Music-Culture Mixologist Brent Crampton: Rhythmic anthropology and pure love of human bodies moving
Sometimes it seems as if Brent Crampton has cornered the market on cool in Omaha with this weaving the social fabric thing he does at House of Loom. The near downtown club he co-founded and co-owns epitomizes cool in its decor, craft cocktails, diverse crowds, multicultural music, themed events, and down-for-anything vibe. Crampton’s long cultivated a dynamic, inclusive social scene bound by a love of music and a spirit of exploration. House of Loom is where it all comes together in a heady brew of influences that excite the senses, The ambience, the music, the drinks, the people, the conversations, the dancing, and last but not least Crampton himself, who serves as host, DJ, programmer, and cultural mixologsit, make it a kind of hipster heaven. His passion for what he does is palpable. Here’s my profile of Brent in the new issue of Flyover Magazine (http://flyovermagazine.com/), the new quarterly publication from Bryce Bridges that’s devoted to celebrating the creative soul. Check out more creatives in the new issue available for subscription and at select area venues.
Music-culture mixologist Brent Crampton: Rhythmic anthropology and pure love of human bodies moving
©by Leo Adam Biga
Now appearing in Flyover Magazine (http://flyovermagazine.com/)
Brent Crampton is a prince of bohemia whose branded lifestyle Loom “weaves the social fabric” by having diverse people interact through music and dance.
A DJ entrepreneur with a serious case of wanderlust, he applies a mix tape sensibility, informed by journalism and religious studies degrees, to sample, celebrate and cross-pollinate cultures. The ever curious Crampton, an Omaha resident but world citizen, curates and emcees music and dance-infused multicultural happenings.
“I think the same way I mix music I mix life experiences because I listen to a wide range of different styles of music and I eat a wide range of food and I hang out with a wide range of people. To experience the rich cultural vibrancy you have to get out of your comfort seat and create friendships at the margins.”
His events intersect African-American, Latino, LGBT and various international communities, including Omaha’s West-African, Indian, Brazilian and Jamaican populations.
“When we do those events it’s really important for us to reach out to people who identify with that culture to have them collaborate and consult with us. It’s a community thing. In a small humble way we use Loom as a tool of social transformation.”
For five years he and Jay Kline practiced the Loom social theory at a rotating series of venues. Then, in 2012, they partnered with Ethan Bondelid to give their cultural experiment a nightclub home, House of Loom. This funky oasis with eclectic decor and craft cocktails is dedicated to “mixing life, bringing people together, connecting through music, releasing in dance.” Situated just south of the popular Old Market entertainment district and just east of the historic Little Italy neighborhood, it’s inconspicuously set back from busy 10th Street.
Righteous house music sets and themed parties attract a creative demographic that recalls the hipsters and Beats of another generation. Known as the gayest straight bar in town and as a meta cosmopolitan night spot, Loom is a club and creative salon in one, Blending cultures is at its heart. As the music revs up, swirling bodies and colors animate the intimate space. The heat and noise rise as inhibitions loosen.
Having a permanent home, Crampton says, “allows us to take that ideology and transfer it to a seven-days-a-week brick and mortar space where we explore different aspects of our philosophy beyond just a dance event into spoken word, music performances, visual art…”
Crampton, whose hippie-dippie demeanor matches his New Age leanings, is seemingly everywhere at once at Loom, his tall frame hard to miss in the rub of people at the bar, in the lounge or on the dance floor. He really takes center stage when grooving in the DJ booth. He first felt the DJ call attending Omaha and Kansas City raves.
“I was really enamored with that dynamic call and response cycle of the DJ playing the music and watching people gyrate their bodies off the beat and how that fed back to the DJ. I remember making this very conscious decision of I’m going to become a DJ, I’m going to buy the gear and do this, and that just set me off on a whole course.”
From the sanctuary of the DJ booth he sets the vibe with the beats he selects.
“I kind of have this total freedom, within the jurisdiction of good music, to just do what I want to do. One of the powerful things about music is this veil it tears down that somehow we’re separate from each other.”
He takes a certain pride in providing the vehicle for interracial unions that get their start at Loom. From the booth he sees connections happen all around him but when working he mostly enters a zone.
“You kind of create a bubble where you’re doing your thing, you’re aware of what’s going on but you don’t try to think about it. It’s that sensation you get when you’re about to jump off a cliff into water,” says Crampton, who made that leap in Maui, Hawaii.
He credits Omaha’s burgeoning indie music scene of the late 1990s into the start of the new millennium with broadening his musical education. An Omaha concert he attended then featuring The Faint and Tilly and the Wall at the Sokol Auditorium made a big impression.
