The music world doesn't happen on its own. What we see on the surface is the result of passionate people behind the scenes, writing, creating, organizing, promoting, and working tirelessly to bring music to the venues, bars, and houses of Metro Phoenix. We will look at 25 here, some familiar, some new . Be sure to check out our 100 Tastemakers and 100 Creatives as well.
If you've hung out at certain DJ events at the Monarch Theatre, Bar Smith or Shady Park in recent years, you’ve probably seen the work of Thomy Hoefer. Ditto for local electronic dance music festivals like Decadence or Phoenix Lights.
His efforts are pretty hard to miss, considering he’s creating and controlling the visual maelstrom of imagery that are tumultuously swirling and churning behind the DJs in time to the music.
Hoefer is a VJ, or video jockey, and has spent the last few years adding a visual element and at dance music events in downtown Phoenix and elsewhere. During festivals and club gigs, he uses his laptop to control a nonstop stream of graphics, video loops, and images that blast onto massive LED screens onstage in reaction to the beats and bumps coming from the DJ booth.
Watching Hoefer in action is very much like witnessing a turntablist work the record decks. His hands are a blur of motion over the keyboard of his laptop as he weaves together an often trippy and mind-bending visual tapestry.
“You layout a bunch of clips that compliment the night depending on the genre of music,” Hoefer says. “So you end up with 200 to 500 clips and use 'em creatively throughout the night. Some of the content I've made myself, I also have people on my team who are animators and then I have some links to some high-end animators that are fans.”
The visuals help crank up the energy level and, ultimately, is one of the most eye-catching elements of an EDM event, even moreso than the DJ themselves. And the efforts of Hoefer and the other artists who are a part of Gestalt Theory, his VJ collective, are particularly visually arresting and evocative.
Truth be told, their considerable talents are in demand, especially Hoefer. In addition to performing at certain Phoenix events, the former DJ (who used to spin as Prince Money Money) has spent the past year serving as the VJ of choice for trap/future bass producer Marshmello at gigs both around America and abroad.
Hoefer’s definitely logged plenty of frequently flyer miles while touring with Marshmello, including heading to Asia for Ultra Music Festivals in Singapore in Japan.
“The Asia tour was really amazing, just being able to travel to a place like that and see a whole different fanbase. Singapore was absolutely beautiful,” Hoefer says. “They don't get as crazy as we do out here, like at EDC where you see people dressed to the nines in kandi and everybody's packed like sardines up in the front. Everybody gives each other space.”
Not bad for someone who started out DJing at a few weekly Bar Smith, including his bygone club night, Foul Play.
Hoefer’s very much a fan of Phoenix’s dance music scene. In fact, when he isn’t out globe-trotting with Marshmello, he can be found at local events either holding down the visual end or just enjoying the show himself.
And he’s got a few opinion about how the Valley scene can get bigger and maybe even someday rank with some of the more prominent dance music cities in America.
What's currently inspiring you? I find inspiration in everything. Travel, right now, is really where I'm getting a lot of inspiration. Recently, I went to Yangon, Burma, and just seeing a lot of the textures of the buildings that are run down from weather. Seeing different kinds of plant life growing on bricks that are probably thousands of years old. I've been getting a lot of inspiration from that and architectural design and just inspired me to try and design things in different patterns. Again, I find inspiration is virtually everything. I'm constantly on art blogs and following tons and tons of different artists on Instagram.
Who do you admire most in the dance music scene? Just people who have pushed and made it so they can get out and tour the world and everything. I think Benjamin Dorman [a.k.a. Bijou], is really killing it. There’s Mija, of course, Amber Giles, and then J. Paul, absolutely. He's kind of been a visionary for all of us so that we can get out there and impress the world with our abilities. We're all AZ kids. Amber left and went to L.A. but she's always going to be a part of AZ. Pickster was touring for years too and he still goes out and rocks shit all across the country and travels the world and still comes home and does stuff here.
What's your favorite bygone venue? I'm old school, so I really enjoyed Icehouse events. I really missed that a lot. That place was just so massive and we could do so much with those different rooms and everything.
What do you think the dance music scene in Phoenix needs the most? I think the dance music scene in Phoenix is thriving. We've seen festivals break records and we're seeing more and more of ‘em every year. I think, if anything, we need more venues, more supportive venues that are capable of keeping people coming and accommodating them with proper production. So promoters like Relentless Beats or Universatile Music don't have to blow a bunch of money on production, most big clubs would have stuff in house so we can come in and blow the roof off. We need more venues so we're not stuck with the same places all the time so people don't feel like they're going in a circle or its like fucking Groundhog Day, you know? They want a different environment but they also want to see a full-on
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performance that come through with their VJs and can plug in and give the people what they want and also have it be safe and not a million degrees.
Where does Phoenix's dance music scene rank when compared with other cities? I mean, we're getting up there. There are cities that are more musically driven like Austin and other places that are known for a thriving history of music. Phoenix is young but its getting up there and we're getting more support. And you can see it as downtown Phoenix builds and has more people injected into it. We're seeing like Valley Bar pop up and other venues pop up. So we're definitely getting up there and I'm happy to see it. That's why I've always loved Phoenix. It's a fickle city when it comes down to it but we're certain getting the point where we can see big name underground artists come out here and we can support it with our fanbase.
Does Phoenix have the potential to be one of the more prominent DJ cities in America? Absolutely. Yeah. We wouldn't see acts that we're starting to see come through in the past couple years if we weren't getting to that situation. Decadance is a pure example of something that's shown we've absolutely gotten to a place where we have absolutely gotten to a place where we're a prominent EDM city. And if you look at the lineup of Decadance, its absolutely staggering for us to get those particular artists on New Year's Eve. So yeah, I definitely see us becoming one of the top-tier markets for sure.