When you think of Austin’s "Live Music Capital of the World" status, what kind of music do you think of? Lots of genres may come to mind, but possibly not its thriving underground electronic and dance music scene. Tonight Learning Secrets – one of Austin’s longest running dance parties – celebrates their 10-year anniversary.
OK. But what is Learning Secrets?
“It really comes from the idea of turning people on to stuff they don’t know. And not in a snobby way,” explains Learning Secrets creator Ian Orth. “Just saying music is rad. Check this out. You don’t know it? Check it out. That was the whole idea of the party. Just come and check it out, you might like it.”
It would appear that people do like it. For a decade, DJs Ian Orth and Jeramy Nuegent have been successfully throwing Learning Secrets parties in Austin. Orth based the ideas on overseas parties that mixed genres like indie rock and techno music.
“My whole thought was, this should be working in Austin,” Orth says. “This should be happening in Austin. And the fact that it’s not, or the fact that there’s not more of it is kind of shocking to me.”
But why Austin? The Capital City seems more synonymous with Willie Nelson, Bob Schneider, the Lubbock migration, Americana, rock n' roll. Why start an electronic music party in Central Texas? New York, Los Angeles, or Miami might have bigger scenes.
Because it already exists there. It’s already there,” Orth says. “When we started in 2004, there might have been like two or three other things that were similar. There was nothing like it. There was literally no one doing what we were doing and the style in which we were doing it in.
Orth and Neugent have made a name for themselves with their brand of parties - in a town increasingly well known for innovation, music and being hip. For a decade they’ve been bringing in big name acts such as Moby, Phoenix, Joe Goddard, Frankie Knuckles, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and many more.
“We like to think of it as celebrating that band or that artist’s music,” says the other half of Learning Secrets, Jeramy Neugent. “Instead of just [being] big party guys we really like to throw a party that’s almost for the band to celebrate what they do
Neugent adds that along with the big acts, they also look for bands that aren't as well known.
“We’re listening to music all day long. We’re huge music fans. And if we come across something we love and think Austin would love, then if we can afford it, we’ll bring them down and hopefully expose people to something new.”
And it would appear they’ve inspired others around town.
“Learning Secrets have definitely laid the groundwork for a lot of other people to start throwing dance parties here,” says Austin transplant DJ Jeremy von Stilb. Stilb has spent the past several years throwing dance parties on the East Side. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for them because it’s always a top tier DJ that’s traveling the world and very little fanfare. You show up, it’s great lighting and a perfect sound system and so it is focused on the music.”
Orth seems to agree.
“I do feel like we help pave the way and let there be a little bit of a cushion, for other kids to come in and try and do the same kind of things they do,” he says. And it’s great to see on any given night of the week, there’s some dj in some club or some bar, doing something very similar to what we started doing.