House Is in the, uh, House

Photo by Tenaya HillsFive minutes after my interview with Pauley, one of the three men responsible for Focus Tuesdays and Level Thursdays—Orange County's latest house-music offerings—he calls back.

“I forgot to tell you something,” he sputters almost nervously, sounding as though he's rethinking his decision to call. “For me, what we do is about bringing people together through music.”

Okay, so it sounds clich. But I believe him, agreeing that I felt something very holistic—noting that it's not the word I'm looking for, but still—about Level. “Right,” he responds. “It's very . . . organic.”

True enough. When I arrived at Big Andy's in Tustin for Level Thursday, Feb. 19, it was quite organic—if by organic, you mean very empty. Upstairs, in the bar's lounge-by-way-of-a-converted-banquet room, a DJ stood spinning for the bartender only. Heading belowground to check out the basement bar, I found the same. “We tend to get a late crowd,” Pauley pointed out, as a middle-aged man—clearly reeling from his happiest happy hour, like, ever—stumbled onto the dance floor, valiantly struggling to keep up with the song that was playing.

But lest you confuse house with the ceaseless, bang-your-head-against-the-wall drone of techno music—it's okay; I did, too—Pauley offers this tutorial: techno music, first popularized during the late-'80s/early-'90s rave scene, has more beats per minute and a harder sound. House, with slightly slower beats, is rooted more in disco and bears a groovier element. In short, for most people, techno is often unbearable to listen to and almost always impossible to dance to; but with house's infectious, inviting rhythms, it's nearly impossible not to.

With Focus now past the half-year mark, Pauley and the club's two other promoters, Josh and Dave, hope to find equal success for its Thursday-night counterpart. So far—despite last Thursday's just-shy-of-fair turnout; everyone admitted it was a slow night, attributing it to the post-Valentine's Day cash crunch—they've been pleased, especially given Orange County's less-than-stellar house-music scene.

And when you also consider that Pauley and his partners routinely court internationally known talent for their events, the success of Focus and Level is even more impressive. Last Thursday, Level featured David Alvarado, who coincidentally happened to go to high school with Pauley. But for other DJs, they sometimes have to pay for airline tickets and hotel rooms, not to mention sound equipment, promotional fliers and advertising.

Are they breaking even? Amazingly, yes. But as Pauley quickly points out, Focus and Level aren't about making money. Instead, they aim to build Orange County's house scene back up to where it was in the mid-'90s. To this end, he says, they are trying to introduce the music to new audiences. Much promoting for their events is done though “hand promotion,” as he calls it. “It's the strongest form of promotion—handshake promotion—getting on the street level of the party and club scenes and making contact. If that doesn't convince people to come to your club, nothing will.”

They also hope the scene will grow by attracting a variety of age groups. Currently, Focus is hosted at Tapas, an 18-and-older venue in Newport Beach where they can add a significantly younger element to the older crowd that typically follows house.

Still, attracting new listeners hasn't been entirely easy. They refuse to “do it commercially,” as Pauley states, meaning your chances of hearing Top 40 hits at Focus and Level are slim. Yet, it is for precisely this reason that I believe him when he calls me back to gush—dare I say dorkily?—about bringing people together through house. And judging by the sweaty mob that had gathered on the basement dance floor by the end of Thursday night—the drunken man, still happy, among them—it appears he's succeeding.

Next week, Focus and Level merge together, with special guest DJ Raul Campos, at Tapas, 4253 Martingale Way, Newport Beach, (949) 756-8194. Tues. Call For Time. $10. 18+. To be placed on the guest list, e-mail co***********@ho*****.com.

Wanna dance? Invite me out! eg*****@oc******.com">eg*****@oc******.com

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