Bliss in the city with Will Eastman

Will Eastman is the man behind Bliss, an eight-year-old indie dance party hosted every fourth Saturday at the Black Cat. Eastman, who first came to the District 13 years ago to attend graduate school at GW for museum and American studies, said the theme for Bliss is no attitude, just fun. Aside from DJ-ing, Eastman is recording his first album, which he aims to release by 2009. Catch him next at Comet Ping-Pong on Connecticut Avenue this Sunday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m., performing a close-out set after acts Tussle and Extra Life. Tickets are $10.

What is Bliss, how did you conceive of the projcect and what was the evolution of it?

I began Bliss eight years ago – we just celebrated our eight-year anniversary. It started at the Metro Café, which is a now-defunct nightclub on 14th Street and Church – and it’s now an upscale condominium showroom. The idea was basically to start a dance party where people could get together and listen to guitar-based indie pop, rock and dance. At the time, one’s choices for dance parties were a lot narrower: the EDM (Electonic Dance Music) scene, which was house, drum and bass and techno, the hip hop scene and top 40 mainstream clubs. And if you wanted to go dance on the weekends, those were basically your choices. So the notion was let’s start a dance party at a rock club. At first it was a bit of a hard sell, because people were used to going to rock clubs to see live music. But over time, it grew and after a year we moved it to the Black Cat which was a larger place. Now, a year and a half ago, we had the opportunity to do some events at the 9:30 Club.

Blisspop stems from that and that happens every month or two at the 9:30 Club. It’s typically me with a headliner – either a national act or a local act. Most of the people on the bill were my friends, and I sort of like to keep it like that – working with my friends on these events and giving support to hometown people or artists with whom I’ve had correspondence over the course of time.

Speak about your upcoming album.

I’m currently recording – doing my own original dance music production, which I started last year when I started doing remixes on my laptop. I used to play in bands and used to perform live and record and now that I’m a full-time DJ, that urge to create and produce something is overwhelming. You can DJ your heart out in a city, but until you have your own music, you’re never going to grow beyond that regional or city market – and that’s what I’m trying to do now. And it’s been encouraging, because I’ve been playing demos of some of the stuff at my recent gigs late this summer. There’s been great reaction. Nobody knows it’s me. To play something you made and drop it amongst a set of songs that you really value and have the audience keep dancing and react to it seamlessly – that’s a pretty good feeling.

What was GW like for you?

I love GW. I had a great time. GW is an international school and I met people from all over the world with different backgrounds and perspectives than my own. GW is an urban school and I like that … I was with the radio station when I was there. It was decent, but it was tiny. I know they have a higher visibility footprint now in the student union. But there’s no reason GW can’t host a summer or yearly music festival. There’s space; there should be funding from the University. If you all are really interested in music, if you all are really interested in dance parties, step up your game and start hosting.

We were supposed to have Girl Talk (for Fall Fest) but the University cancelled it.

Girl Talk played at Georgetown. Don’t be intimidated by Georgetown. You can do just as good.

Some GW students fixate on the notion that D.C. doesn’t have its own authentic or legitimate music scene. Could you respond to that?

I’d say that they’re not looking hard enough, or they have unrealistic expectations that if they mitigated would probably make them happier. By sheer force of volume, there’s never going to be what exists in New York or Los Angeles or London, so get over that right there. What D.C. does have is a very vibrant community of musicians and DJs and record labels and media people who are doing Web sites that support music and arts. And it also has a tremendous influx of people who come to go to school like at GW and Georgetown and Maryland – young people who come to D.C. and start bands when they’re here – and some of them take off and become well-known – look at The Walkmen. I lived here for 13 years, and I always heard people complaining about D.C., and I personally have never been disappointed.

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