and comments all the time from people telling us to throw a Subculture in Chicago. They would tell us there’s nothing like us out there, so we decided to hit up some of our friends who have played our online shows during the pandemic that live out there to be a part of our very first Chicago Subculture. After securing a really cool historic venue, Subterranean, recommended to us by our friend umru, we began planning. There will be a couple extra surprises in store for everyone. We can’t wait to unveil it!
Are there any crazy plans in the works for the future of Subculture?
Crazy plans? Yes, VERY crazy. The sky's the limit. We have one of our absolute largest events slated for winter. We cannot speak on it yet, but it’ll be very public once we’re able to announce! Oh, and Tokyo, UK and EU next year!
Photography: Luis Nieto Dickens for Elsewhere Space
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