NIGHTLIFE Consider Midland. The well-scrubbed, cutting-edge dub-houser from Leeds, UK, has been kicking around for a few years in the virtual technosphere, releasing a handful of excellent tracks (including 2010 critical hit "Your Words Matter"), aligning himself with well-knowns like Ewan Pearson and Ramadanman, and appearing on perpetual "breaking out" lists — along with dozens of other young bucks with voracious musical tastes and groovy, uncategorizable sounds.
About a month ago, however, Midland suddenly blew up. He was everywhere: his beautifully bonkers February 15 sunrise set at Berlin's Panorama Bar praised and shared to high heaven; links to his Facebook page, previous releases, and high-profile technophile website interviews pelting my feed with Midland love. An impressive list of European gigs was announced, and Midland was poised to be the next in a series of DJs, producers, and live acts to establish themselves globally as a sharp, and sharply managed, brand. Midland had arrived.
And then: "One of the artists we're excited about signing is Midland, who'll be touring the US this summer," Andrew Kelsey, CEO and main booking agent of Liaison Artists (www.liaisonartists.com), dished to me out of the blue a week later, in the gorgeously Zen-anal Dogpatch office his company shares with OM Records. It was weird! But, in the case of Liaison's unfailing grip on the techno zeitgeist, completely logical. Anyone who's anyone, it seems, signs with Liaison. Whatever may lay at the root of Midland's sudden uptick in exposure, his contract score means we're about to hear a whole lot more from him, and for good reason.
Along with partner Mariesa Stevens — and scene-player staff members Hamilton Wright, Justin Offerman, Matt Hubert, Mary Croghan, Conor Dirks, and Jon Sax — Kelsey has built Liaison into the most respected techno talent agency in the US, with increasing expansion into the global scene. If you've been to a major party at Public Works, Monarch, Mighty, Mezzanine, 103 Harriet, or any of the other clubs hosting the latest explosion of dance music popularity, odds are Liaison booked the talent. A quick rundown of some of the names on its current roster: Andrew Weatherall, Ellen Alien, The Field, Maya Jane Coles, Maceo Plex, Crazy P., Justin Martin, Catz 'N Dogz, Pillow Talk, Ben Pearce, Koze, Pachanga Boys, Joy Orbison, Miss Kittin, Solomun, Tale of Us ...
In an age when the provenance of a DJ gig is starting to gain as much attention as where your organic, free-range, non-GMO heirloom turnips are sourced — and in which the first comment to greet a party announcement is usually "nice booking!" — it's pretty perfect that the strings of the quality electronic music scene are being pulled in San Francisco. (Hey, we've got slow food, slow money, slow church, and slow fashion. We may as well head up slow techno.) As the ever-swelling cloud of international touring DJs and producers threatens to blot out the underground party spirit with brand-name fatigue, Liaison has become a de facto curator, guiding style-conscious connoisseurs and heedless hedonists alike through the fog to the dance floor. Liaison is recognized as the mark of quality.
"I don't think it will ever be a matter of us overshadowing the artists we work with," the soft-voiced Kelsey said with a smile at the suggestion. "The music always has to come first. The people on our roster have worked incredibly hard to establish a sound, a fan base, and a reputation for professionalism without sacrificing any of that underground edge that drew our attention in the first place. In other words, the party will be insane — and people will show up on time." (Budding DJs, please take note.)