Anyone thinking that DC is just all about Dave Nada, moombahton, Tittsworth’s dietary habits, U Street Music Hall, and emergent names like Nacey and Steve Starks, think again. DC’s history extends back to it’s Southwest corridor, to a plot of land near where the Washington Nationals currently play Major League Baseball. It was there, at what was until 2006 known as Nation, that names as familiar to the present as the aforementioned Tittsworth, New York-based DJ/artist/party promoter Roxy Cottontail, Jen Lasher and global superstars like Tiesto, Laidback Luke, Moby and others grew during their development at the club’s top party night, Buzz. It is in blending that club’s arguably ultimate vibe with an eye towards the present and future that the promoters of DC’s globally respected Club Glow party (it’s a favorite of Tiesto, David Guetta, Above & Beyond and more) Antonis Karagounis and Pete Kalamoutsos led a group that took over the former DC Star nightclub in Northeast DC in September 2012. When finished with renovations, the 30,000 square foot space was transformed into Echostage – a space with re-designed sound, LED displays and unobstructed sight lines. I had the chance to discuss the evolution of DC nightlife, as well as the venue itself with the two owners. The result? An intriguing look at one of the must see nightspots in a resurgent city on the rise.
How would you define the importance of Echostage as a venue in the development of DC’s resurgence as a leading U.S. locale in dance-as-pop music culture?
Pete: Dance music culture has been [in DC] for years. [The] Glow [dance party] is 15-years-old. Before that there were parties at Buzz [nightclub], and as well there’s the influence of the Thievery Corporation and Eighteenth Street lounge, alongside Club Red, and Deep Dish’s residencies. The only difference now is that the mainstream crowd is being recognized.
How do you feel Echostage amplifies the mainstream appreciation of electronic dance music and electronic music culture?
Antonis: Echostage is the only [venue in DC] after all of these years that has all of the [important] elements to appreciate this culture in one venue. [DC] has had amazing nightclubs in the past, but the visual aspect of the show was difficult [to convey]. [At other clubs that have existed in DC], it was hard to do the computer and Internet-based visuals. Engineers can design any graphic for an LED wall now. Where visuals were once limited, that is no longer the case. As much as amazing sound is key, visuals are important, too. The visuals make it easier for someone not 100% into a sound or genre to appreciate show. [A venue like Echostage] is not only fans of artists, but for the clientele that comes for experience. [Combining those elements in a venue] makes it a lot easier to make the trip. There’s also no huge lines and madness outside of the club. Entering Echostage is calm and controlled, and the front door was set up in a way to let people in fast. [For DC, Echostage] is the perfect storm of everything coming together. We have 100% potential. We can book artists to come here, but having [a quality] venue [was] very important. As a promoter, you can promote, but if venue is not quality, it makes things difficult.
What ideas have you incorporated from other venues that you have seen succeed, or other experiences that you have had promoting events to add to the Echostage experience?
Antonis: We remembered the experience of Buzz, and how great the show was there. We learned a lot from [former home of the Glow party] Fur Nightclub. We’ve learned a lot from our mistakes. [Echostage] is set up like a concert venue, which comes from our experiences of promoting events at DC Armory and Identity Festival at Jiffy Lube Live. The experience [at Echostage] is more like an actual festival than anything else.
Pete: Echostage is a live venue, but built with a DJ mentality. Most venues can’t do what Echostage does. It’s not [an event space] laid out for just for ticket selling. We have a great flow. [Echostage] has a new school mentality in that there are some older people don’t want general admission, so we have a seated VIP area. As well, for the younger crowd that may just want to dance, they have that experience on the floor.
What are the goals and objectives for Echostage in the next six to twelve months, and what has been your take on the venue’s first six months of existence?
Pete: Live shows now coming in [via a partnership with] IMP/9:30 Club, [the diversity of the lineup] brings a totally different crowd to the room each night. We can expose so many different types of talented acts to everyone.
Antonis: [We] always want to improve. From small complaints from patrons to making technological advancements as everything changes every year and a half. [We're] always looking for the new thing as far as technology is concerned.
Are there any plans to use Echostage as a place where emergent DC-based talents will be able to use the venue/promoter’s access to the highest reaches of the EDM industry to create a larger footprint in dance music for the Nation’s Capital?
Antonis: A lot of artists we have supported from DC have gone on to bigger things. Pleasurekraft were once residents, as was Matt Goldman who is now touring with Alesso. As well, there are [up and coming] DJs like Des McMahon and Roberto Gonzalez who open for acts right now. We try to support local talent as much as possible, but the issue is that sometimes you cannot have local guys open because of [the requirements of] the touring performer. Anytime we can put a local as an opener, we always do.
Is the venue’s ability to house more than just dance concerts a nod to the expansive tastes of the typical dance music fan of this generation? Or is it just based on an awareness as owners that a space of this size and level of quality is rare in the area, and thus makes it alluring to outside promoters?
Not at all. We wanted to provide a good experience for different clienteles. [We are aware that] there will be an overlap. If you have never been [to Echostage] before [and enjoy the experience], you might come back for a different show in the future. We’re not doing this to bring more people into EDM. Radio and internet are doing a great job of that already. [It feels like] everyone knows the dance artists we book.
As now stalwart promoters who have seen dance culture surge to another level in the Nation’s Capital, what are some of the most important lineups and moments that both of you have either booked or witnessed?
A key lineup was booking Carl Cox and Danny Tenaglia at Echostage. The historic significance of those two DJs playing on the same billing was important. Also, the first time Tiesto played at DC Armory (in 2011), as well as Tiesto at Love Outdoors (in 2007). The first Identity Festival at Jiffy Lube Live was huge, too as we worked with Live Nation. As far as a key set? Back at Insomnia, the three weekends that we had Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and Ferry Corsten on consecutive weekends in November 2001.