The coming of Spring means a lot of things: warmer temperatures, better movies in theaters and the beginning of music-festival season. From now right until around the time that Fun Fun Fun Fest ends on a cold night in November, Texas is going to be packed with festivals almost every weekend.
In the realm of dance music, there's a lot to look forward to. Something Wicked may seem far away in October, but for those dance fans willing to road trip, there's plenty to be excited about right now, including Ultimate Music Experience 2015 down in South Padre.
It takes a lot of people to put on a festival these days, and if you've gone to your share of them in Texas, there's a name you may have seen over and over: Disco Donnie Presents. It's a company and it's a brand, but it's also a person. Yes, dance fans, Disco Donnie is real and he's doing his part to give you nights to remember.
"That's why I became a promoter, because I believe in the scene so much and I wanted more people to come," he says.
"I was just a fan," Donnie continues about his pre-promoter days. "I was somebody from the dance floor that thought I had found an alternative-reality type of place that more people needed to find out about.
Disco Donnie was putting on shows in Houston, New Orleans and beyond back before dance music was the juggernaut that it is today. All the stories you've heard about the underground days? Those are true, and Donnie was on the front lines.
"It's definitely been a long journey. To see it from when we were basically doing visuals on sheets that we bought at Walmart to now with the giant LED walls is just wild," Donnie says. "From warehouses and illegal venues and underage kids to where now we're in football stadiums and huge amounts of people...I can't believe it."
Football stadiums? If you haven't heard, Something Wicked has a Spring sister festival known as Something Wonderful up in Dallas, bringing dance music to one of the most iconic venues in Texas sports history: the Cotton Bowl. Yes, Tiësto will be spinning in the same place that the Red River Shootout happens. Donnie admits that it's all pretty wild.
"I guess that is pretty crazy," he says. "In the '90s, my dream was to throw a party in the Superdome. We always dreamed big, but to actually execute and pull off a show in a football stadium? I agree that's a crazy idea."
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With 20 years of promoting shows under his belt, Donnie knows a thing or two about the festival experience. While fans may obsess over the lineup, a promoter is responsible over a whole lot more to insure a successful experience.
"As soon as people get out of their car and put their feet on the ground they're in your hands," he explains. "You want them to have the most enjoyable experience they can from the beginning to the end. And that includes the front door, the production, the food, the beer.
"Every second they're at the venue we want them to have a perfect time," he says.
Donnie's Texas festival season kicks off this weekend with UME down in South Padre, which is bringing in Steve Aoki, David Guetta, Hardwell and Tiësto. Entering its fifth year, the festival has become a destination festival for dance music fans on Spring Break.
Now, just because we're talking about fests in other parts of the state, don't think that Donnie has forgotten about Houston. He's been throwing parties here for 20 years, many of them with the crew over at Nightculture.
"They've really helped develop the Houston scene, especially with how great a club Stereo Live has become," he says. "Every show there is basically a slam-dunk sellout."
Disco Donnie has 20 years of late nights and loud music to his name. He's been there in the lean years and has seen the rising of the dance-festival scene. And he isn't planning on stopping anytime soon.
But why dance music? What is it about these beats that gets not just him excited, but millions around the world? And while it's insanely popular right now, will it always be this way for dance music?
"I knew when I first heard it in the '90s: this is the new rock and roll," he says. "People are never going to stop dancing, so I always knew that it was going to come back around and be the future of music."
"Right now everything is doing great," he continues. "Will it plateau at some point? Yes. Will it 'burst'? I don't think so.
"We're here to stay."
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