Jeffery Hacker has long been involved with shaping Salt Lake City’s Music Scene. His passionate presence is widely felt, whether it’s through Djing his famed Dance Evolution parties as DJ DJ/DC, bartending and managing at Metro Music Hall, or by his enthusiastic and constant promotion of local and touring acts. For these reasons, he has earned a place as a staple in Salt Lake City’s growing underground music community.
Unfortunately, because of the Coronavirus pandemic there is a necessity for the implementation of a Statewide lockdown and quarantine. One of the consequences is Salt Lake’s nightlife coming to a complete and sudden halt. Among the many industries affected by these measure is entertainment, with venues like Metro Music Hall temporally shuttering it’s doors.
For the first time since 2004, Hacker has had to find a new gig to sustain himself and his family until Metro Music Hall opens up again. I caught up with Hacker to see how things are going. We discussed his legendary DJ nights, the importance of Salt Lake City’s nightlife, managing Metro Music Hall, meeting Peter Hook and more.
NixBeat: You used to run a weekly DJ night called Dance Evolution. How did this night start and what kind of music did you play?
Hacker: At the time it started out of necessity. We wanted to dance to all kinds of music and the only thing available in SLC at the time were dedicated genre nights. Going out and hearing everything from The Faint to Usher sounded like a great time, so we just did it ourselves. Every night always started out as indie as possible, morphing into more of a pop night around 11 and ending with as much punk, emo and metal as the crowd would let me get away with for giant sing-a-longs. It was awesome seeing people from different social groups meeting each other and becoming friends. We actually hosted several “DE TATTOO” days where we partnered with Goodtimes Tattoo and they just tattooed DE logos on everyone. Seeing all the different types of people coming in bonding with their new friends is something I don’t think any of us will ever forget.
NixBeat: In a Facebook post from December 8th, 2016, it was mentioned Dance Evolution went through a lot of changes, including jail time. How did Dance Dance Evolution Evolve over time?
Hacker: As the night got bigger I always ended up catering to the masses more. Honestly that’s my biggest regret over the years. I think what made the night special was exposing people to music they didn’t know and changing that up to keep up with random requests took the soul of the night away. It was still super fun, but I think the night should have gone the other direction and become 100% indie dance. I did have a stint on house arrest for a DUI (don’t drink and drive kids) but luckily DE had built up enough DJ’s over the years to have plenty of people fill in. I actually moved to Denver for a year as well, and even though I managed to fly back to SLC almost every week for the party. There were still some shows I wasn’t able to make it. Thankfully Brenton Leu, Justin Hollister, Tyler Lusk and Erik Olsen came into my life and became the best party throwers this city has ever seen. They held down the fort just fine.
NixBeat: In the same Facebook Event Post, the description mentioned that Dance Dance Evolution helped bridge communities in Salt Lake City. How did Dance Dance Evolution accomplish this?
Hacker: We threw a weekly party for over 13 years, in that time we were lucky enough to meet what feels like just about everyone in SLC. I think our specialty was focusing on crossing genres not just in what music I played but also what guests we would bring in. One of my favorite memories of all time was one of our infamous water slide parties. During the summer we would get a giant 33 foot tall water slide set up on the patio and people would just go insane. At one of these parties we had a touring death metal package performing alongside the legendary drag performer Ursula Major. Needless to say every single person looked insanely confused as they arrived but by the end of the night literally every single person in the venue was just having a blast on the water slide with their new best friends. It wasn’t all debauchery though, we also were lucky enough to be at the right place and right time to help some people out in need. We’ve hosted countless benefits which really shined a light on how amazing the people in this city are, and seeing people at their best always breaks down barriers and helps people come together.
NixBeat: What about DJ nights do you think are important to a music community?
