With a diversity in individual approaches and a wealth of collective experience, the newly formed Street Level crew – consisting of Calgary locals Cody Freele (Sonny Chiba), Matt Johnston (SwaggaCats), Jade Krogh (Lazy Pluto), and Liam McKenzie (DJ Dine & Dash) – is taking a different approach to the typical night out.
The four friends provide a strong representation of the city’s burgeoning house music scene, and its diversity. As individuals, they have been a part of residencies at Habitat, Commonwealth, Quincy’s, Oaktree and the HiFi, and have been involved with planning, promoting and playing countless shows over the last decade. This new initiative was borne out of a mutual desire to play the particular music they produce and identify most strongly with the resurgent subgenres of Acid House, Lo Fi and Electro.
“Electro and Lo-Fi are blowing up and we know that,” says Johnston. “But Calgary as a whole isn’t really recognizing it.”
While the impetus for a new night was to provide the city with an outlet for these styles of music, the club veterans quickly realized they agreed upon other elements they found lacking in the city’s scene.
“There’s so much good energy here, but the environments are getting a little stale,” explains Johnston. “The music’s dope, but it’s the same every time.”
What followed from the group’s venting of shared frustrations was a deconstructive approach to planning a night, and how they could build something transcendent. One key component to this was the rejection of a fixed address.
“We like the idea of having a number to call like a burner phone, and bringing that back as a concept for a private party,” says McKenzie. “So you call this number like you did in the ‘90s, then you get the location.”
This interactive and communicative element quickly spiraled into meditations of what else could turn a crowd into a family, and how they could commit to that in ways that are seldom seen in this city:
“We want to have a professional dance teacher come in early to teach house dance and vogue dancing,” envisions Krogh. “So we can meet people and have an educated dance floor.”
“What we want to create is the notion that you’re not a number. You’re a part of a community and we fucking love you,” adds Freele.
If the approach is risky, that’s what draws each member of the crew towards it. They have grown tired of the standard and are confident that they aren’t the only ones.
“People want an experience, they don’t want to just go to the bar. That’s easy, that’s simple, it’s rudimentary and it’s a pattern,” states Freele. “What they want to have is a cog in the wheel that they kind of get, they’re intrigued by and they learn from. At some point if you’re creative and you’re an artist, you owe it to yourself to improve upon what you want to do by trying these things out. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Street Level’s tracks