Behind the music of Frequency, the mysterious art and dance project that’s been popping up around town

I arrive at 524 N. Foster Drive about an hour after things kicked off. The building is small and dark and almost entirely concrete, bare and crude. An ideal canvas for Frequency, a music and art project that hosts underground dance nights inspired by rave culture. The group formed last fall, spinning lesser heard electronic genres like electro, juke and various versions of disco and techno at venues such as Chelsea’s Live and MidCity Ballroom before moving to this building, which has operated under names like Southside Arts Center and Onyx Theatre.

Inside I meet my contact, a Frequency DJ and organizer, DJ Joe Shlabotnik, whose moniker is borrowed from the fictional baseball star Charlie Brown idolized in Peanuts

We walk from the small ticket vestibule into a tight room awash with cool-tone lights, where a small crowd (it would thicken later) vibes and gyrates as DJs Buktooth and Cool Math Games crank their music from a small elevated stage.

Shlabotnik tells me many things. He talks about the visuals projected throughout the space, which include ’80s ski films and industrial accident videos from the Chemical Safety Board, and about the history of rave culture, both in Baton Rouge and beyond, and about many other things that fall in the little black box labeled off-the-record. (As a rule the group evades most publicity.)

Everything is loud and fast, and though Shlabotnik is generous enough to chat with me, this is not the place for an extended interview with people who would much rather be dancing, playing music or talking to each other about music. Luckily, however, the DJs and crew behind the series open up later—over email, a condition they elected in the effort of preserving the delicate mystique of their thing. For more information on upcoming shows, keep an eye on Frequency’s Instagram @freq.br.

What are your preferred genres?

JOE SHLABOTNIK: I like early hardcore and forgotten tracks from the late ’80s and early ’90s. There’s a whole world of stuff out there for the finding. I get a real kick out of elbowing people and saying things like, ‘Believe it or not, this is Rakim and John Hurt and the guy from Video Killed The Radio Star together at last…’

DJ BUKTOOTH: Lately I’ve been working with house, jersey club and juke.

DJ MALICE OF MACEDON: I tend to be the one to dabble in the darker sounding genres. Dark techno and acid techno tend to be my bread and butter. 

DJ COOL MATH GAMES: Primarily, I make sets out of disco and house music.

JOSEPH BROOKS: I started out primarily DJing acid techno, but have since expanded into house, street soul, early drum and bass and dub reggae. 

SOFIA DUPRE: I do visuals, videography, photography, a lot of the fun visual stuff you see at Frequency.

What defines Frequency and sets it apart from other raves or dance parties?

BUKTOOTH: I do my best to show my influences and pay respect to the culture. Some of my favorite DJ sets are ones that effectively blend different styles together in a seamless way. I think that’s what makes Frequency what it is: how we connect with many different styles of music at our shows. It never gets boring. We approach each set with a new sound or energy.

MALICE: I think what sets us apart from the usual breed of bedroom-turned-backyard fraternity DJ is not just the music but the mindset. We’re as much an art project as a music project. 

SHLABOTNIK: We give every DJ an hour to work with because it’s too hard to make a statement otherwise. It allows experimentation too. You can’t take chances with only 20 minutes. Visuals are a real important part of the whole equation too. 


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Any notable influences on your events or your individual musical stylings?

COOL MATH GAMES: When I was much younger it was always a big priority to dance. Being from south Louisiana where it is always hot, you’d be sweating anyway. Having a large affinity for disco stemmed from that culture of the 1970s and ’80s… bright, flashy and a complete refusal to stop moving to the beat. 

What did you decide from the outset that you did and did not want Frequency to be?

SHLABOTNIK: We put complete trust in our mutual dissatisfaction with the status quo. It was just a matter of who we could sucker into letting us have the aux for a night and how soon we could do it.

MALICE: You will never catch us in Tigerland.

Tell me about the importance of retaining creative control over your events.

BROOKS: Retaining full creative control is incredibly important, because it creates a safe and respectful space for DJs to develop their craft and shape their individual tastes. It’s just not the same when you have music that you’re required to play.


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How do you see Frequency situated in the broader history of rave culture?

BROOKS: There is a second wave of underground raving across the US right now. In New York and L.A., the warehouse scene is coming back, techno is re-entering the mainstream, and electronic music is a more democratized space than ever. Frequency harkens back to the raves that took place in Baton Rouge in the 1990s, so I see it as a part of this second coming of dance music across America. However, I think Frequency will be remembered not only for the era it took place during, but the way it rose out of almost nothing. Baton Rouge isn’t a rave-friendly town—most venues can’t even stay open past 2 a.m., the electronic music scene is dominated by tech house and Tigerland, and DJ gear is hard to come by. Frequency managed to get past these obstacles and create something special that hasn’t existed here for almost 20 years.

Any specific plans for the future of Frequency? I know Joe will soon be leaving the country.

BROOKS: I will be one of the only Frequency members left after this year, and I see it as my duty, not only to myself, Joe, and the rest of Frequency, but to the scene we have created, to keep the show going. My hope is that, through our work thus far, we have inspired enough people to keep the scene alive. Recently, we’ve also connected with some important figures in Baton Rouge’s rave history who I hope to work with in the future.