Catering to the underground is a balancing act. On the one hand, it's easy to stay true to your (low-profile) roots, but if you're so underground that people can't find out about what you're promoting, then what's the point? There's a sweet spot where you can be uncompromising and accessible. Both Uniting Souls and Innerflight have found success over the years with clear visions of how music should be experienced.
If you've thought about house music in Seattle, you already know about Uniting Souls. For the last seven years, the Seattle institution has thrown countless parties, collaborated with other crews, and generally tried to spread their good vibes along the West Coast through the power of house. The two-year-old new kid on the block, Innerflight has been doing the same (in Seattle anyway), focusing their attention on one-offs, residencies, and DJ appearances, but more on the tech-house side of things.
For both crews, the key has been to remember their underground beginnings. Both Uniting Souls' Ramiro Gutierrez and Innerflight's Jason Zucker found inspiration in California's '90s underground dance scene. For Ramiro, it meant a departure from the punk he'd found during his teenage years.
"I remember when the lights came on [at my first party] at eight in the morning and everyone was just clapping and cheering," he recalls during a coffee-shop discussion. "The sense of community I'd found in the punk-rock scene was there, but without the sense of rebellion and anger."
Innerflight has a similar story, but it took a trip to Germany in 2003 for that California experience to turn into action.
"I saw how blossoming Berlin was and how similar it was to the '90s underground scene," Zucker says. "At that point I was a bedroom DJ and record collector, but that trip to Berlin was the kick in the ass I needed."
Both promoters share a deep love for the music they promote and exposing that music to an often uninformed audience. "You reach a point where if you aren't seeing what you want to see, you have to bring it yourself," Zucker says. "It clearly isn't for money."
Adds Ramiro, "You reach a different audience with every place you go. You have a great opportunity when you can bring quality underground music to a bigger venue with people that don't hear this stuff."
Despite all of the parties and events, both promoters are planning to spend the next year focusing on their respective labels. Both have releases due in coming months and more in development. By giving voice to local talent, they're aiming to earn Seattle the same sort of automatic musical association people have with cities like San Francisco (house) and Berlin (techno).
"As Decibel reflects, there's a whole other side to what's going on in Seattle," Ramiro says. "Seattle has its own thing. It's just up to us to define what that thing is."
The Uniting Souls and Innerflight double anniversary celebration is Sat Sept 29 at Little Red Spa/Hengst Studio, 1506 Franklin Ave E, 7 pm–6 am, $10 before 10 pm/$15 after, 21+.