By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Someone has gotten a little too enthusiastic with the fog machine tonight. Smoke fills the wide room up to the club's low ceiling and back toward the concession stand. There, some teenager is probably handing out fog-flavored nachos, the smoke adding an extra kick to that goopy, gummy cheese of indeterminate origin. But the kids love the fog, and Rock Steady is all about the kids.
All the right elements are in place: a big, dark room, largely lacking parents; ear-blasting music pulsating from all angles; and flashing lights threatening to induce seizures in even the healthiest of clubgoers. In the hottest all-ages club in Plano, they've thought of everything. Now if only they could get some kids to show up.
Just 10 or 12 teenage guys gyrate wildly on the dance floor. Tonight is "Rave Steady," the club's first—and, by the looks of it, last—techno night. Of course, it's a Sunday, and there's school tomorrow, but the place is a flashing, bumping graveyard, even with the few sets of glow sticks twirling in the mist. As I fiddle with my Razr, a short, round man in a flannel shirt rushes up to me.
"Text all your friends!" he squeaks. "Tell them to come here!" Sure, I think. I'll just go peel them off the floor of the Libertine Bar and tell them we're going to listen to the club hits of 1999 in a Plano teen joint. I ask the flannel man if he's in charge. He is. This is Lindy Denham, middle-aged father of two teenagers and the owner of Rock Steady.
"It's not normally like this," he explains as he pulls me back toward the office, joking about changing the "office" label to "orifice" as he shuts the door. He originally envisioned Rock Steady as a Christian contemporary club.
"Have you ever tried to go into competition with a church?" he asks me in a decidedly non-rhetorical tone. Nah, I think, I'm pretty sure Jesus and I have different demographics. He sighs. "Well, don't try." When that didn't work out, he fished around and found a couple of teenage booking agents who would bring weekends full of emo-screamo-hardcore-emocore-metalcore-nachocore bands. After that, things started "trending up," and Rock Steady claimed the 15-to-19 demographic Denham wanted to steal from movie theaters and church lock-ins. Denham rolls on, showing me the club's MySpace page. He introduces me to booking agent Sean. He brings up the club's packed weekend calendars on the computer. But he freezes when a remix of Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" begins seeping under the office door.
"And, apparently, we have techno," Sean says with a sigh. Beyond the wall, I picture eight kids twirling their little fluorescent wands, secure in the belief that what they are doing is incredibly cool. The rave night is the brainchild of 17-year-old Andrew Reyna of Allen, a spiky-haired, doll-faced kid who, according to his MySpace page, likes vampires and a bizarre kind of French street gymnastics called le parkour.
I find Andrew, aka DJ Reaktor, at the DJ booth, engrossed in mixing an old Daft Punk track with some newfangled business. Either he doesn't know there are only 10 kids at his rave, or he doesn't care.
"WHY TECHNO?" I yell over the music, amazed at his dedication to synthesizers and looped vocals in this era of rock and roll.
"I JUST LIKE IT," he yells back, slipping his headphones on and turning a few more knobs. This must be the kid who goes to parties and sits in the back room playing video games all night. Everyone in the room is completely miffed by the music, from the door girl to Denham to the concession stand guy. But Andrew and his buddies are in a state of mild euphoria. Teenagers have an amazing ability to have a fantastic time jumping up and down in circles to electronic music. I should know; I did an awful lot of it back in the day.
I caught the tail end of the rave scene in the '90s, clinging on with my wide-legged pants, glow-in-the-dark hair color and ridiculous amounts of sparkly plastic jewelry. But Andrew's "Rave Steady" is the 2007 equivalent of what would've happened if I'd strapped on black ankle boots and a fishnet top and tried to get all my friends to stop listening to Limp Bizkit and check out Madonna's True Blue. Kids in my day wanted their rap metal; kids these days want their screamo. I learned this by doing the unthinkable: spending a Friday night north of Interstate 635.
As I swung open the front door of Rock Steady for the second time, I was nearly trampled by a 6-foot guy in ass-hugging girl pants yelling to his friends outside, "It's all the non-scene kids here tonight!" I figured that meant I'd be greeted by a room full of nerds; I figured wrong.
I walked into Rock Steady to find a couple hundred of the best-looking, best-dressed clubgoers in town. Everyone was in skinny jeans, the girls with their sparkly flats and Chanel bags, the guys in Chuck Taylors and slim-fit hoodies. Packed onto the dance floor in their Shops at Willow Bend best, the teenage Rock Steadiers put the trendsters at Candle Room, Rubber Gloves, the Cavern and, well, every other club in Dallas to shame. Yes, they all looked like they got cut out of the same Urban Outfitters catalog, but they looked fantastic.