When DJ Robbo launched MixTape nearly three years ago in August, he had an eye on creating something different. Instead of just another dance party that revolves around a semi-static playlist and the DJ of the evening, he and wife/DJ Lynn K were looking to create something special. After thinking on it and conspiring, they came up with a concept that has weathered venue changes and a couple of hiatuses, but is back and arguably running as strong as ever.
Basically, as Robbo and Lynn K explain it, the night was born as a twist on the idea of the classic mix tape: there's an overarching theme that ties the music together and that extends over into everything else, including the decorations for the evening and costumes worn by the attendees. Style or genre of music doesn't matter, however, and the evening may delve into top 40, retro, dub-step, indie rock, electronic or R&B. Nothing is off limits, as long as it fits the theme.
Looking back, MixTape started off at Exit 6C and quickly became a popular night at the club. When management of the room changed hands, the event went on a brief hiatus and reappeared at Eclipse when Jeff Martinson and Dave Teagarden got that room up and running. Following the first of a series of turnovers at Eclipse, Mixtape moved to Crystal Pistol and continued on. The party took another hiatus, however, as Robbo and Lynn invested their time and efforts in trying to reestablish Eclipse as managers. After a little over a four month break, however, MixTape is back and hitting its stride again at Electric Circus - the same room where it all started.
As Robbo and Lynn K shared with me "Our tag line or motto has always been 'You are the dance party' because the people really do make the night."
Although the format has evolved and changed a little, what I find really intriguing is just how far they took the interactive portion of the event. Not only does the evening involve themes, decorations and costumes, but at its inception, Robbo explained that they also had cassette decks, turntables, CD players and computers on hand so the attendees could bring in their own music and get it played over the course of the night. Eventually it turned into letting people take over as DJ, mixing up the playlist and seeing how the crowd would react. It was a good idea in theory, but much like an open mic night, it eventually backfired and the idea had to be re-thought.
Although that format has been tweaked a bit and attendees aren't allowed to take over as DJ's any more, Robbo stated that MixTape attendees are still encouraged to bring music to the party. The difference is, now he generally limits contributions to one or two songs and they have to be on a flash drive. If you bring a pair of your current (or long lost) favorites and they meet the theme criteria, however, there's a pretty good chance you'll hear them worked into the mix over the course of the evening.
"That's why people come out in the first place," Robbo explained, "to hear some of their favorite music and enjoy themselves. We're the middlemen to having a good night. The dancers need a chance to put their two cents in, though, and this gives them some ownership in the night."
More important within the dance club, DJ and party scenes, though, is the inclusiveness that comes with the MixTape format. All genre lines are blurred for an evening -- you may hear dub-step and electronic mixed with retro and Top 40 tracks, giving all listeners not only a safe zone to meet in the middle, but also a place to be exposed to different styles and new songs they may not have heard before.
As Lynn K explained, "The party doesn't revolve around just one genre or type of music, so people know they can request a song and not get treated like shit. It's the one night of the week that you can step outside of yourself, get involved and be a part of the evening."
In fact, it's the sense of community that has become part of the evening that really sets it apart. Yes, the weekly themes are cool and make it fun. The time spent decorating the room to make it feel different from week to week and the chance to dress up and go out like you wouldn't go anywhere else adds to the goofy joy of it. Week in and week out, though, MixTape becomes a common ground for people who love music and just want to dance, regardless of what clique or style they normally fall into.
Even amidst venue changes and hiatuses, MixTape still draws people together. As Lynn K shared "It's kind of like an old friend that you haven't seen for years. Even after we've taken a break, everyone comes together and after 10 minutes it's like you've never left."
"Someone once told me MixTape is Tulsa's most mature dance party -- and Tulsa's most fun dance party. You can dance or you can chat and hang out and just be with your friends."
Tulsa's most fun dance party? Quite possibly. But most mature? Well, that's a matter of perspective. Any time that you get a room full of people dressed up in costumes and covered with glitter, you'll be sure to have someone argue that point, but maybe it's only those who are mature and secure enough in themselves to wander the streets of downtown Tulsa a sparkling mess and risk not getting all of the evidence of the mid-week partying off before returning to work who have truly grown up. I'll leave that up for debate.
What doesn't need to be argued is that MixTape is back and in the little over four weeks since it returned to Electric Circus, the weekly themes have ranged from "Cops and Robbers" and "Under the Big Top" to a short-shorts party, a German sparkle party (playing off of a recent viral video) and a "Hipster or Hobo?" party. If you're looking for a mid week outlet to let loose, enjoy yourself and get exposed to a variety of new tunes and people, MixTape just might be your weekly savior. Look it up on Facebook under "Mixtape Wednesdays" to get the lowdown on the week's theme, then dress up and get out for a fun night of dancing and forgetting about all else. Robbo, Lynn K and Xylo will be manning the mixing station and they're counting on Tulsa to make it the best dance party in town -- from attendance to the music mix, so get out and get involved.
We all know that it's finally here: after a summer long build up and a sprint through the minor festival shows in July, Free Tulsa takes over downtown's Blue Dome District this Friday and Saturday, but that's not all we've got going on. You can read up on the Free Tulsa highlights on page 45, but if you're looking to avoid the crowds or just want something different, here are the highlights for the rest of the local scene and the remainder of the week.
• Thursday, July 28 -- Considering the chaos that the weekend will bring, your best bet might just be to ease in with a relaxed jam band vibe on Thursday night to get you warmed up for the weekend. You can do just that by easing into the jazzy side of the genre with The Move at Colony or touch on bluegrass and blues undertones with Grazzhopper at Soundpony. Of course, the weekly community shows at Utica Square continue throughout the summer and this week features 4 Going Gravity on the outdoor stage amidst Tulsa's classic shopping vortex.
• Friday, July 29 -- Probably Tulsa's biggest show outside of the festival is The Movement with Pacific Dub in a free show at Osage Events Center. You can still chill out in downtown Tulsa, however, by checking out GoGo Plumbay and Low Litas at Soundpony or Brandon Clark Band at Hunt Club. If you venture to Brookside, you can catch two of T-town's favorite female vocalists with Jenny Labow at Ivey or Kristin Nicole Band at Bruhouse.
• Saturday, July 30 -- Sweatin' Bullets wraps a two night stand at Cimarron Bar for the hard rock crowd on Saturday evening while Meandering Orange settles in with a slinky jam vibe at The Colony and singer/songwriter Steve Liddell keeps the patio at Hunt Club one of the coolest places to relax despite the heat. Also worth going out of our way to catch, Quiet Corral rolls in from Kansas to play at Treehouse with Grazzhopper continuing to blow up all over town as the opening act.
• Sunday, July 31 -- As Tulsa breathes a collective sigh to recover for the weekend, your best bet is to settle in and cool off with one of a handful of standing house gigs. With that in mind, you can rarely go wrong with Paul Benjaman and Friends at The Colony, Jeff Martinson and Mike Jameson at Treehouse, or "Sunday Service" with Brandon Clark at Mercury Lounge.
Once we've survived the weekend, the local scene slows down for the first time in over a month and hits a relatively quiet period. You can always stop in at your favorite club to relax with the regulars (when is a random stop at The Colony or Soundpony not pay off with some interesting tunes?) or rest up for the next round of big shows -- including next week's Brady Block Party with Flaming Lips, Primus, MuteMath and more...
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