When Mark Dinerstein began booking acts in 2006 for Knitting Factory in Boise, he got some sobering advice about dance music in this region.
Dont you dare book a DJ and charge $25 for it, he was advised. People just wont come.
Flash forward to last week: DJ/producer Pretty Lights sold out the Knit: 999 fans on a Thursday.
What a difference a few years make. In 2012, electronic dance music (EDM) is saturating the planet even Boise, where trends tend to arrive a bit late.
A DJ spinning tunes in a dark booth? Not anymore. Todays laptop-fueled EDM shows are a visceral journey. DJs mix and dance on stage, armed with chest-rattling bass, swiveling lasers and eye-popping, hi-tech LED graphics that zig-zag to the beat.
Encouraged by the genres explosive growth in major markets, Dinerstein methodically has been booking EDM in Boise for the past 18 months. Dubstep purveyor Skrillex sold out the Knit in summer 2011, months before winning three Grammy Awards. A few weeks ago, Kaskade drew 754 fans to a Knitting Factory show priced at $40 a head.
Smaller Boise promoters also have been organizing gigs, ranging from a weekly local-DJ night at Fattys Bar to annual Fright Fest and Not Silent Night holiday events at places like the PowerHouse.
The Revolution Center in Garden City is the latest to elbow its way onto the dance floor with big names: Steve Aoki is coming on Oct. 17; Bassnectar on Oct. 25.
Boise is still behind the EDM curve compared to larger markets. But that could change fast, the speed everything moves in this scene.
I feel like Boises on the verge of blowing up, says promoter and DJ Tim Beck, recently hired to head the dance division of the Revolution Centers promoter CTTouring.
Dinerstein says he has tried to develop EDM in Boise while keeping prices down. Hes hoping fans will trust the Knit to offer cutting-edge EDM that includes unfamiliar acts.
Thats part of the concept behind the Knits bundled Fall EDM Pass: For $59, fans were offered five EDM shows including last weeks big Pretty Lights gig. Some of the other acts are Wolfgang Gartner (Oct. 19), Big Gigantic (Oct. 20) and Datsik (Nov. 12.) The pass has sold out.
The whole point of this was not to line our pockets, he says, but to take a finite amount of people, and not only to reward those people for taking a chance, but to give them a chance to see things maybe they havent heard about before.
Beck says building a scene on trust can work. He drew 1,400 fans to his second annual Fright Fest last year without big-name headliners.
With electronic music ... theres like half the crowd whos really into it, and they know whos playing, Beck says, and half the crowd who just go for the party. So what promoters do is they brand events with a specific name.
The countrys largest EDM blowout is the Electric Daisy Carnival, which drew 300,000-plus fans to Las Vegas over three days this summer. In Boise, Beck is hoping to amp up his holiday bashes by moving them to the Revolution Center.
Henry Rennar, who books bands at Reef in Boise, sees the onslaught of EDM at the Knit and Revolution Center in the next month or two as a barometer for where Boise stands.
Rennar booked eight up-and-coming EDM acts on Sunday nights in summer 2011 and lost money on all but two: Kill the Noise had 60 people, he groans. He has two features on Skrillexs new album.
With that memory still fresh, Rennar isnt ready to trumpet Boise as a card-carrying EDM market yet.
Heres the problem: If you have to do Pretty Lights, Bassnectar, Steve Aoki, Kaskade to have people show up to a show, thats not a real EDM scene, Rennar says. If youre bringing mid-level artists, indie up-and-comers, and youre getting 100 to 300 people out on those shows, then you have a scene.
But I think its awesome that places like Revolution and Knitting Factory are stepping out there and taking those risks, he adds, just to see if this can be a viable market for these artists that are touring all around our country, drawing huge crowds. Bassnectar, everywhere he goes, he has 3,000 tickets sold that are $30 and $40.
Most promoters see room for growth here, maybe even bringing a titanic act like Deadmau5 someday.
I can imagine bigger events in Boise, Dinerstein says. I am already working on them.
But not all the EDM acts coming in the next two months will do huge numbers, predicts DJ and promoter Jeffrey Jensen, the man behind dance night FML Thursdays at Fattys.
Thats just the way it goes, especially in this town, he explains. But theres no stopping it at this point. The EDM machine is moving forward whether people want it to or not. Eventually, Boise has to get on board.