The stereotypes of electronic/dance gigs unfortunately often come true: Throw some dudes up on a stage with a table and some equipment so they can hit buttons and flash a bunch of lights and charge in the double digits for the door, and there you go.
There are several DJ/artists and promoters, though, trying to go beyond that party atmosphere and put the focus squarely back on the creators. One of the newest examples of this is Roska Collective, a group of locals who are turning their shows into special events with themes, varied music and a generally warm vibe they work hard to foster.
Collective member Adam Radef—who is mostly in charge of coordinating and writing up the plans/content for Roska events—said his group’s shows are meant to bring in an under-represented audience different than you may see at a larger electronic music show.
“Our shows have always featured a very low entry fee, or they’ve been completely free because we want to get that group of Northern Nevada music appreciators who have an interest in local talent,” Radef said. “I would just say that we are developing a safe culture at our shows,” added collective member Stephanie Kulla. “We want people to come out and experience the music, so we try to keep things comfortable, to make people feel welcome. That’s not to say other events don’t do that, but it’s something that we focus on.”
It’s also a full-on experience at a Roska Collective show, with members Lacie Corey in charge of securing artists to make live works during the show and Vera Alexander in charge of decor to fit the theme. The Siren Society often performs aerial or dance shows to give it even more visual interest.
“Our shows are more about environment creation,” said Roska founder Travis Rose. “We want people to get away from the basic 9-to-5 experience.”
He said they try not to repeat themes, noting, “We don’t recycle any of our shows. We usually remix it in some fashion, if not completely create it from scratch.”
Roska started in 2015 in Las Vegas with Rose’s work in event promotion and DJing on the side. When he moved to Carson City a year later, the focus changed to art events. He started working with Kulla, and they planned Connexion in 2018, a three-day event at Pyramid Lake where they met Radef and Creedence Brooks, a house/techno DJ who now serves as Roska’s music curator.
Soon after Connexion, Rose and Kulla moved to Reno permanently and, since then, have been hosting events in the city. Most of them have been at The Bluebird, including their popular last Tuesday series, Techno Tacos Tequila.
At that event and others, Brooks works to also give Roska a distinctive sound in the scene with a mix-and-match of regular DJs and guest artists.
“The one big thing I do is make sure the kind of music featured is a journey, instead of just chopped-up, different genres,” he said. “I like it to have a nice flow.”
With more events planned all the time—including a still-in-the-works block party this summer—Roska plans to keep bringing diverse members of the entire arts community into its fold.
“We have a great group of regulars that come to every show and a fantastic group of people that promote for us to expand the events to new people,” Radef said. “That’s what I think is really special and unique about it.”