A s any nightlife reporter knows, encounters with club promoters are generally unpleasant. Whether you're attempting to interview or introduce yourself to the dude—and it's

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Best Sweaty, Man-Hugging Electronica Impresario

Ramiro Gutierrez

As any nightlife reporter knows, encounters with club promoters are generally unpleasant. Whether you're attempting to interview or introduce yourself to the dude—and it's almost always a dude—he will butter you up with pre-fab compliments and lame professions of interest, only to flash a bright corporate smile and deliver a promise to "be right back." Poof. The promoter is gone for good, and you're left feeling cheap and used.

That's not the usual experience with Ramiro Gutierrez. I first met him in May during his monthly electronic-music soirée at Belltown's swank See Sound Lounge. As Chicago DJ Julius the Mad Thinker spun groovy jams for a raucous crowd, Gutierrez's round, sensitive face took on a Day-Glo gleam more genuine than the usual forced promoter's greeting. Then he did the unthinkable: Gutierrez spread his arms and gave me the biggest, sweatiest man-hug I've ever received from a stranger, let alone a club promoter. And then for an encore, he stayed put for 30 minutes for a sincere chat about the Seattle electronic scene.

Gutierrez creates what the art critic Dave Hickey calls "communities of desire." With his current DJ residencies at Re-bar and Electric Tea Garden in the CD, he focuses on providing pleasure to people who love a particular kind of electronic music called "deep house." It's a soulful sound typified by jazz-like instrumentation looped around heavy, but not oppressive, bass lines threaded with an urgent physicality.

His regular events as a promoter include the 5-year-old See Sound Lounge party (which will switch from the third to the fourth Friday of every month beginning in August) and the Decibel Festival's "Future Funk" showcase (now in its sixth year, and scheduled for Sept. 24–27 at Chop Suey). He's also behind OM Records' 15th anniversary party this Friday at Neumos. (Full disclosure: I once worked taking votes at a Gutierrez-promoted event called "America's Best DJ Tour." I was paid by the event's sponsor.)

"We're here for the music," he says, in a voice tinged with his native Nicaragua. "That has a positive impact on the [attendees]."

Growing up on the Mosquito Coast, he absorbed meringue, salsa, and the Caribbean's other cosmopolitan creations. Then when he moved to New Orleans at age 12, he heard the siren's wail of the punk and new-wave rebellion. But it wasn't until he moved to San Francisco in the early '90s to attend college that he discovered his true spiritual home.

What he found in the city's underground electronic scene was the opposite of the angst-ridden anger of the punk movement. It was a subculture that didn't seek to destroy Yeats' wobbly center, but rather to center its participants through cutting-edge sonic explorations amid the chaos of commercial culture.

"What keeps it all together is a couple of things," Gutierrez says. Then he launches into a typically elliptical and peripatetic rumination on his life in music before landing the money shot: "To keep people excited."

He brought that worldview with him in 2000 when he moved to Seattle. That's why Gutierrez's guest lists are split evenly between people he just met and VIPs. Sure, it's a savvy marketing strategyâ€"do a stranger a solid and you're apt to create a loyal customer. But it's also a rare thing to do in a business populated by greedy jesters playing the role of grand dukes.

Says Gutierrez of his promotional philosophy: "It all goes back to what I first found in San Francisco, which is [offering] an alternative to a mainstream way of socialization." In other words: fun without the fakery.â€"Kevin Capp

 
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