‘Flavorless’ Dance Parties Seek to Expand the Tastes of Chattanooga Ravers
Before 2017, Chattanooga could hardly be considered a destination for electronic music fans, let alone lovers of house or techno. At least, that’s what DJ and producer Brett Wise (aka Bad Bert) thought when he returned to the city after spending three years hosting dance parties in Beijing.
Photo by Alex Kuhne
Wise would eventually air this grievance to fellow DJ/producer Stratton Tingle. After talking, the two decided Chattanooga needed its own techno dance party, and that if any group was ever fit to start one, it was them. And just like that, the monthly DIY rave “Flavorless” was born.
“The hardest part is always starting,” Wise said.
With a St. Elmo coffee shop as their premier venue, the first party was a micro-scale, invite-only affair with a highly curated guest list full of known ravers. Making it so exclusive wasn’t some ploy to make them seem cooler or more important. Rather, they needed to create a strong foundation that would set the tone for future, bigger parties; the vibes needed to be immaculate.
“We just kind of grew it, slowly but surely, from like thirty to fifty people on those first ones to like two to three hundred at pretty much every party,” Wise said.
Along the way, the DJ duo took on new crew members and built relationships with other local venues. These days, Wise handles artist bookings and generally guides the creative vision of Flavorless.
Despite their growth, Wise recognizes that what Flavorless does isn’t the norm for a reason. The kind of music they play is considered niche in the South, and parties like theirs only have so much room to grow in a city the size of Chattanooga. But Wise wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You can kind of draw a line between electronic dance music in the US,” he said. “There’s like the really big commercial side where you have these big touring artists that play to huge festival crowds of 60, 70, 80 thousand people.
“And the side that we’re more personally interested in is kind of a different vibe,” he continued. “We like to collaborate with artists that typically play to smaller clubs across the US. [That side] tends to focus less on the artist, and there’s more of a balance between the artistry, the DJ-ing and also the dancers.”
Wise said that everything about the setup at a Flavorless party serves this more intimate, collaborative relationship between artist, DJ and audience. It’s about creating an experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. If one component gets downplayed or removed, it’s just not the same. When things get going, it all tends to blend together under the lights and smoke.
Although Flavorless call themselves “underground” on their website, Wise said this label is a little misleading. For some, it’s a term that connotes snobbery and inaccessibility, which is certainly not the Flavorless vibe. It isn’t so much about capturing a specific genre or trend, but a spirit, an atmosphere that pervades the tradition of scrappy, subterranean rave.
“In some ways it's rooted in the American invention of dance music,” he said. “Techno started in Detroit, house music started in Chicago, and we tend to bring artists that are kind of working within those genres.”
Wise and friends can’t help but wear their influences on their sleeves when it comes to who they choose to book, but that doesn’t mean they don’t consider the tastes of their Chattanooga audience.
“So, when we started, I thought I had kind of figured out what people liked here,” Wise said.
When it comes to the sounds they prepare, the group wanted to play it safe at first, not scare too many potential partiers away. So, when the Flavorless crew invited Knoxville-based Teknox, a collective of DIY dance fanatics and producers known for their hard beats, down for a collab party, Wise asked them if they would tone it down just a little bit for the Chattanooga crowd.
“They didn’t go easy at all,” Wise said, a grin hijacking his face. “And people loved it.”
Flavorless was conceived as a platform for underground electronic music in a city where such niches are thought to have severely limited reach, so Wise was pleasantly surprised when so many were content to just show up, shut up and dance.
“In the southeast, it's a small community,” Wise said. “There’s no commercial viability to it.
“It’s a passion thing.”
The pandemic put things on hold for a hot minute, but Flavorless made a triumphant return in fall 2021 with a packed, nonstop, four-hour event at Cooper’s Alley. Wise said it was one of his favorites ever. The Omicron variant has slowed things again, but Wise insisted that parties will return when the time is right.
For updates on future shows, links for tickets, and to view snapshots of the sonic savagery for yourself, visit the Flavorless Instagram page.