When I think of nightclub parties, in my mind’s eye I see scantily-clad young women trying to flirt their way to the front of the long line, a bar stocked with countless bottles of pricey, colorfully-named alcohol, and damp walls in dark rooms, wet with perspiration pouring from dozens of dancing bodies under hot strobe lights.
I envision the last few nightclubs I visited, remembering how my breastbone seemed to vibrate for hours after I’d left, buzzing from the heavy bass lines of the super popular, nearly omnipresent songs blasting from the speakers. Everywhere I went, I heard the same songs, over and over; they were, quite literally, played out. While my solution to the musical redundancy was to limit my time in the most-hyped, most-liked clubs, a local music man’s novel approach is bringing purpose to Richmond parties.
Veteran Richmond disc jockey Lonnie Battle, known to his thousands of iPower 92.1 radio listeners and fans as DJ Lonnie B, has been a fixture on the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) music scene for more than 25 years.
“I’ve DJ’ed in Richmond all my life,” he says, pride tingeing his voice lightly.
At the countless parties he spun for and hosted in the past year, Battle noticed something missing – and other things appearing. The music had faded into the background of the frenzied club scene. Revelers were more interested in “poppin’ bottles, looking fly and trying to get into VIP,” than the style or substance of the music, he recalls.
In an effort to guide Richmond’s club scene back on track, Battle created The Art of Noise, a party where the focus is quality music.
“The events are for anyone who appreciates music,” he says, explaining that it doesn’t target a specific demographic. “The Art of Noise draws music lovers of all ages, races and genders who have a true appreciation for the art that is music,” reads its description on Battle’s website. “The pictures are painted as each DJ, artisans in the skill of hip-hop, feed and vibe off of each other’s groove and rock the crowd.”
The Art of Noise events are "are for anyone who appreciates music," says DJ Lonnie B (right), pictured here doing what he does best. (Photo courtesy: Lonnie Battle/www.lonnieb.com)
It’s not about “urban” (read: black) music, “white” music, genres, or the hottest musical trends. The common denominator of everyone who attends The Art of Noise events is a yearning for good music and authentic fun, minus pretension and preening.
“We’ve played everything from Notorious B.I.G. to Nirvana at these events,” Battle says.
His wish is to promote a fresh type of party, where he’s spinning the best music, no matter the genre; he wants to reach every music lover in Richmond.
“If I go with you to the club Friday or Saturday night, I could write down on a napkin 25 songs that they will play, guaranteed,” he says. “By the end of the night, you’ll think I’m a magician, because they’ll play every single one. I’m tired of that. There’s so much more music than that.”
He also educates emerging DJs through Art of Noise, sometimes promoting them at the events and showing them how to move the crowd with music. Battle spins, they learn, and everybody has a grand old time.
The Art of Noise hasn’t been promoted through any of the traditional channels: no radio ads, no TV commercials, nothing in print. Battle uses a mixture of guerrilla-style social media marketing and word-of-mouth promotion to hip people to the Art of Noise movement. I heard about the events through a colleague who urged me to check out these “cool, pop-up style parties with really good music and a lot of young professionals.” Battle’s bare bones marketing tactics are working. While about 80 people showed up to the first party last year, the latest Art of Noise, held July 2 at The Copa, brought out more than 600 people.
Several Richmond clubs and venues have hosted The Art of Noise, including the Aqua Lounge and the historic Hippodrome Theater. But the best party by far, Battle says, was at The Broadberry in May. “I’m adamant about being on the floor, right down there with the people,” Battle says of his unusual DJ setup at the events. “But the night we went to the Broadberry, we sort of had to get on the stage. The energy was so live, so high: The whole crowd was just completely alive.”
Battle’s best friend and fellow spinmaster, DJ Danja Mowf, last year accompanied him to one of the dozens of parties he regularly hosts around town. “He told me afterwards, ‘I’ve never seen a party so packed feel so empty,’” Battle recalls. But The Art of Noise is ushering in a new era of club music. “We’re changing all that. We’ve got black people there, we’ve got white people there, and we’ve got people who appreciate good music there. You just feel nothing but love in the air.”
Battle says he’s branching out and taking the event on the road. Art of Noise will party in Charlotte Aug. 7, then returns to Richmond on Sept. 6.