Hacker: I’m from a generation where “going dancing” was everything. I met all my friends at a dance night. I met my wife at Area 51, and hit on her by getting Max the DJ to play her song next. I think for a lot of people going dancing at a club playing a specific type of music is how they find “their people”. Once they become a regular they know they’ve found their home. It becomes a part of their routine and in a lot of ways it’s their singular release from the day to day grind of their lives. Dance nights are VITAL to the music community as a whole because they become the primary source of in-person networking. I can’t count how many shows were booked and planned out on the patio of metro at a DE party.
NixBeat: How did you become involved with operating Metro Music Hall and what kind of changes have you seen it go through?
Hacker: Super long and confusing story so here is a short version: Years ago we were at the Trapp Door (which is where the Metro is currently located) and the staff was treated very unfairly by the owner so 100% of us left and went to take over a venue called Club Edge. About two years after we took over Edge, the owners sold it and the new owners kept all of us on. After a while there the new owners wanted a better location, so we moved to the 200 S. location and changed the name to the Metro Bar. Again a few years later they decided they wanted a bigger location so we came full circle and moved back to the original location of the Trapp Door. These owners eventually decided to sell as well so I begged them to sell to Will Sartain and Lance Saunders with S&S Presents. They obliged and now I work with the best team this city has ever seen. Slowly but surely they’ve transformed the newly named Metro Music Hall into what I honestly believe to be the greatest venue in Salt Lake. Full circle.
NixBeat: What kind of clientele typically attends concerts at Metro Music Hall?
Hacker: Honestly? Every type you can imagine. We host all manner of events so the age range varies from 21-80. I would say the regulars could be described as open minded and enthusiastic music lovers. It doesn’t matter what the show is, they will always be there with open ears.
NixBeat: Metro Music hall has attracted big name and local acts to play there. Some of these acts include MC5, The Black Lips and Gary Neumann. What has been your favorite show(s) at Metro Music Hall?
Hacker: My absolute #1 show will probably forever be Peter Hook. I get star struck super easy and usually I will shy away from acts I’m super into, but Peter was just the nicest guy ever. Realizing I was having a normal conversation with a living legend to this day gives me butterflies. Death From Above 1979 was another act I couldn’t believe played here. I’ve played them multiple times a night, every night I’ve dj’d and here they were on our stage. I felt the same way about The Faint, The Presets, Cut/Copy and dozens of others. We’ve hosted Doyle and Michael Graves of The Misfits several times too. If 15 year old me knew that one day I’d be eating birthday cake with Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein I would have died.
NixBeat: What are some Salt Lake City bands you are currently enjoying and what about them makes them stand out?
Hacker: Choir Boy is pretty much my favorite band right now in general, so it helps that not only are they from here but several of the members work at Metro from time to time. Mortigi Tempo, Lord Vox, Violet Temper and NVM are bringing a whole new scene to the city I think on top of being the most consistently impressive bands I’ve seen.
NixBeat: With the onset of the Coronavirus, a lockdown order has been issued on Salt Lake City’s venues, bars and restaurants. How has this affected Salt Lake City’s nightlife and music community?
Hacker: It drove a stake through our hearts. Right now there is absolutely nothing to be done though.
NixBeat: How are you and the rest of employees of Metro Music Hall coping with the lockdown?
Hacker: Some of us found new jobs to fill the gap until we can open again. I luckily snagged a spot at Amazon which is my first new job since 2004, so it’s kind of fun.
NixBeat: Are you seeing any attempts to rally behind those affected by the Coronavirus Lockdown?
Hacker: I think right now it feels like a lot of help is up in the air. I’ve seen many groups pop up attempting to set up financial aid for musicians and serve industry people but I think right now most people are waiting on the government to figure something out.
NixBeat: Do you think Salt Lake City’s nightlife and music scene will be able to recover from the effects of the Coronavirus?
Hacker: 100% I know we will recover fully. Unfortunately though, I think it will take a lot longer than we might think. I don’t want to speculate and risk being wrong, so I’ll just say it can’t come quickly enough.