On January 27, 2011, Pendu Disco – aka Horror Scores for the Dance Floor – will celebrate its first anniversary with some decidedly dark musical performances by Houston’s //TENSE// and GHXST, DJ sets by DJ Harrison, and plenty of cake. The raucous concert series burst onto the scene this time last year at Glasslands Gallery, with unforgettable performances by Salem and Gatekeeper, two bands that came to define the hip-hop/goth/industrial genre known as Witch House. Michael Stipe and Terence Koh were in the crowd, so too The New York Times. Initially started by Todd Pendu (not to be confused with underground promoter Todd P) and DJ Harrison, the series is now firmly under the umbrella of PENDU NYC, an arts organization that’s produced a gallery show for underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, the musical debut of porn starlet Sasha Grey, and annual musical showcase the NY Eye & Ear Festival, upcoming in May 2011.
Pendu Disco has become known as a place to discover new bands, even for show promoters. Recently, the concert series developed a Manhattan offshoot, Pendu Acid Disco at Home Sweet Home, and it will be making its West Coast debut in Los Angeles on February 12, presenting live performances by Chelsea Wolfe, The Present Moment, King Dude, and a DJ set by Robert Disaro of Disaro Records, a Houston label at the center of Witch House movement that also put out albums by Salem, oOoOO, and White Ring. Todd Pendu’s sights are already set on Beijing and Paris.
Here, he talks to BlackBook about his seminal disco, Salem, and Witch House – the phrase that defined a movement.
How did the idea for Pendu Disco come about? The idea for Pendu Disco began in October 2009. I had booked a show at Glasslands in Brooklyn with Indian Jewelry, Living Days, and Led Er Est, and asked Harrison to DJ for me last minute. Harrison came in with just an iPhone to DJ with, but all the tracks he had to play were total floorkillers. The bands were amazing and people danced throughout the night. When it was all over, we started talking about the notion of starting a weekly dance party with myself booking the shows and Harrison as the resident DJ. We especially wanted to promote the darker styles of dance music that we saw around us. I had met John [Holland] from Salem earlier that summer and we had already talked about doing shows together, so once the idea for a weekly was approved by Glasslands, it only made sense to contact Salem and have them play our first event. Gatekeeper, who were Chicago residents at the time, were the second band we contacted, and we found out they were already going to be in Brooklyn in January, so it worked out perfectly to have them play as well. The show could not have been better received. It was Michael Stipe’s birthday, and he came out with an entourage that included Terence Koh. I now like to think of January 5, 2010 as “I/V/X – The day NYC went dark.”
A year later and its still going strong. Has it changed at all since it first started? The only thing that’s changed is that we moved the party to a monthly format and changed venues. We want to keep people’s attention by not becoming stagnant or repetitive. Not playing the same day of the week or exactly the same time each month, keeping it fresh and new always.
You brought in some great acts early on, like Salem and Gatekeeper. Did you have any idea those bands would blow up the way they have? Honestly, I had an idea that these bands would go big, and I wanted to help encourage that. In my mind, these bands are the future of the dancefloor and part of Pendu Disco’s mission is to help foster a kind of alternative club music scene to form.
What can we expect from Pendu Disco in the new year? Are there any particular bands you’re looking forward to seeing perform, or kinds of music that you feel will be popular in the coming months? All kinds of surprises are in store for Pendu Disco and I like to keep it that way. ‘Keep everyone guessing’ is a motto of mine. I am really excited to have //TENSE// perform here for the One Year Anniversary. They really are an incredible band to see live. Pummeling high-energy dance music rooted in Industrial EBM. I have GHXST opening the show — they are a band to look out for. I have Streetwalker, who are members of White Car, coming from Chicago in March, and they will be playing with Gatekeeper and Innergaze — I’m very psyched about that show as well.
I know you recently started an acid house dance party in Manhattan. How is that different from the original Pendu Disco? Pendu Acid Disco is a branching-out of the Pendu Disco idea. I really feel that Tekno and Rave is on the rise. I threw a smaller version of a rave last year and this summer plan to put on a much larger one. I’m really into revving the spirit of Acid House that Psychic TV propagated in the mid-80’s. Rave style before it turned into a commercial mess diluted by backpacks, vapor rub, and glowsticks. I’m into the psychedelic experience and the ecstatic experience and I feel that Tekno is a great way to get into those states of being. The DJ’s I have spinning, such as Shawn NoEQ of Led Er Est and Matthew Radune, are digging in the crates of late 80’s and early 90’s Tekno, and are really bringing out music that most people have never heard but can instantly enjoy and dance to. It’s not about the retro aspect of the music — it’s about fostering an idea that can translate into newer music. Bands such as Blondes here in NYC are making Tekno completely relevant for today and the future.
Will Pendu Disco LA have a particular feel to it that’s different from its Brooklyn and Manhattan counterparts? My goal in bringing Pendu Disco to LA — as well as anywhere else it may go — is to bring the general Pendu vibe and style to each venue it inhabits. It’s not so easy to describe that style precisely. It’s just a kind of feeling and atmosphere. Lots of fog and strobes, for sure.
In a piece your wrote for Pendu Magazine, you seemed to have some beef with the term Witch House as it’s used to describe the kind of music that you’ve featured at Pendu Disco. But there’s certainly a “dark” mood that the bands you’ve featured seem to foster, like Gatekeeper, Laurel Halo, and Wolf Eyes. Will Pendu Disco continue to feature similarly dark sounding music? Or is that part of a specific moment in time? Yes, I think that Witch House is a confusing term that means very little. It may be helpful once in a while, and help people find certain music now and then, but ultimately I think it’s useless. The way I see it is that the 90’s were about Alternative Rock Music and the 2010’s are about Alternative Club Music. The sounds coming from the dance bands I tend to promote do fall on the darker side as far as mood and atmosphere, and that’s something that I don’t see changing very much. I’ve always been into darker music. It’s just part of me and I can’t help but reflect that in my choices in the bands I bring. But that darkness somehow brings a smile to my face. Ultimately I like seeing people having fun and dancing. I’m throwing a disco, after all.