Beneath an image of a misshapen character with his face dripping away from his skull, the flyer for darkroom’s Face Melt night promises hip-hop, dubstep and glitch. That drawing, by artist Joey Potts, vividly illustrates the auditory effect that curators Marco “Maker” Jacobo, Nigel “DJ Trew” Ridgeway and Jason “DJ Intel” Deuchler hope for.
“I think in its simplest form, it’s just about big beats and bass—any style,” says promoter Ridgeway of Face Melt, which is about to hold its sixth edition on Friday 29. “I’ve heard a Maker set where he’s gone from that Jamie xx shuffle to some psych records to some B-boy track, and then into dubstep in the span of, like, 15 minutes. The underlying factor was just bass,” he adds, laughing.
“We’re booking people because of their abilities and what they can do, whatever style of music it’s gonna be,” says Jacobo, a longtime local hip-hop producer who spins and also helps book talent at Face Melt. “I’ve brought a couple things to the table, like a heavy metal, progressive band, ’cause it was just hard.”
With the free-flowing format, the showcase isn’t always easy to explain beyond the common thread of bass-heavy music. “It’s kind of a hard sell,” admits Ridgeway. “If anything, people recognize the face.” Still, more than just the music, the organizers aim to bridge the gap among the many bass and beats nights Chicago has to offer.
The Face Melt party is a concept that has been on the drawing board for some time, but finally came to fruition earlier this year as a platform to gather underrepresented local acts such as instrumental hip-hop duo SlapBox, whose work carries a heavy head-nod factor. It doesn’t matter whether the participants are glitched-out or metal heavy. The most recent night of the showcase saw atmospheric downtempo duo Down Giant fit right in alongside the bottom-heavy sounds of DJ NewLife—the latter especially evoked cheers mixing up subwoofer-friendly cuts by Dead Prez and the Beastie Boys with bass remixes of rugged hip-hop.
The expansiveness of Face Melt falls right in line with L.A.’s renowned hip-hop-meets-electronic weekly Low End Theory. Like that night, organized by producer Daddy Kev, Face Melt features residents (DJs Intel and Maker in this case), local guests, like NewLife or glitch-fiend DJ C, and the occasional out-of-town headliner. The main difference between here and the L.A. scene is that Chicago’s beat community isn’t quite as connected.
Jacobo, who has played Low End Theory and other West Coast nights, hopes Face Melt can provide the same all-city, all-style unity. “All the different scenes connect in one place,” he says of L.A. “And it would be nice to have that scene here.”
Drawing on that, this month is being dubbed a “locals only” edition and will feature dubstep specialist Ruckus, dub head BRC and left-field hip-hop producer Cos. Jacobo also promises to throw a curveball with a Bollywood-meets-Indonesian psychedelic set. “All the songs I play make the face,” he says before letting out a chuckle, referencing the night’s signature flyer.
“Our initial goal was to build something that was Chicago beat-centric,” explains Ridgeway. “I think the next two months are definitely all about that.” As he contemplates, he adds, “We talk about, ‘what is a Chicago sound?’ and we can’t really put our finger on it. I think if we do this right, we can begin helping everyone to find that.”
Face Melt heats up at darkroom on Friday 29.