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Crimes Against Ravers Are the Fastest DJs in Town

This young crew's frantic sets are a hit with partiers ready to rage post-lockdown.

Photo by @stray.cryptid

Last Halloween weekend, this reporter nearly put his back out at a DJ-focused dual house party in south Minneapolis. Both adjacent houses were stuffed full of kids who’d skipped at least a half-dozen other DJ parties around town in favor of risking asphyxiation or worse. This crowd knew from house shows, though— they kept the smoking outside.

Sometime close to midnight in house No. 2, as people squeezed in and out of the kitchen, the living room witnessed a cataclysm. On the decks, a 28-year-old DJ named Soupka alternated between a number of stupidly hard, deliberately messy tracks and shamelessly cheesy stadium EDM anthems. If the people in the social rooms jostled at every turn, the dancers did so doubly, and the DJ’s herky-jerky pinwheeling between selections both mirrored and guided the tumult.

Even Soupka was overwhelmed by the size of the Halloween crowd. “If I hadn’t been behind the DJ booth, I wouldn’t have wanted to be there,” they recall candidly. 

A party whose crowd scares even its organizer: Say hello to the sound, style, and milieu of Crimes Against Ravers, where the beats-per-minute teeter around the 200 range (yes, really) and a devil-may-care attitude toward music and, seemingly, life itself prevail. They’re fun, they’re scary, they’re not that serious—and they’re not kidding. At all.

You don’t have to go to the shows to hear it. Soupka recently uploaded a DJ mix called COCAINE INDUCED PSYCHOSIS, not too long after fellow C.A.R. organizer Matt—a manic presence who spins under the charming moniker DJ Cumstain—offered up one called terrortrance: all caps here, no caps there, both equally gleeful and tantrum-like, they make an ideal introduction.

But that Halloween crowd’s fervency has been catching, and it’s far from confined to house shows. C.A.R. has put on a number of events over the past year and a half, many at the aptly seedy Mortimer’s, but venturing out to other spots as well. On January 10, C.A.R. DJs made up a good part of the lineup for RaveQuest at First Avenue, and the event sold out the Mainroom. Not bad for a scruffy crew that’s been active on the scene less than two years.

Ten days after the First Avenue show, on January 20, C.A.R. headlined another event, this one at ROK Bar, a cozy spot in the shadow of the Schmidt Lofts on 7th Street West, a mile from downtown St. Paul. “Fast Music,” blared the Instagram “flyer.” A taunt, a dare, a breezy combination of both, it was classic C.A.R.

The capacity of ROK, whose owners are shopping for a new venue, is 75, roughly 5 percent of the Mainroom’s. But this wasn’t Minneapolis. This was (cue sneer-sigh from a very Northeast-focused scene) St. Paul. And it was 3 degrees and falling. Given all that, and a store of other available options, the crowd of several dozen constituted a triumph. 

If techno is fast, well, C.A.R. is faster. Drum & bass, which has a median speed of 170 BPM, counted as slow in this company. One of the residents, AVAS, treated us to Modjo's "Lady"—an elegant, poppy house track that sends a Chic guitar sample through a series of filters, like drinking champagne on prom night—as rammed through a trash compactor. Hollers abounded. Within 10 minutes there was a Morris dancing/leg-kick circle, if only briefly lived. Dancing full-on to music this fast tires even college students.

“The fast is only sustainable for so long,” says Matt, a wiry 26-year-old. It’s a few weeks later; we’re in a tattered booth at Caffetto, along with Soupka and Joe Cross, 23. These three are not the whole of C.A.R. (which, just to be clear, everyone at the table pronounces simply “Car”), but they’re its nucleus. Joe came up with the name; Matt handles the art; Soupka’s house provided their first venue.

Still, “the fast” is packing them in, and was doing so right from the start. That initial house party, headlined by an out-of-town friend billed as Gloomy, occurred before the group had a name and outdid their expectations considerably. “I think we definitely expected 50 or above,” Joe says. Instead, he says, they got, “throughout the night, a few hundred. That was our big first show, before we even started as a group.”

