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The future of underground nightlife in Durham is taking hold at The Fruit

<p>Sarah Damsky DJing at The Fruit in December 2019.</p>

Sarah Damsky DJing at The Fruit in December 2019.

In Durham’s burgeoning underground EDM scene, The Fruit is quickly becoming the life of the party. 

Originally a result of founder Tim Walter’s admiration for and collaboration with DJ collective The Floor, the venue’s slate of electronic music-based parties spans more than 60 upcoming events, ranging from one-off experiences to a weekly series.

This Friday, March 6, The Fruit will host an 18-and-over dance party titled Unrivaled Groove. The event is produced by party collective and record label Maison Fauna, which is composed of co-founders Sarah Damsky, Joe Bell, Simon Briggs and Nick DeNitto. Damsky, who spearheaded the event, will perform as DJ Kir alongside fellow local artists Monsieur, Murad Dwell, Treee City, Sunmoonstar and \ / (pronounced “two”). A portion of the party’s entry fee sales will benefit Coral Morphologic’s Miami Coral Rescue Project.

The DJs will pay homage to U.K. Garage music, a subgenre of house music that originated in England in the 1990s. According to Damsky, UKG is “percussive, fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously,” and is the genre that inspired her to begin producing and DJing.

“It seemed only fitting that the first party I threw with my fellow creators at Maison Fauna be an homage to [UKG],” Damsky wrote in an email. “The artists performing at Unrivaled Groove are all local and all incredibly talented. The production has to be on par with their talent and my drive, and that’s the attitude I go into every planning process with.”

After Unrivaled Groove, Maison Fauna’s presence at The Fruit will continue with the kickoff of the weekly DECIDUUS series on March 13. The series, spearheaded by Bell, will feature underground house and techno artists every Friday in The Fruit’s basement, starting with Baltra.

“[DECIDUUS] is going to change everything for Durham,” Damsky wrote. “Now you don’t need to go to New York to see Baltra or LA to see Masha — they’re going to be here … collaborating with our scene. It will bring a much needed kind of consistency that the dance scene here doesn’t yet have.”

Until now, Durham’s underground dance party scene has been occupied by standalone or monthly events, such as Arcana’s First Friday offerings or The Floor’s FOUNDATIONS series held every third Saturday of the month at The Fruit.

“There isn’t really a place where, if you decide you want to go out and dance on a random Friday night to house and techno, you can just go to without really thinking,” Damsky wrote. “[DECIDUUS offers] a different kind of consistency: same place, same time, great out-of-state headliners with wonderful local support, every single Friday.

The expansion of the local underground EDM scene, like The Fruit itself, is an organic outgrowth of the community’s desires. For years, The Fruit was home to Moogfest afterparties, produced by The Floor. According to Walter, the afterparties were a “huge hit,” with attendees often comparing the featured artists to those in the New York scene. With the support of the audiences as well as fellow Durham arts entrepreneurs, such as Kym Register of The Pinhook, Walter began to feel The Fruit could add to the scene by providing space for electronic music.

“[The Fruit] was a space that I bought to use as a place to make and show art, but I didn’t really know what exactly was going to happen with it. I’m not a techno-dance entrepreneur who said ‘Hey, here’s a missing piece,’” Walter said. “[We were] just listening to what the community wanted, and what was available and what seemed to work well in the space.”

The Fruit’s model is especially welcoming to artists and groups who fall outside of the mainstream, with no standardized price for bookings, raw warehouse aesthetics and a heavy emphasis on grassroots social media and word-of-mouth promotional campaigns. This combination has lent itself to The Fruit becoming home to an eclectic calendar of events with a close-knit community of attendees, making it an apt breeding ground for underground nightlife.

“House and techno music have deep roots in marginalized communities. For that reason, dance events are hubs for art, release, beauty, self-expression, self-love, joy and freedom,” Damsky wrote. “I remember reading somewhere that a club should feel like a home away from home, a place where anyone, regardless of identity, can come to dance and feel safe.”

Events held at The Fruit enforce a zero-tolerance policy towards any and all hatred, with organizers doing “everything in [their] power to make our parties accessible and inclusive,” according to Damsky. This commitment to inclusion is reflective of the mentality of much of Durham’s creative community.

“We have something really special here. There’s a general cognizance of what others are doing, and because of that, a lack of selfishness,” Damsky wrote. “I’ve experienced the same feelings of love in Durham that I felt at events in larger cities, but to an extent that’s even more honest, open, and stable. I hope that those who come to the events we throw feel that unique magic. It is imperative that every city has a space where they can have a communal experience of joy, freedom, and self-expression through dance.”

Tickets for Unrivaled Groove are available for $10 at bit.ly/durhamUKG

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