During February and March 2016 I traveled North America to meet the Chew community, DJs, partners and investors.
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By my second Amtrak ride I was a professional. I reclined both seats, made sure I had earplugs, and used a face mask I’d got from JetBlue a few days before. With better preparation this time around, I slept the whole night through. The next morning, breakfast was served in the observation car. As I ate, a mountain range grew from the desert floor to the west. Unlike Chicago, the train to Denver doesn’t end there. It carries on all the way to California. I would have stayed on without issue but it was my time to get off.
I emerged from the carriage into the recently refurbished Union station and out into the street. It was still quite early and the city had yet to wake up. The air was fresh and clear and mountains peaked in to view between buildings. The first night in Denver I stayed with the sister of my hosts back in Chicago. As we drove out to Boulder the mountains came closer and closer until you could literally reach out and touch them. Classic stone buildings from the local university dominated the town. We headed for tapas before hitting a student bar for the evening.
In each city so far I had both DJ’d and watched others DJ in studios, but not ventured out to many nightclubs. In Denver that changed. I’d been emailing Steve for a few days before my visit. Steve DJs under the name Durandal and was playing that night at a club down town. In London, Tuesday night events are not typically well-attended. But here, by the time I got to the venue there was already healthy crowd dancing near the front of the stage. Steve was still back at the hotel when when I arrived so I walked around the venue. The air hung with thick smoke. At the back of the venue there was a whole range of stalls selling a variety of goods, each packed with anything you might want to buy while high, from neon jewellery and glow sticks to hula hoops.
Steve messaged me as he arrived and we met at the bar for a drink. He was set to go on the decks in about an hour so we got a few beers to steady the nerves and chatted a bit before he headed to the stage. Throughout the night the music was deep and slow. The crowd responded in kind, shifting from side to side with the beat. As midnight approached I started to move and get lost in the music. The support for dubstep was so strong in the city! Despite the weeknight slot, the crowd was enthusiastic, and clearly came to dance.
A year or so before visiting I’d been speaking to a DJ from a collective called Lost in Sound. The group combines the skills of its members to better amplify it’s output of events, music and content. By now, it had been many months since we’d last chatted. Shortly after arriving in the city, Patrick popped up. Forgetting our whole history together, I headed out towards the suburbs with the promise of a live stream and a sofa bed for my final night in town. I arrived and got to conversing with the other artists. As more and more DJs drifted in for the stream we chatted about everything life, music and live streaming related.
Lost in Sound had been considering live streaming for a year or so and had even done some trial runs. Some of the DJs linked to the collective had tried Twitch so Patrick’s questions weren’t simple. We talked about the future of Chew, and how they could use the Chew API, and the possibility of allowing fans to tip the DJ that was playing. After he’d picked my brain about Chew, Patrick agreed that future shows should be on Chew and we continued to DJ until the next morning.
You came all the way to America, to my house and we can talk through our plans. That means more than anything Twitch could give me. – Patrick Boyle – Lost in Sound
With the stream setup assembled, DJs could no longer all fit in the bedroom-come-studio space at the same time. We overspilled into the living room. Everyone played short sets, one after another. With only three hours sleep I woke up and began my journey to the airport. The sun illuminated the mountains as I rode down the empty freeway. Like each city so far the time had gone too fast and I could have easily stayed another week or even a month. Next up was Phoenix and the Arizona Drum and Bass collective. I selected a Drum and Bass mix on my phone and put in my earphones as I walked down the ramp to take my flight.