As their name might suggest, Dominican promoters ShaveUrLegz don’t take themselves too seriously. They don’t want to be the kind of guys who use the words “VIP” and “Elite,” and their lighthearted approach to nightlife comes across in most of their projects (take the Daft Prank as an example). But there is one thing that is no joking matter to the SUL crew: making an impact in the Dominican Republic’s local music circuit by uniting its different scenes.
“We don’t see anyone as competition, we believe that music is contagious and makes people always want more,” said Salomon Sanz, one of ShaveUrLegz’ promoters. “The more events that happen here, the more our country will be on the [musical] map, and the more the scene will grow. I think with small efforts, we can make big things change.”
To date, SUL has brought Astro and Twin Shadow to DR, set up resident club nights, and thrown many a party. Now, they’re gearing up for their biggest project yet: the Juanillo Beach Music Fest, which will feature acts like Tego Calderón, Whitest Taino Alive, Los Amigos Invisibles and more.
We caught up with Salomón to learn more about how ShaveUrLegz got started, and how they plan to turn DR into a music industry monster.
How did you end up doing these parties and events? What is your experience?
I started working as a promoter in high school, helping to organize class parties, talent shows, all that. After a while, I started working with a club and then ended up working with one of the largest event companies in Santo Domingo. Five years ago, I got together with some friends and decided to do something more consistent. We wanted this new project to be curated, instead of just doing anything that came our way. Promoters usually do that: they adapt and try to look for the money, but we wanted something with a concept from the beginning.
How did you develop the curatorial guidelines for ShaveUrLegz?
I think we’ve had three stages. One was indie at large, then indie dance, and finally one a little more focused on deep house. After getting to know the ups and downs of each of those markets, we can now do the kind of events that merge all three. This year we have three very large events, and next year we’re trying to make all our events multi-genre, with long lineups and maybe even several stages. The next step is to go from the small parties to a conceptual festival, and we’re headed that way.
Who else is part of the ShaveUrLegz crew? How many people?
Right now the family is growing. We’re a team of ten people – not all partners, but there are ten people working every day. We hope that next year there will be between twenty and thirty people. Although we’ve been operating for 5 years, this will be the first time all parts of the operation are managed from the same place. We’re transitioning from a startup to a formal company.
Promoters usually adapt and try to look for the money, but we wanted something with a concept.
But for now, it’s very indie, it’s in-house. We manage the creative department, graphic design, write the ads and have never hired a publicity agency. I think that’s what makes ShaveUrlegz special, it’s why people like our thing. It’s difficult to do it ourselves, but we feel very proud of what’s come out of it.
You mentioned the need for a “conceptual festival”. What’s JBMF’s concept?
JBMF is a celebration of life. The point of this event is to give thanks for what we have, for music for art, our ability to gather, celebrate… I would describe it simply as an emotive party.
The lineup was carefully curated with the intention of exposing people to new things. We wanted different genres, tempos and ideas to blend into a single experience. [In DR] there are few curious people looking for new things, so the hope is that by putting new artists alongside popular artists, people will think “cónchole, if this good [artist] will be there, let’s see what else there is.” And I think that’s our mission.
The good thing about JBMF is that this is the event where we attract everyone, we attract those who are willing to have fun. It’s a little exclusive to some extent, because the venue is a private space, but nobody is left out. So if you have an interest in good music, you’ll find something at JBMF.
How will this year’s JBMF differ from prior years?
As usual, we will see new talent who have never played in Santo Domingo. We’re especially excited for acts like Life on Planets, Sharam Jey, and NTFO. This will also be an eco-conscious festival, we’ll be launching a campaign in collaboration with the institution that handles recycling in the Dominican Republic.
We’re also collaborating with an artist and entrepreneur named María Batlle; she has a foundation called The Muse Seek Project, which uses technology to teach music appreciation to deaf children. With her help, we’re going to throw the first silent disco in the Dominican Republic. At this point, silent discos are very popular at festivals, but ours is going to utilize a wearable technology device called SubPac, which allows people to appreciate music in a different way, to feel all the vibrations and frequencies of the music. It’s something orgasmic, it’s really something special and we’re gonna have it in DR for the first time thanks to her.
In DR it’s not common work with a second stage and this is our attempt to do that ― to let people know that within the same event, there may be other things to do.
What under-the-radar Dominican acts do you recommend?
Carolina Camacho is really interesting. Dirk Largo is based in New York, but there’s a Dominican involved in the band and they’re great. Alex Ferreira is about to blow up, and many people in DR don’t even know who he is. But people will be very proud of him soon, really soon – he has a big audience and he’ll probably be the next big name coming from DR. Carolina has that opportunity too.
Endless Love is a really cool trio; also Whitest Taino Alive, of course; my brother Diego Mena who is always putting out great tracks, is always innovating and has a great work ethic. I feel bad because I’m probably forgetting a lot of names.
Are there different scenes in the Dominican Republic or do all projects work together in the same space?
There are completely different scenes. Completely different. Our idea [of merging different genres together] can be done and can work, just like it’s worked at some of the largest festivals around the world over the last decade. But we know we can bring together all those scenes in DR by creating a well-rounded experience. We need to work together.
Back when I was a kid in the 90s, my CD case included music from Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Temple of the Dog… and I remember hiding my Mariah Carey CD along with my Tupac CD, because I was part of a crew who liked rock and I’d get side-eyed when I bought albums from other types of artists. Back then, people were divided according to genre, but now everything has changed. Now you don’t have to buy music to discover new sounds, and no one expects you to stick to just one genre. Liking a lot of stuff doesn’t make you weird, it makes you a person open to hearing new things.
The current generation has seen that, and now more than ever we are able to merge many genres into one space. That’s what’s happening around the world, and it’s what we want to happen in Dominican Republic. So if we put all the scenes together at the same event, they will all grow together.