As the wind’s bite grows duller and the snow on my rooftop deck begins to melt, I know one thing for certain: festival season is fast approaching!! As excited as we all are about basking in the sun at CRSSD, Ultra, and Coachella—to name a few—I think it is important to take a look back at some of our favorite hardworking hotspots who support local and upcoming talents and bring us solid lineups year round. Here’s the first part of a deeply abridged list of some of the nation’s most beloved underground clubs. It merits mentioning that this writer chose to view “underground” as a distinction tangential—not antithetical—to the chic “models & bottles” attitudes and big-room, mainstream EDM events. For the purposes of this article, I’ve sought out discerning, intimate clubs who continue to book quality talent according to their own tastes rather than charts, stats, or sales. Here they are in random order!
SMART BAR - CHICAGO, IL
In addition to hosting a slew of internationally renown DJs, Smart Bar is an active curatorial voice in Chicago’s richly storied deep electronic music scene. Along with a juicy lineup of resident DJs (Justin Long, The Black Madonna, & Derrick Carter to name a few), the venue has introduced a junior residency program to help foster the most promising talent—like rising stars DVS1 and Honey Dijon. Smart Bar also takes care to promote female and queer voices in the electronic spectrum with its serial Hugo Ball parties and DAPHNE happenings. If that weren’t enough, the club has recently undergone some thoughtful renovations—including upgraded lighting, a new Funktion One sound system, and the installation of a natural wood grain dance floor.
OUTPUT - BROOKLYN, NY
Output’s website really says it best:
“Output is open to anyone, but is not for everyone. Output welcomes individuals who value the communal experience of music over cameras, ropes, and bottles.”
This muscular space was engineered for atmosphere (cameras and cell phone usage is frowned upon) and the club is as well known for its attitude as it is for it’s stacked lineups. In the past two months, this heavy hitter has hosted DJ sets by Boys Noize, Claude Vonstroke, Bonobo, and Disclosure to name a few. Considering its capacity tops out at around 450, patrons are guaranteed to experience intimate, no-frills sets from their favorite DJs. The venue also features local and deeper talent nightly—like some of my favorite Brooklynites Frank & Tony of Scissor & Thread—in the adjacent Panther Room.
AVALON - HOLLYWOOD, CA
Avalon’s “underground” status doesn’t come from it’s obscurity or exclusivity, but rather it’s infamous 24 hour dance floor. In a town littered with historic clubs and kitsch-ily souped up venues, it’s hard to set yourself apart, but Avalon has come to be the club of choice for those who are slaves to the dance floor. “This is just one of those epic venues,” Dirty South told inthemix when naming Avalon in Hollywood as his favorite room to play anywhere.
“People are really up for having a crazy night and I really enjoy playing here. I get to play four to five hour sets and do pretty much whatever I feel like, and the crowd just goes for it the whole night.”
Avalon’s all night reputation combined with solid lineups featuring varied acts (Vindata, Luminox, and Covenant are all slated for spots in the coming months) make this a choice club for anyone who likes to dance the night (or morning) away.
BOSSA NOVA CIVIC CLUB - BROOKLYN, NY
This hidden gem lies deep in the heart of Bushwick, Brooklyn under the elevated M train tracks. Since its inception, Bossa Nova has hosted internationally renown dance DJs and producers alongside local legends. This tropical themed club is best known for solid lineups of house, techno, and a variety of deeper, alternative dance genres. Although this club has been closed for a short time for renovations, it hosted the Tunnel Vision party earlier this week with Ital, Lori Napoleon, & Greg Zifcak on the decks. Those seeking a taste of the club can also check out their “Bushwick Is Melting” compilation vinyl series featuring talent like Jacques Renault, Gavin Russom, and Aurora Halal.
THE ELECTRIC PICKLE - MIAMI, FL
Electric Pickle is another club of those club which regularly hosts intimate sets by soon-to-be-huge talents. As per the venue’s website, the Pickle is “an intimate, liquor fueled love machine, designed as a forum for creative expression and cross cultural exploration, geared towards the discerning music enthusiast.” The Pickle’s custom Dynacord sound system is the sonic envy of every other club in the recently metamorphosed Wynwood district and the venue even boasts an outdoor patio area. The club just celebrated its sixth anniversary with a massive weekender, hosting a grip of local talents like Afrobeta and Thunderpony. If that weren’t enough, this month’s WMC parties at the venue are all cohosted by Beatport.
NUMBERS - HOUSTON, TX
Numbers has been showcasing live music and dance nights for more than 36 years and is one of Houston’s oldest and most infamous venues for live local, international, and breaking alternative acts. Previous shows at this legendary underground venue include Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, and Gary Numan. The crowd at Numbers is deliciously varied as the venue is all ages on show nights. It’s not unusual to see professionals in suits dancing alongside a 14 year old crust punk to an industrial remix of The Cure’s “A Forest.” Numbers’ website puts it best:
"No Dress Code, No Cocktail Waitresses, No Valet and No Attitude.”
AUTHOR CREDIT: ALEXANDRA BLAIR