Saturday’s big Beats Antique show at the Midtown Ballroom will mark the 11th anniversary of Slipmat Science, a local DJ collective and concert-promotion company that has been Central Oregon’s primary purveyor of live electronic music for years.
It will also double as the final Slipmat Science event, as its founders plan to drop the name and evolve their operations to focus on bigger shows and expanding their territory beyond Bend.
“I think we have to have a fresh palette … to start on,” said Travis Owens, who started Slipmat in 2002 with his brother Nathan Owens and their friends Carl Warner, Troy Alfama and Steven Rock. “It’s all about choosing the right name and marketing ourselves the right way, and basically we want it to grow. Everything’s changing and we’re just trying to change with the times.”
Rock died in 2010 and Alfama has turned his focus away from Slipmat Science. That leaves Warner and the Owens brothers to guide the company’s shift from throwing all-night underground dance parties for primarily young people to putting on more visible and mainstream concerts designed to attract all ages.
“When everybody thinks of Slipmat Science, there’s this aura that it’s just like young kids, raves, party your ass off,” Owens said. “And realistically, it’s more of a culture now with how big electronic music is getting. It’s definitely opened up the possibilities.”
Said Warner: “We started it as something that was fun and we never really looked into a lot of the background of what we need to do to make it a legit business. We’re just kind of moving away from who we originally were. We’re opening doorways.”
For years, Slipmat parties were held in mysterious locations; you had to call a phone number the day of the event to find out where to go. They featured DJs who started spinning before midnight and didn’t stop till dawn.
But a few years ago, as electronic music surged in popularity, Slipmat’s shows moved out of the shadows and into Bend’s Domino Room at first, and then Liquid Lounge. The headliners got bigger: DJ Z-trip, Beats Antique, ill.Gates, Heyoka, Gladkill, Tipper, Papadosio, Filastine. And the shows followed a more traditional concert format, with an evening start time and everyone out the door in the wee hours of the morning.
Warner and the Owens want to build on that. They want to re-brand their efforts under a different name, pursue bigger shows and use their connections in other cities (Sacramento, Eugene, Portland) to become more of a player in the regional scene.
“Electronic music is getting bigger and more accepted in the community, (and) people are going to want to listen to it more,” Warner said. “Now it’s just like any other kind of music. You go out on a Friday night and you see electronic music or you see a band.”
After the Beats Antique show, the group hopes to get together and try to nail down a new name for its venture. In the meantime, it has a handful of shows planned — including DJ Luke Mandala (May 2), the jam band ZuhG (May 8) and a double-bill of hip-hoppers Latyrx and the popular DJ MartyParty (May 11) — that it will present under the name Stilldream, which is also the name of a music festival Warner runs in Belden, Calif.
Bottom line: Electronic music is huge right now, Slipmat Science has had a couple very successful years bringing it to Bend, and now the guys behind it are ready to take their efforts to another level.
“Big companies see the interest in electronic music. They know it’s marketable. They know money’s being made. So they put more interest into it,” Owens said. “That’s where we’re at. We strive to bring bigger shows … and we’re just wondering if Bend’s ready for that. Right now’s the time. Either it’s going to happen or it’s not.”