Like many people in a pre-Skrillex world, Alex Heiligman had no idea what dubstep was in early 2008. He certainly didn't know he would soon become one of the Twin Cities preeminent promoters of the bass-croaking dance music that has since womped its way into pop culture.
"When it started, anytime I would hear the word dubstep, it would make me so excited that someone knew what they were talking about," Heiligman said. "Now just saying that is funny to even think about, because it's a household word."
The young jam-rock fan discovered dubstep later that year while following livetronica band EOTO across the country. The duo had begun incorporating the woofer-wobbling genre in its sound and his interest in the music quickly snowballed.
But with few opportunities to see similar artists in the Twin Cities, he and his friends were forced to travel to Chicago, Denver and elsewhere to get their fix. "We'd been spending a ton of time traveling around and we realized we could bring these people here instead," Heiligman said.
Aided by a handful of friends, the St. Louis Park native launched his promotion company, Twin Cities Dubstep, in 2009. Attendance at events has grown rapidly in the past four years.
Heiligman's prepping for a fourth-anniversary bash Friday at the Skyway Theater headlined by dubstep heavyweight Flux Pavilion, as well as his second annual Infrasound Music Festival (May 31-June 2) in Black River Falls, Wis.
By now it's no secret that bass music attracts pro-partying college-aged kids to clubs and concert halls. But in the early days Heiligman had trouble finding a home for his ear-quaking events. While he saw a bright future for electronic music, club bookers were slow to catch on.
"There weren't a lot of venues who would allow me to rent the space to do shows there," the 24-year-old recalled. "I'd send them info on the acts and they'd obviously listen to the music and be scared or something. It was so different that they didn't understand it."
Eventually, he landed gigs at the Loft above Bar Fly; a space that had been used for house/techno and even metal shows. "Obviously, [our] crowd is a different crowd of people, so it was a really new space to them, and they have really accepted it as home," said Heiligman, who also DJs under the name Toffler.
In 2011, he helped open the Skyway Theater, also above the downtown Minneapolis nightclub. Twin Cities Dubstep shows revived the former movie house, which had been shuttered since 1999, and Heiligman became the 2,500-capacity venue's official booker last September. Between his weekly Amplitude dance night at Bar Fly and the touring acts that play the upstairs rooms, the club has become a local wub hub.
After four years of grassroots scene-building and a national surge in electronic dance music, Heiligman says he's taken aback by how far it's already come. "I never thought there would be thousands of people coming to shows in Minneapolis," he said. "It's definitely surreal."
Twin Cities Dubstep fourth-anniversary show: 7 p.m. Fri. • Skyway Theater, 711 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • $30-$35 • 18-plus • skywaytheater.com
Dabbler goes Midway
Beer and baseball fans heading to the St. Paul Saints exhibition game Saturday are in for a thirst-quenching treat. The Beer Dabbler Bullpen bar is making its Midway Stadium debut, slinging craft beer behind a 70-foot bar in left field. With 21 different offerings from local and national breweries, including the first tapping of a limited white IPA from Minnetonka's Badger Hill, there's nothing minor-league about this combo.
7:35 p.m., Sat. • Midway Stadium, 1771 Energy Park Dr., St. Paul • $4-$20
A little beer-friendly competition over a game of 10-pin at Memory Lanes is always a good time. But the south Minneapolis bowling alley is looking to add another sport to its repertoire. Pending city approval, the bar and live music venue will add a pair of volleyball courts by May 19 (weeknight leagues are already forming) and an additional 36-seat patio. Punk Bowl Mondays could give a new meaning to liberty spikes.
2520 26th Av. S., Mpls. • 612-721-6211 • www.memorylanesmpls.com
Michael Rietmulder writes about bars and nightlife.