Maybe that shouldn’t have been too surprising: House shows (some punk, some not) are where Joe, Soup, and Matt all met, and house shows are where all three found their way into DJ culture. A teeming number of young partiers make their way to the house shows as well as the club events. (For the record, the house shows I’ve caught involving C.A.R. have been 21-plus.) And those kids like it fast.

In this, they share a great deal with a global techno audience that has also largely come of age post-Covid. (Joe, Soup, and Matt all met post-lockdown.)  After the pandemic, a lot of kids were locked up for two-three years and are ready to rage. And C.A.R. is an outlet for that.

“That was definitely what I felt a lot at the start,” Joe says. “I think a lot of us felt and still do feel the itch—you’ve just got to get out and dance your heart out.”

“It’s that, plus just how fucked up the whole world is,” Matt says. “This is a nice outlet to let off steam.”

Matt grew up in Owatonna where, as he puts it, “I was listening to a lot of Pitchfork bullshit in high school,” before escaping to Minneapolis and the house-show circuit. And it was during Covid that he first encountered the French DJs Casual Gabberz’ Boiler Room DJ set. “It just blew my mind at the time,” he says. He got into vintage ’90s gabber artists like Nasenbluten and DJ Skinhead, at about the same time that Soupka did.

“I think for me, the early hardcore stuff is still always gonna be my favorite,” Matt says. “I try to make a point to throw as much of that into my sets as possible—all the chunky gabber tracks.”

That referential look-back at ’90s hardcore rave has had an impact on C.A.R.’s self-presentation; for a recently made limited-edition screenprint T-shirt, Matt drew “a ’90s gabber goblin Calvin [of Calvin & Hobbes] pissing on the turntables.” And they’re finding a similarly outsider-inclined crowd as hardcore party throwers did when Clinton was president. When I ask who C.A.R.’s audience is, Joe, with an air of mock-triumphalism, shouts: “Weirdoes!” The whole table laughs.

“Furries, like cat ears,” Matt says, teasing out the thread. Then, more seriously: “The crowd’s all over the place. It’s definitely younger a lot of the time.”

“Generally, 30 and under is most of our crowd,” Joe says. 

In fact, the further over 30 you are, the less inclined you might be for what C.A.R. does. Take their first non-house show, a now-legendary catastrophe at Palmer’s in November of 2022. “We cleared out the regulars,” Matt says. After a few minutes of the opening DJ playing at “like, 200 minimum BPM,” he says, “the regulars were humoring it for a few seconds. And then they realized it wasn’t a bit.”

“We got an email afterwards that was basically like, ‘We don’t like your music, sorry. Best of luck,’” Soupka says.

Better luck came a month later, when Mortimer’s reached out: “We just had a Friday spot open up, very last minute.” With only two days’ promo—right before Christmas, in frigid weather—C.A.R. still drew over 200. “Obviously, Mortimer’s is more of a spot that makes sense for us,” Joe says. “A lot of people that come to our shows go to Mort’s already.”

“Yeah, people who wouldn’t usually listen to our music are all of a sudden coming up to us and being like, ‘I like this,’” Soupka says.

RaveQuest wasn’t a C.A.R. event, per se; they got involved through promoter Daisy Hex. She had recently done a Barbie rave at the Fine Line, and First Avenue then offered the Mainroom for a similarly themed party. “We had Daisy on at a good amount of the Mort’s shows,” Matt says. Hex “wanted to return the favor,” he adds, quoting her: “I want to get C.A.R. up on the First Avenue stage.”

Did they soften their attack for the big room? 

“Nah,” Matt says with a laugh. “I think we kind of made it a point to go a little harder. But still,” he adds, a young entertainer fast learning to navigate the public’s taste, “you don’t want to alienate a crowd.”

Crimes Against Ravers
With: Omari Love, Byzarra, Echo, Dazzle, and DJ Cumstain
Where: Mortimer’s
When: 10 p.m. Friday, March 15
Tickets: $5; more info here

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