Commentary: Will Track Club Help Level Up Downtown Phoenix Nightlife?

Benjamin Leatherman
What will Track Club bring to the Valley's nightlife?
This week's news that a new, EDM-focused venue called Track Club would be opening in the former DeSoto Central Market building in downtown Phoenix already has sent shock waves through the local music scene. At last, one of the major hurdles of the Valley's electronic music scene — driving all the way out to Chandler or Scottsdale for a rave or pool party just to hear some beats — is about to be a thing of the past.

Of course, it's one thing to have a club in downtown — it's another thing for that club to become an important part of a city's music scene, something Phoenix badly needs.

So far, we know that Track Club has some decent pedigrees running the show. The venue is a collaboration between Relentless Beats, the EDM-focused promoters behind Phoenix Lights, Goldrush, and other events around the Valley, and Chuckie Duff, the developer behind Gracie's Tax Bar and Cobra Arcade Bar, two downtown nightlife favorites.

But some parts of the plans are a bit worrying. The venue is being described as a "Las Vegas-style" concept with a DJ booth covered in LEDs and plenty of lights and effects. Meanwhile, the second floor will apparently become a VIP area, bottle service and all.

High-end, VIP, exclusive — these are the kind of things that suck the life out of nightlife, and the idea that a new venue might have such ambitions is worrying. The best place to be at a club, a really rewarding, well-curated club, is usually on the dance floor, not glowering over the grinding masses sipping Moët. Our dream for Track Club is that it be inclusive, a space for Phoenix's electronic music enthusiasts to express themselves and have fun. It should be the kind of place that builds a regular crowd, not a rave hot spot that will evaporate when the EDM kids move on.

And speaking of music, it may be a good idea for the management to think carefully about the kind of audience they're shooting for. The kind of crowd that goes all the way to Rawhide for a rave isn't the same crowd that goes to the club, thank goodness. To their credit, the folks behind Track Club seem to be aware of the limitations of a crowd that only cares about the drop. Thomas Turner of Relentless Beats says the club will aim for a diverse smattering of genres throughout the week, from Afrobeat and hip-hop to deep house and "tastemaker-style shows."

That's an admirable thing to shoot for, but we should think deeper than even that.

Ideally, if a club wants to be a real focal point for its city, it will cultivate local talent while booking celebrated international acts. To have a dedicated space for dance music in downtown Phoenix would be incredibly significant for the local scene. It would mean local DJs like Djentrification or Hi-Dreams would no longer have to share a bill with a rock band at Valley Bar, and could possibly build connections with the kind of DJs that show up on Resident Advisor and Mixmag. New DJs from around the Valley could use the venue as a proving ground, helping the city develop its own sound.

With Track Club, Phoenix has a real opportunity to level up its nightlife and build a true dance music community. It could be a place where we build a small pocket of the global dance community that has existed for decades in places like London, Berlin, and even Chicago. It could be a new beginning for Phoenix nightlife. Or it could be another shitty club. Which would you prefer?