Late last Saturday night, when the atmosphere had become saturated with sound and sweat, bodies and booze, the New Amsterdam opened the pressure valve: Its glass garage door flew up for a moment, letting in the unseasonably balmy night air, and allowing the thumping bass to spill out onto an otherwise quiet Butler Street. The new Lawrenceville club had drawn what seemed to be a capacity crowd with the debut of a new DJ night, Hijack.
Pumping house and techno through a beast of a sound system were DJs Local (a.k.a. Ryan Walsh), Edgar Um and Aaron Clark of Humanaut. In addition to partygoers, the crowd included a number of local DJs and electronic musicians. As someone with an extreme aversion to dancebarns, I thought the atmosphere seemed just about right, and a pleasant change from the rare soul, old-school hip-hop and global dance music that's frequently offered at small local clubs. While I certainly didn't expect or want cheesy lasers and fog, my only complaint was that the advertised "transformation" of the club's interior seemed to amount to a video projector throwing up some grainy footage on one wall.
Hijack continues next month on Sat., March 7, with the addition of Belfast-based DJ Sage, who did a stint in Pittsburgh as drummer for the excellent all-female indie band The Great Ants. And Edgar Um hosts Detroit DJs John Arnold and Frankie bank$ at Shadow Lounge on Fri., Feb. 13, a benefit for CMU's Coro Fellows Class of 2009.
As has been pointed out in some online forums -- where the wording of Hijack's promotional materials drew the ire of some scene stalwarts -- Pittsburgh offers plenty of other opportunities to take in house and techno in small clubs. So if Hijack piqued an interest for some newcomers, as I suspect it did, you've got some digging ahead of you.
Another new night to check out is The Beat Aesthetic -- Deep House Champions, taking place in the Shadow Lounge's cool-yet-cozy Blue Room. For its second installment, on Sat., Feb. 21, the DJs are Aaesir St. James, Tom Cox, Eric Justin and Yuji San. For more info -- and to stream mixes by St. James -- visit thebeataesthetic.podomatic.com.
And for more background on local champions of adventurous dance music, one would do well to check out Technoir Audio, a long-running DJ collective and label headed up by Shawn Rudiman and Jwan Allen. For more information, visit www.technoiraudio.com.