February 20-26, 2003
Dieselboy, Sine, J Messinian and co. celebrate five years of starting the weekend early.
With its reputation as "America's most popular drum and bass weekly," starring Dieselboy, a.k.a "America's No. 1 drum and bass DJ," Platinum plays massive clubs to a thousand-plus ballistic heads, right?
Nope. Now in its fifth year of Thursday gigs at Fluid, the reputable heavy D&B night is an intimate gathering in a lush little club that only holds about 150 people. Still, guest DJs come from all over the world to tear up the jungle hits while MCs strut around the dancefloor with cordless mics, hyping up the crazed crowd with wordplay and rhymes.
"Platinum always pushes the raw sound of up-front D&B with a more technical sound," theorizes Andy Sine, currently a resident DJ at Platinum. "[It] has certainly raised the bar for weeklies in the States -- not only by importing talent but also by [elevating] the image of U.S. drum and bass. I think that it's also showed some of the U.K. DJs that the States mean business when it comes to vibe and local talent. When you have DJs like Tech Itch saying that Platinum is his second home when he's in the States, and Andy C and GQ saying that it's the best gig they've played in America, it's a great feeling."
When Tony Schiro, who owns Fluid, approached Damian Higgins (a.k.a. Dieselboy) about doing a weekly, he originally pitched a Tuesday night. But at that time, Konkrete Jungle (at Club Skyline, later to be called Next Step) had Tuesdays covered. Citing the divisiveness of competition, Higgins declined. And when Schiro finally offered a Thursday, Higgins was still reluctant.
"Originally, I didn't want to do a residency in Philly," he remembers. "I didn't want to play myself out. When he offered me Thursday, he agreed to give me full creative control of our look and our DJs -- so it [could] totally be my night."
In the beginning, the residents were Dieselboy, Kaos and MC Dub2. Later, Kaos moved to San Francisco and was replaced by Method One, who left Philly to join Kaos not long after that. The current Platinum roster is Dieselboy, Sine and Icon, along with MCs J Messinian, Armanni Reign and Sharpness.
Platinum started off mostly hosting established, American DJs. "We wanted to be more elitist. We only wanted to book DJs that had developed a name on their own. We wanted Platinum to be, for the up-and-coming DJ, a place you would want to play at down the road -- like a place where you would graduate to," says Higgins. "Eventually, we decided that it was more important to support our local scene, and now we try to get local DJs [like Armen, Art Cuebik, Magin Boo, Karl K, Myster Mason and many others] in as much as possible and rotate them around. But we do get in a fair amount of international talent."
Over the past five years, Platinum has hosted almost every notable D&B DJ -- names like Andy C, Krust, DJ SS, Jumping Jack Frost, Bad Company, AK 1200, Tech Itch, Decoder, Teebee, Kemal, the list goes on. But the most memorable nights for everyone seem to be the yearly Smashdown anniversary parties where admission and champagne are free and, according to Sine, "Everyone in the family comes together to hear the year's hotties rinsed out with some classics."
Nobody does Platinum for the money, asserts Higgins. "We just do it for fun. And I try to go above and beyond that and do those free shows as a way of saying thanks."
These days, most clubs are meat-markets where club-goers put the hunt for booty ahead of the music. Most nights at Platinum, however, are well-attended by those who want to share their love for D&B. You can expect the crowd to be cheering, holding their lighters in the air to salute the DJ or vigorously dancing their asses off to the hard, rapid breakbeats and deadly, speaker-rumbling sub-basslines. "There are some die-hards that have been there more than I have," laughs Higgins.
The MCs act like spokespeople for the night, rhythmically barking props and unifying the spoken word with the soundtrack. "When I hear a really good track coming on," says MC J Messinian, "I'm on the mic saying, Yo, this is so-and-so,' as the brand-new tune comes in. Then everybody's ears perk up -- like, Oh no. We're about to experience this track for the first time.'
"Then when it drops and people go bananas, and you get a rewind' [when the DJ spins the record backwards and replays a section of the track], or everybody's just dancing and tearing up the club -- it's definitely a great feeling."
But filling a club with people on a weeknight isn't as easy as it used to be. The falling economy touches all facets of dance music culture, from maintaining a regular club night to reduced sales of CDs and records. Five years is quite a milestone.
"I see a lot of people making their sacrifices," says Messinian, "staying up really late, coming out to party, suffering the next day at work, and then getting their nap on before they go party on Friday night."
Granted, rigorous touring schedules mean Dieselboy and Messinian are only occasionally present at Platinum. But pride in what they built in their hometown keeps them coming back.
Says Messinian: "There's no place I'd rather be on a Thursday night than in Philadelphia."
Platinum: Five-Year Super Smashdown takes place Thu., Feb. 20, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., free, with Bad Company, AK 1200, Sine, Icon, Dieselboy, J Messinian, Armanni Reign and Sharpness, Fluid, 613 S. Fourth St., 215-629-0565.