“There’s music, art, fashion…it’s like a magazine brought to life.” That’s how Maddy (@madstartt), a DJ and Artist, describes DiskFrëq, the project that she and business partner Colt (@captaincupit14) have developed together.
“We’re trying a new way to break artists,” explains Colt, an A&R, and Curator. “Especially in hip-hop, there’s a lot of expectations and judgment that comes with saying ‘hey, look at me, listen to me’, and a lot of industry behavior that we wanted to cut through.”
Imagine the rap battle scene of a movie. There’s a new face in the mix, an up-and-coming artist looking for their big break. They take the stage as an impassive crowd stares expectantly back at them. Their grip tightens on the mic, and their palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy…
“DiskFrëq is intended to be much more organic, more welcoming,” says Maddy. “We want it to be like a big party where you’re just vibing, having a drink, people-watching, checking out the art. Then when a song catches your attention, you can move closer to the stage to watch the artist. This is a platform to network, to party, but in a safe space where you can be yourself. It’s a multi-media, multi-genre approach. We want people to interact, ask questions, and connect!”
The first DiskFrëq event was held at Slowdive in March 2022; the last one in July. The City’s crackdown on nightlife venues went into effect in August. But Colt and Maddy were able to grow DiskFrëq considerably in that short time. The maximum occupancy at Slowdive, where events were formerly held, is about 100 people. DiskFrëq’s most recent showcase, DiskFrëq Deluxe, had nearly 250 people in attendance. It took place at Elevation 27 in Virginia Beach, for a couple of reasons. First and most obviously, Slowdive has been shut down since August while the City reviews the Conditional Use Permits of several local venues.. But second, and more happily, DiskFrëq had gotten so successful that it needed a larger space.
“Events are really the biggest indicator of a community’s social infrastructure”, said Colt. “Norfolk has small venues and huge arenas, but not many spaces for midsize acts.” For reference, Elevation 27, where the latest DiskFrëq went down, has about a 600-person capacity. The NORVA’s is 1,450; Chrysler Hall’s is 2,500; Norfolk Scope’s is 10,200. But what about the in-between?
The DiskFrëq Duo explained the importance of venues with capacities of 200-500 people.
Midsize spaces are important because that is where local artists can make meaningful connections with bigger acts and break out of the local scene. Local artists hit a ceiling on the local circuit and get burned out. The venue size limits capacity and crowds, and therefore exposure and potential. Bigger acts don’t fit into most of the existing Norfolk venues, so they skip us. When big artists come through town, they often feature local artists as their opening act. Smaller acts lose the potential to make those connections with the bigger artists. More importantly, they lose the opportunity to build a fan base of local folks who can watch them come up and build a community around that. Imagine seeing your favorite artist on tour, and the opener blows your mind. Then you find out: they’re local! And you can see them again! From the other end, how great is it when that artist you randomly saw at a local bar one night turns out to be awesome? So you start following them, and eventually, they’re playing at a festival where you go to see them and are exposed to even more artists! Currently, that social infrastructure just isn’t here. The Elevation 27 event was a step towards building that ladder.
Maddy – DiskFrëq is our way of creating a whole ecosystem for artists and musicians. Our vision is a mutually reinforcing network of events within which local creatives can meet, collaborate, and flourish. Artists who are just starting out can have a platform to reach new fans and build a following, more established acts can continue growing, and people can come to enjoy new music and art in a welcoming environment. The plan is to hold monthly small events, with quarterly larger events, and eventually build our way up to a festival.
Colt – We had been holding these small events at Slowdive until the City shutdown in August. On one hand, that really hurt our revenue stream, and on the other, it accelerated our expansion to other venues. We have been holding events in Virginia Beach, and most recently debuted DiskFrëq Deluxe at Elevation 27. It was a huge success – over 200 people attended. For context, the max occupancy at Slowdive is 100 people, so we had double the crowd. There’s definitely an appetite for what we’re doing, and we are looking forward to bigger and better events. Of course, we hope to resume the more intimate monthly events at Slowdive, if the City lets it reopen. [Editors Note: Since this interview, Slowdive has closed with now plans to reopen]
Maddy – Also, Charles [the owner of Slowdive] didn’t charge us to use his space.
Colt – Yeah, often, venues will charge a “security deposit” if it’s a rap show. We asked him to just give us a chance. DiskFrëq was the most profitable night Slowdive had had. And we want to scale that by holding small, medium, and large events.
Maddy – Everyone makes money. The artists, the venue owners, us. And we invest that revenue back into DiskFrëq.
Colt – The City shutting down all these venues isn’t solving anything, it’s just making it someone else’s problem. Nobody is gonna be like “oh no, the bar is closed, guess I’ll just sit on my couch.” No. People will go to house parties, or make their own entertainment. And there’s no security. Where is it easier to sneak a gun into: a house, or a club? The shutdown does nothing to solve the issue of gun violence, it’s just pushing it out of sight. The City isn’t addressing the real issues or causes of gun violence, such as a lack of opportunity. In fact, they’re actively eliminating opportunities.
Maddy – Instead of just shutting places down, why couldn’t the City offer spaces for use, like vacant property that they own, whether a building or an open space. There are art shows at Stockley Gardens twice a year, with expensive works for sale. We’re artists too. There’s no room for us anywhere? Besides fostering creativity, besides building community, we’re creating an economic opportunity. There is money to be made here, for everyone. And people want things to do, they want to have fun! And we can provide it. Norfolk is for everyone. Anyone. Us. That’s why we’re doing this.
Catie was born in Norfolk and as an adult has lived here for two years and change. She has a master's in Environmental Planning and Design from the University of Georgia. She likes hiking, playing trivia, being a flaneuse, pinball, memes, and growing vegetables.