Photo by Su To
Spike Stephens, one-third of local promotion company Spin Cycle.
Since 2014, a scattering of downtown bars and restaurants that used to be hotspots have been claiming a substantial decline in business. With the creation of Ballpark Village, the opening of the uber-popular Wheelhouse and more, a few businesses have lost customers and, in some cases, have closed their doors.
While some dispute that these new developments are to blame, Washington Avenue has suffered closures, with mainstays such as Prime 1000 and the Dubliner closing this year. However, for some, the changes are a sign of opportunity.
“There’s definitely a void down there,” says local producer Spike Stephens. “They’re hungry for ideas to refresh the area.”
Stephens is no stranger to throwing innovative parties. He runs a promotion group called Spin Cycle with two other producers, Bradford James and Aaron Jacobs. Together they throw techno and house parties on the third Friday of each month. The trio has achieved great popularity in a short amount of time with their unique venue choices and fresh sounds. Spin Cycle celebrated its first anniversary on September 16 with a show at Hiro Asian Kitchen, a restaurant that they have been partnering with since July.
With a year of event planning under his belt, Stephens pursued his own project of creating a house music event that will occur every Saturday night at Lucas Park Grille
(1234 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, 314-241-7770
). This no-cover event, appropriately dubbed Downtown Shake, brings a genre of music that has gained massive popularity to an area that could use something fresh. The first Downtown Shake was held this past weekend on September 17, hosting local techno group Future Ex Wife.
In fact, there’s enough local talent to host a different artist each week for the next few months without having to bring anyone in from outside of St. Louis. Stephens himself will also play each week, either going back-to-back with other deejays or playing opening sets for bigger acts.
The music isn’t the only unique aspect about Downtown Shake. Stephens designs his own custom visuals for Spin Cycle parties and plans to do the same for the new event. These will be completely updated monthly with small changes thrown in each week to keep things fresh. For special events and holidays he’ll be enlisting guest artists to create their own custom visuals as well.
Downtown Shake is part of Stephens’ overall goal of bringing new people into the electronic scene of St. Louis. He cites the growing popularity of house music combined with the need for new things on the once-bustling strip of Washington Avenue as the driving factors to create a successful weekly event.
“These days, a lot of pop music is also house music,” Stephens points out. “People hear it, it sounds familiar and they tend to like it.”
The music won’t be the only thing that’s familiar — Lucas Park is a popular spot that has been attracting crowds for more than ten years. The elegant, spacious design, coupled with solid tunes, is sure to create a welcoming space for a new event to thrive.
In fact, combining a classy venue with underground talent is something Stephens has already successfully done with Spin Cycle. Events like Downtown Shake make the underground scene much more accessible to all kinds of people. After all, lots of folks enjoy electronic music, but would rather spend their money at nicer, more mainstream places than those at which locals generally perform.
With Lucas Park on board, Stephens is able to create an interesting fusion of mainstream atmosphere with undeniably good music. He says he's seen a lot of excitement from artists in St. Louis who are excited for the new direction the scene is taking.
“I’ve gotten tons of support from the underground,” Stephens says. “All of them are excited to have a new audience and bring more energy into the scene.”
Downtown Shake will be held at Lucas Park Grille every Saturday night from 10 p.m.-3 a.m.