DJs lose business with 21 ordinance, excited for Party at the Old Brick


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As one of the few remaining structures from the Civil War era left standing in Iowa City, Old Brick has become something of a historical landmark for many residents. Originally constructed as the North Presbyterian Church in 1865, Old Brick has been transformed into a community center aiming to aid “benevolent nonprofit” groups. On Friday night, however, the Romanesque building will serve a different purpose — a raging dance club.

As part of a move to encourage the city to invest in an underage dance club, University of Iowa freshmen Evan Ivory and Corey Collins have organized a series of dance parties at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., with the next one at 10 p.m. Friday. Admission is free.

With the addition of local DJ Kage, the party has a legitimate source of entertainment. This may be exactly what Iowa City DJs needed.

Since the 21-ordinance took effect last summer, the city has changed, and one of the overlooked areas of that change has been in the Iowa City DJ scene. Many remember the flourishing bar life that Iowa City had a year ago, in which DJs were a hot commodity for such venues as the Summit, Yacht Club, and Vito’s. Now, many DJs are struggling to find gigs.

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“The Yacht Club took a huge hit during the summer when [the 21-ordinance] took effect. You got bars closing, you got really low attendance,” said Keith Garnant, known as DJ Kage. “A lot of my DJ buddies, the older ones, are kind of out of work.”

Garnant is one of the city’s underground DJs — one who disdains playing only the typical Top 40 hits, and one with big hopes for the coming semester. As the headlining DJ for Friday’s “Party at the Old Brick,” he feels it’s an opportunity for the performing DJs to go past the most popular songs to show audiences good dance music.

“I really think this party at Old Brick is going to be huge,” Garnant said. “I think this is kind of like the Phoenix rising out of the ashes.”

Ivory and Collins see the event as a way for underage students to still experience club life after 10 p.m., when they are no longer allowed in bars. The two said they want to persuade the city that an underage club downtown would be a positive investment and one that would be a compromise between students and city officials. Garnant said he believes underage students don’t have many options to occupy themselves past 10 p.m., so this could be the “perfect solution everybody wants.”

“People want to have a good time; they want to be able to let loose,” he said.

If he were to be realistic, Ivory said, he knows there is no way to stop underage drinking. He doesn’t believe that an underage club will stop the talk about student binge drinking, but such a club will simply give students a place to go downtown instead of attending house parties.

As the semester goes on, Ivory and Collins said they hope to continue throwing dance parties at Old Brick and keep DJ Kage as their main performer. For Garnant, this has been a strong positive in an otherwise difficult start to the year.

“I would love to make this a part of my life, a part of my income,” he said. “This is pretty much all I got going for myself.”

Originally from Barrington, Ill., he first became serious about DJ-ing when he saw Daft Punk at Chicago’s Lollapalooza festival in 2007. He’s always been involved in music, whether it was piano, trumpet, or drums. DJ-ing gave him the chance to entertain at parties.

In college, Garnant discovered his style while playing gigs at the Yacht Club — something he believes a lot of DJs neglect to do.

“A lot of DJs are pretty minimal in their style,” he said. “I try to create a new version of every song I play, every time I play it.”

The DJ scene in Iowa City has experienced a lift from the steady shows at the Yacht Club, the growing opportunities at Gabe’s, and the occasional show at other Iowa City venues, he said.

Joe Martin, also known as DJ Slow Mo Joe, said he believes the 21-ordinance has definitely made things more difficult, but he loves the underground atmosphere the DJs have experienced.

“Basically, we’re pulling more from everybody to bring something. Everybody’s bringing something to the table,” he said. “We’re just coming here being entertaining and entertaining each other. It’s a big family.”

Liz Alonzi, a newcomer to the Iowa City DJ scene, said opportunities for DJs have been increasing with Tuesday night dances at the Yacht Club and the newly introduced Thursday night dances at Gabe’s. She believes the event at Old Brick will be a unique opportunity for people to hear new music.

“I think it’s going to help the electronic music scene,” she said. “It’s going to introduce people to the music. It’s fun to share.”

Martin is also a fan of the “Party at the Old Brick” because, in his view, it’s a fresh venue for people to enjoy the space. He said there is an obvious concern for having that many people in one spot. This is no surprise to Ivory, who is well aware of the potential problems.

“It’s better to try and fail than to not try at all,” he said.

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