Chico underground

Local electronic-music scene in good hands with BassMint.

Bryan Anthony (center) is deep in the BassMint.

Bryan Anthony (center) is deep in the BassMint.

Photo by Lotus Flame Photography

Up next: Friday, May 22, 9:30 p.m., Yheti (Ohio), Toadface (Ohio), A.L.O. (Chico). Cost: $3

Peking Chinese Restaurant
243 W. Second St.

If you’ve ever walked past the corner of Second and Salem streets late on a Friday night you may have heard what sounded like a giant robotic dragon growling in an underground lair. But what you were hearing (and probably feeling) actually was the exotic rumblings of BassMint, Chico’s literally underground weekly electronic music showcase.

Every Friday night after dinner service, the basement-dwelling Peking Chinese Restaurant shuts down its dining room and opens its swanky little low-ceilinged bar for the BassMint producers to pump up the bass for Chico’s late-night dance crowd.

Launched in April 2012 by a couple of Chico music heads—Ayrian Dilts and Adam White—BassMint has since put on more than 150 electronic shows at Peking. Dilts has since backed out of the weekly grind, and the shows are now organized by White (his producer/DJ name is A.L.O.) and DJ Michael Liddle (aka Eyere Eyes), who both serve as resident DJs alongside Bill Keller (Billy the Robot) and Wyatt Smith (bIONIX).

On any given Friday, about 100 local electronic music fans head to the BassMint, and the scene down below is like a mini music festival. There’s always a wide range of fun lovers sweating along to the nostril-flaring bass—from dread-headed twirlers, to EDM fanatics, to an aging hip-hop head or two. It’s peaceful, the house projection/light show is impressive, the dancing is good and the people-watching is even better, especially with a hot date with whom to share a cold beer or nigori while on the dance floor.

Though it’s always packed, BassMint is somewhat of a well-kept secret beyond the local electronic scene in Chico, but not so in the greater music community. Word that Chico is a worthy road stop has spread, and it’s become a popular destination for some of the hottest touring electronic producers and DJs.

“Everyone says that Chico rages, you know? Our setting is much more intimate than most places,” said Liddle.

Roughly half of the shows feature visiting artists from around the country and beyond. On a recent Friday (April 30), up-and-coming L.A. producers Trevor Kelly and Party Wave brought bass-heavy sets of original music as they passed through on a West Coast tour. And last October, trippy Russian glitch-hopper Mindex came to town. “He did yoga and drank tea in the back to get ready for his set,” White recalled. “He was gold.”

White, 36, is a seasoned veteran of the local music scene. Originally a metalhead/punk-rocker, he played bass in his first Chico band when he was 15 and continued to rock until an accident nearly severed his fingers. He then tried his damaged hand at producing electronic music and has since produced 50 or so original tracks.

“The ability to do everything, and with sounds that aren’t organic, is really appealing,” White said.

Liddle, 37, started his music career hanging out at the Brick Works (where The Beach is now) in 1999 or so, when the nightclub had a vibrant electronic dance scene. He started deejaying and went on to help organize and help out with a number of DJ nights around town, including the Velour Lounge, which had a solid run of over two years on Panama Bar & Café’s back patio.

When asked about the notion of electronic music not being actual music, or that DJs aren’t musicians, White answered with a laugh: “In the ’90s, I was in rock bands and I thought it was a joke. I was a total dick.” Liddle chimed in: “I used to be that guy in high school. I played guitar … But, they’re just different beasts. You can’t really compare them, in my mind.”

Having descended into the basement and encountered that robotic dragon, it’s not hard to understand what Liddle is talking about. The beast makes a huge and impressive sound, but it can also be creatively nuanced, deep and complex, and in the hands of the experienced BassMint DJs keep the dance floor packed until 2 a.m.