You know that part in "Trainspotting" when Renton, played by Ewan MacGregor, surveys a London rave, nodding his head, pumping his first, trying to give into the PLUR-ness of it all, even though he's a recovering hateful junkie who prefers Iggy Pop's raucous nihilism to this rolling-friendly party music? He narrates his epiphany in real time: "The world is changing. Music is changing. Drugs are changing. Even men and women are changing. One thousand years from now, there'll be no guys and no girls."
There was a moment like that for me at the start of 2014 when I realized that Kahlon, Abdu Ali's bimonthly (basically) dance party, also organized by Lawrence Burney and, more recently, DJ Genie (Chanel Cruz does promotion, Theresa Chromati does the flier art, and Jedicom does projections), was a glimpse into the future of Baltimore music: The city is changing, the music is changing, guitars are giving way to beats, energy is expended via dancing instead of punk rock raging out, and the city's homegrown music, Baltimore club, is coursing through the DNA of every interesting type of music here, its noisy, avant-garde qualities pushed to the forefront.
It was Jan. 25, 2014, the second Kahlon (on the bill: Butch Dawson, Natural Velvet, and Neuport). I had spent the first part of the evening at a Holy Underground show (the lineup: Priests, Crimson Wave, Wet Brain, and others) before moving onto the Crown where Kahlon was held. Both events were great and that one could go to both of them, or could even conceivably bounce between the two, said a great deal about multitudes contained in Baltimore music—lots of give-and-take between scenes. But going from a grimy basement show to Kahlon was like time traveling. The Holy Underground show felt like the past—a basement punk show, everybody still pretending it was 1984, even if the all-female lineup was a refreshing change. And Kahlon (which has its origins in DIY spaces like BFF where Ali and Burney once held Guttah Ball) felt like the future, where a genre-hopping bill—witchy Hawkindian post-punk from Natural Velvet, Butch Dawson's lackadaisical raps (including one song over a Nirvana 'In Bloom' sample), Neuport playing radio and internet hits—attempted to forge and fuse something new and even less tradition-bound. It didn't make sense but everyone there got it. I've recounted this moment at least twice in the paper before but it's worth repeating.
And others have followed Kahlon's lead, or at least have just come to similar epiphanies about how Baltimore music should progress at the same time: Madi Shapiro of Wet Brain runs Girl Problem Records, a DIY-friendly label with a focus on bands that are female fronted, and her shows have looked toward diversity, introducing hip-hop acts and dance DJs to punk shows; J.R. Fritsch, who once ran Public Guilt Records, ostensibly a noise and metal label, now runs ARAÇÁ RECS, a 45 rpm label with a focus on beat-oriented music; Nina Pop, run by Schwarz, is a subsidiary of Ehse, which seems to understand that it needed to step into the world of dance; the Llamadon Collective's happenings expand the idea of what a hip-hop show should or could be; and hell, Dope Body's "Lifer" record from last year explicitly cited Bmore club as an influence.
Kahlon celebrates its two-year anniversary this weekend, which hey, may not seem like much, but Baltimore is a city where dance parties appear and quickly wither, or stick around too long but get fat and comfortable, so a dance party run with its eye toward inclusivity—focusing on black acts, making sure it includes women on the bill, and always facilitating a space for queer musicians—is something to celebrate. To not talk about Kahlon in the paper would be like missing some big event, despite the many conflicts of interest we've got going on here: Lawrence Burney is a contributing writer to the Baltimore City Paper and Abdu Ali has written for the paper and both are friends of mine.
A few Kahlon memories: Houston's noise-rapper B L A C K I E screaming his protest song 'Warchild' ("I don't give a fuck about America nigga, it kills its youth") to a crowd of head-banging hip-hop kids—my neck hurt after that show which hasn't happened to me since I was maybe 15; Bmore club legend Scottie B playing Meek Mill's 'Dreams and Nightmares Intro,' sending the crowd into a cathartic mosh pit as Meek details his rickety come-up which clearly rang true for some Baltimore residents in the crowd who feel Meek's pain; West Baltimore's Lor Scoota chirping his giddy drug-dealing anthem 'Bird Flu' as cop cars waited downstairs outside the venue, why they were out there I am still not sure; Chrissy Vasquez hushing the room with her somber sophistosoul; Precolumbian's mix of radio hits and cumbia getting everybody dancing to songs they've never heard of in a language most of them probably didn't know—oh, I could go on.
Kahlon, featuring Abdu Ali, Black Sage, Abhi//Dijon, Phizzals, DJ Genie, DJ Juwan, DJ AngelBaby, and a DJ set from Dan Deacon is at the Crown Nov. 7.