Milwaukee’s electronic dance music fans have reason to celebrate, and the A.part DJ Collective knows just the place to do it.
A.part, owned equally by BJ Murray, Melody Spesard and Jessica Fenner, is planning the two-year anniversary performance of Taste It, the trio’s electronic techno dance party, on June 15 at Studio 200. Like its previous performances, Taste It’s anniversary is likely to bring gays and straights together for an evening of pulse-pounding, free-wheeling house music.
The event had its inaugural performance June 11, 2010, at the Triangle Bar, 135 E. National Ave. The group called that bar home until it was sold April 28. In the meantime, the group became a main attraction on Milwaukee’s house music scene, “hauling sound equipment into a compact corner dive bar each Friday night and turning what was usually a center for drag queen repertoire and karaoke sing-a-long into a sanctuary of sonic boom,” according to a press release. Big name talent from all corners of the United States made guest appearances, and the parties provided a residency for a few Milwaukee DJs that helped put them on the regional electronic music map.
Today, Taste It makes its home base at Studio 200, 200 E. Washington St.
“Taste It is an event concept and brand,” says Spesard who, like Murray, is gay. (Fenner is straight.) “We have plowed through misconceptions that a gay bar was just a place for gays to go to.”
At two years old, Taste It has outlived comparable events, successfully vaulting the hurdles that have closed other house parties down. Unforeseen challenges, including noise complaints, code violations and upstart competition, all have been overcome to create a moveable musical feast that is promoted through Facebook and other social media. In fact, Taste It has been attracting a growing number of attendees, according to Spesard.
“Taste It draws from a wide range,” says Spesard, a former staff sergeant with the U.S. Air Force. “All ages, all races, all flavors of life regularly show up and stick around, making it sometimes confusing – albeit temporarily – for everyone involved.”
Taste It features state-of- the-art sound equipment, visual effects and club lighting to create a party atmosphere. The musical content comes from the varied influences of its principals.
Murray, 31, an Elm Grove native, cut his teeth on the New York electronic dance music scene, while Spesard, 38, from Marengo, Ill., brought with her the Chicago influence. Fenner, 38, a native of the United Kingdom, flavored the group with the European rave culture, as well as influences from Chicago and the West Coast.
Only Fenner (aka DJ Fortune) makes her living as a full-time DJ, holding residency slots on Monday at Sublime Bar & Lounge, 324 E. Mason St., and “Crave,“ held Thursday nights at Notte, 1033 N. Old World Third St. She also is managing partner of A.part Music Activism, a hybrid organization that stages electronic dance music performances in Milwaukee and represents A.part DJ Collective.
In addition to their work as DJs, Spesard is a freelance hair designer and Murray is contract commodity administrator at Quad/Graphics in Sussex.
Spesard is credited for naming Taste It. As a classic rock fan with a penchant for performers like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Led Zeppelin, Spesard fell head-over-heels in love with house music, she says, and wanted to give everyone a “taste” of her infatuation.
The three A.part principals express pleasure that Taste It attracts a following that breaks down the walls between various social groups through dance. Spesard credits the creativity and longevity of Taste It for building bridges important to society, despite some obvious challenges.
“Hosting any function at a gay bar where you want your draw to be from both sides of the field is a risky endeavor,” Spesard says. “Fortunately, this one has had sweet results.”