If you think “electronic dance music” just means Top 40 DJs dropping the bass under Pitbull’s latest bombast, think again. One of the most vibrant slices of Cleveland’s electronic scene celebrates the underground, taking ecstatic form in monthly mesh-draped dance parties held in dive bar shadows.
Indebted to classic LGBTQ house music parties, the DJs behind In Training, Disco Paradiso and Heaven Is In You organize some of the most diverse electronic lineups in the city, from a British ambient DJ or an Arabic electronic night, to a local DJ who got his start in a Cleveland basement.
Here, representation is key, both in spotlighting electronic’s more experimental edges and creating inclusive, joyous spaces for marginalized communities.
“All the parties try to make a space for queer people and people of color to exist outside the context of white-washed dance music or the white rock music that most hip youth in Cleveland gravitate toward,” says Aerin Ercolea, one of In Training’s founders and resident DJs. “It’s nice to be part of a clique that is invested in letting people experience their lives unapologetically for at least a couple nights a month.”
Since 2014, the group of 20-something friends have shared equipment and moral support to host the three parties, usually at punk bar Now That’s Class. The events attract sizeable followings, with In Training regularly drawing close to 200 people. Attendees can expect video installations, fog machines and sets that can both challenge and entice.
“We’ve been really happy to see that we can do weirder, more underground, timeless-sounding stuff and have a response that celebrates what we’re doing,” says Ercolea, “which isn’t the spectacle circus of big-room EDM nights.”