With his dual Ultra Records releases AM and PM, Miami native and Shadow Lounge resident DJ George Acosta has submitted an impressive résumé for the post of U.S. ambassador to the European kingdom of trance. A regular guest at clubs in Germany and Ibiza for the past five years, Acosta is equally fluent in the anthemlike melodies of the Magic City and trance's Teutonic bass. Slumping onto a couch in the Shadow Lounge office before his set on a recent Saturday night, Acosta sizes up the future of trance in his homeland. "Do I see trance breaking out here?" he asks, adjusting his orange-hued sunglasses. "I don't see the U.S. making its own trance movement. There are groups and certain people that do it, but what I play never comes from here." Instead Acosta translates the hypnotic Euro accent into a dialect Americans can understand.
His shades can't hide his half-closed eyes or the toll of nonstop traveling between two musical continents. "My sound is really European," Acosta explains, "which makes sense, 'cause there's a lot of tourists here." How does his work compare with the original? "It's tough," he admits. "Like, house music started in Chicago. And Europe tried it, and still tries it, but you always know it came from here. And trance comes from there." However much he feels the old-world influence, his oversize jersey and baggy jeans show his allegiances lie with old-school Miami. "I've been to Ibiza, and I think there's a lot of hype there," he says. "It was cool, but I wouldn't change it for my hometown."
Acosta is even less impressed by Manhattan. "I hate it," he declares flatly. "Personally I think New York is behind Miami when it comes to trance. There it's all politics and pride. They got ego problems, man." The DJ sometimes tires of his job as educator. "Sometimes it's like dealing with an infant," he jokes. "I go and try to school these people in places like New York, and I got to treat them like a young kid: Now we play this.' After two or three hours, they're like, Whoa.'"
George Acosta is the resident DJ
Shadow Lounge, 1532 Washington Ave, Miami Beach
Saturday nights, 305-531-9411
Now Acosta believes his efforts to introduce the genre here have paid off. "Trance has really struggled for a couple of years, but now it seems everyone is into it. Everything starts underground, but when people start seeing how good it is, eventually everyone catches on. Call it saturation, but it's all good."
As the hour approaches for him to man the turntables, Acosta moves into the club. He stands at the bar, sipping from a bottle of water and feeling the room. There is a synergy between the crowd and his music. "Trance has a lot of variations," he points out. "Mellow, hard -- just like house. And each night I have a different mood. I get people coming up to me saying, Were you mad tonight? 'Cause I felt my heart pound.' I don't know; I'm just playing records, man."
The sweat-drenched floor of Shadow Lounge is a humid human pit. Acosta glances at glow-stick tracers and masked revelers beaming streams of green light across the sticky floor. "Trance is very emotional," he observes. "It comes from within. How a DJ plays is how he feels." Following his feelings, the DJ has dedicated himself exclusively to spinning since 1995, when frustration over royalties nudged him out of production. Acosta ventured back into the studio to create AM and PM as a way of breaking through the glass DJ ceiling. "I always knew I wanted two discs," he says of the dual release, "but [the label] said, Let's see how the first one goes.' I did Awake' and they liked it, so they said, Go ahead.'"
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Capturing the feel of the DJ booth, two discs reflect Acosta's moods. PM lifts off on an airy orchestral salvo that gives soul to an underlying industrial din. The feeling on AM is unashamedly primal. Drum rolls and X-rated themes signal a sexual climax that comes on like the apocalypse. Layering techno-phrases atop one another, his melodies sculpt a sonic form deeper than the emptiness of the German aesthetic. Shedding light on his own shadow, Acosta breathes life into a genre that often has been faulted for its lack of emotion.
That life quickens to the thunderous bass line of Shadow's speakers. The blood of the dancers throbs. The pulse triggered by his selections has been called "Acostanation."
"I didn't come up with that," Acosta says, a little embarrassed. "A couple of friends of mine saw the club packed one night and said, This is total Acosta Nation.' It stuck. I ain't gonna complain."