“I had the sense when I walked in the room I was walking upon a conversation I had been missing out on. It was articulated very well and it had a whole movement behind it. I just wanted more of it.”
He says unlike many DJs who grew up around their parents’ great vinyl records, he didn’t have that.
“I mean, there was music around growing up but it wasn’t this central theme. I discovered a passionate connection to music later in life.”
Fittingly for a man of many interests, the well-springs for his music passions include skateboarding culture and the African diaspora. He reverently watched videos of his counter-culture skateboarding idols that featured cutting-edge music from the coasts.
“I was being exposed to music I wasn’t hearing in Omaha at all. I looked up to these skateboarders and so if they were into that music then I was into it. Then I started purchasing that music. I was hearing The Roots years before they became popular. I got turned onto house music. That was really helpful because it allowed me to break out of a Midwestern mold of just being influenced by whatever I heard on the radio or MTV.
“When I walked into the world of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), I had an immediate open-mindedness to it. I’d already been prepped for being into different things.”
Some mentors guided him, including former DJ James Deep, who schooled him in the craft of emceeing.
Jack Lista opened his mind to the music’s origins. “He educated me on the historical context of dance music in America. Being a straight white kid in the Midwest I really had no idea where this whole world of music came from I was listening to. It came from a very black, Latino and also gay place. It really blew my mind away but it made a lot of sense. House music is the root of EDM but the root of that is disco. I began a musical pilgrimage and in the process it changed my route from being influenced by what I was hearing at raves to being influenced by how the African diaspora has affected music around the world.
“It’s not something we’re taught or are aware of culturally. That gave me a deep appreciation for the places it came from. I became a student of the whole black experience in the Americas and the music that followed. That’s what I started funneling into.”
It all plays out at Loom, where an evolution is under way.
“If Loom in its first five years was about the party, Loom the next five years was about being a business and Loom in its next chapter is going to be about investing in its soul. I think we’re going to take all the best parts of everything we’ve learned and channel that towards more of what we want to do, when we want to do it rather than being obligated by paying rent.”
Soul yearnings feed Crampton, adopted “from the womb” and raised by parents who encouraged his creative expressions.
“My incredibly loving, supportive parents didn’t really leave me lacking.”
Yet he surmises the “jumping from one culture or subculture to another” that adoptees like himself tend to do “is rooted in not having a foundation in some ancestral past.”
“It’s about trying to find yourself, to find your place,” he says. “I definitely have tendencies of that. I’m not bound by the past and so that gives me a lot of cultural mobility to say, If I’m not this, what am I? Well. I’m a person of the world and that can mean a lot of things, and so I choose to celebrate and explore different aspects of human expression. That has allowed me to have a certain open-mindedness, which has translated to my vocation, which I think has allowed me to live in Omaha, Neb. and be a proponent for multiculturalism.
“So, yeah, what I do vocationally is directly related to being adopted.”
He takes his spirituality seriously enough that soon after celebrating Loom’s ninth anniversary with a March 14 blow-out party he went to a remote site for a silent retreat.
“I don’t identify with one thing or another but I definitely feel like I’m walking a spiritual path. It gives me another way to interpret the world.”
There’s even a small altar above a fireplace in Loom containing incense, myrrh, sage, candles and religious artifacts.
Another way he refreshes his inner self is through travel. He’s visited Hawaii, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Miami, London, Mexico, Peru and Cuba, among other locations.
“When I go to places I definitely experience the music there. Brazil has always been on my bucket list.”
Most everywhere he’s travels he DJs. An opportunity to gig at what he calls “probably my favorite nightclub in America” – Cielo in New York City’s packing district – held special meaning for Crampton because, he adds, “It was one of the influences on House of Loom. It was some sort of life goal to play there.” laying the noted Slowdown in Omaha meant a lot to him, too.
Crampton, who sees himself producing music at some point, is sure Loom will continue doing its thing.
“I kind of feel like we’re just hitting a stride. We all have this renewed sense of energy and inspiration. People need an escape to release tension and there’s a certain connection and sense of community you make through social gatherings. Music and dance is our preferred medium to bring people together. You may think you don’t have anything in common but if you’re in that same space sharing the love of the beat in that same moment, boom, there’s your first connection.”
The shared smiles and feelings of optimistic energy expressed then, as well as the personal relationships that form, are what drive him.
Though he worries about burn-out, he’s loving the freedom to just think-up and create these “artful expressions of multiculturalism.”
Visit http://www.houseofloom.com and brentcrampton.typepad.com.