Deep in the Game is a monthly 21+ dance party at the Mt. Vernon gay bar, Club Hippo. It frequently includes live acts and special guests, and it’s put on by three of Baltimore’s most well-read and musically adventurous DJs: Mark Brown, 27, Schwarz, 25, and Cex (AKA Rjyan Kidwell), 30.
I sent the DITG crew a few interview questions. What I got back by turns resembled the shredded index of an encyclopedia of electronic music and a virtual manifesto of genre-crossing universalism.
Kidwell, who at least once in an interview back in the early 2000s declared himself “the equal of Heaven,” is not shy about superlatives. He explains Deep in the Game as “the regular dance night in the most opulent room with the wildest variety of electronic music.”
Schwarz casually refers to DITG as a “cultural event,” which of course it is — a dance party is inherently cultural. But his word-choice betrays an ambitious, broad-thinking vision that is a defining element of the project.
(By the way, for those of you who are unfamiliar with terms like glitch, sissy bounce, grime — at least in this context — I’ve linked to explanations.)
How did Deep in the Game originate?
Schwarz: The night evolved from a DJ party Mark and I were doing at The Zodiac, which I believe was called “Gabber Night,” in which we only played super fast and hardcore European electronic music. After realizing how hard it was to dance to for prolonged periods of time, and how many people were alienated by it, we decided to lighten things up a bit, and open it up to a more diverse musical selection.
We came up with the “Deep in the Game” name, and invited Cex to be our first guest. The night went so well that Rjyan was invited to be a full-time member of the Deep in the Game crew.
We began to invite our friends from weirdo Baltimore projects to play live at our events, bands and projects that would never normally play at a dance night. The second Deep in the Game night had the short-lived industrial, performance-art duo Janitor as its guest. We have continued to book unique guests from inside and outside of normal “dance” music and culture.
What’s DITG‘s mission?
Kidwell: We’re not trying to sell anyone an identity — there’s not a type of person that comes to DITG. We don’t squat on any particular subgenre; we’re here for people that like big, wild sound experiences.
How segregated is Baltimore’s dance scene?
Kidwell: Maybe moreso than some places, but definitely less so than most. I think it’s far less segregated than Baltimore’s rap or rock or folk scenes, for sure.
What types of music might one hear at DITG?
Kidwell: We have acts from all over the spectrum of electronic music play live. We’ve had all the best ballroom and vogue DJs come through, like Vjuan Allure and Mike Q. We had Vocka Redu come represent New Orleans sissy bounce. We’ve had Japanese glitch producer NHK play live. We’ve had the seapunk OG Pictureplane play live. And we’ve had nearly all my favorite Baltimore club DJs, Scottie B and Johnny Blaze and Say Wut.
Personally, I also try to bring DJ sets of stuff you literally can’t hear at any other parties in town. I did a Kraftwerk set two months ago, mixing my fave Kraftwerk tunes with more recent German techno. The month before that I did a classic Miami bass set, before that I did a set of the hardest UK grime instrumentals. Most other DJ nights, I think, are trying so hard to cultivate a very right-f***ing-NOW! brand that they don’t have any room to play with sound, to totally catch you off guard with something that owns but that isn’t necessarily a NYC blogger fetish du jour. I’m always trying to do little history lessons, too, I guess, mixing in tracks by pioneers whose sounds laid the foundation for the current trends.
How does DITG interact with Baltimore’s live music scene?
Brown: I’d say almost half of the guests we’ve hosted at the party have been local musicians. When we first started we we’re really into booking a lot of heavier/noisier acts, really pushing the boundaries of what one could expect to see at the Hippo. We’ve had everyone from [laptop/guitar art-punk trio] Dope Body to [aggressive, misanthropic noise project] Sewn Leather, Beastmaster to [electronic artist/sitarist/vocalist] Ami Dang, grace the fishbowl-like stage of the Hippo’s dancefloor.
How often do you spin local music?
Brown: All the time. I’ve been into Baltimore Club music since I first started DJing and will always love and play music from Baltimore artists — from the originators of the genre like Scottie B, Rod Lee, & Johnny Blaze to the young new producers bubbling up like Mario and Pacbreezy of the MTM crew, Rip Noxx and Matic of Dem 808z, and so many more.
The next Deep in the Game is happening on May 4, and will include Ru Paul’s drag race star Sharon Needles performing live. Admission is $10, and the party goes from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.