Rich Medina turns up the heat in Austin with Dante’s HiFi
The iconic DJ debuted his pop-up bar at Soho House Austin last week, aiming to enrich with an elevated listening experience
Thursday 11 August 2022 By Jacquelyn Lumley Photography by Cristina Fisher
When it comes to nightlife, Rich Medina is a wizard. The New Jersey native has been part of the fabric of contemporary music culture for decades, predominantly as a DJ but also as a producer, spoken word artist, journalist, and curator. We partnered with Medina and Beam Suntory to bring his transportive vinyl listening concept, Dante’s HiFi, to Soho House Austin, which opened its doors last week.
‘We’re a true analog listening bar. If you love records, it’s a place for you to come get busy, whether you’re a rookie or a veteran,’ says Medina. He and his team retrofit a high-fidelity sound system into the pre-screening room at Soho House Austin. A wall behind the bar now frames a custom DJ booth surrounded by 6,000 records from Medina’s personal collection. ‘Our intent is to represent the highest quality stereo sound with the highest quality nightly programming of talent and events wrapped around music culture,’ he shares. ‘No matter the musical genre, it’s the medium; the desire to hear music in full stereo versus hearing music from a digital posture.’
The concept for Dante’s in Austin follows the concept for Dante’s in Miami, which Medina and his team opened last year, modelled on a Japanese Jazz Kissa bar. ‘In Austin, there is no shortage of music venues and no shortage of places for DJs to play,’ he says. ‘But, there is indeed a heavy deficit of focused analog music presentation. I trust in the local DJs there the same way we did in Miami. We plan to utilise the community that surrounds the venue physically, while also bringing in as many of our friends as we can.’
Keeping within the same calibre of high-vibe curation, JT Donaldson will spearhead the programming at Dante’s HiFi Austin. ‘The more makers that you have in the room and the more folks who find their currency in places other than the bank that you’ve got, the more whole the room is, the more 360 it feels, and that’s the goal,’ he says.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Medina holds the craft of spinning vinyl to high standards. ‘There’s ritual and there’s process that you have to apply in order to get what you want,’ he describes. ‘Getting to the music, the opening of the sleeve and placing it on the apparatus, and the friction between the needle and the vinyl. The calibration of the volume, the calibration of the EQ in order for it to operate correctly.’
Then, it’s all about reading the room. ‘It’s an age-old adage,’ he says. ‘You hear it being stated to public speakers, to educators, to entertainers. Particularly in a DJ capacity, reading the room – next to your musical acumen and your preparation for the event – is one of the most important tools you have. It’s your ability to gauge energy and understand what the room may need at any given time in the night. What the room needs at 10.30pm is different to what it needs at midnight; what it needs at 2am is different to what it needs at midnight. Can you read that? Can you dictate how that’s going to go? Can you react to changes in the atmosphere? Half of the room empties out. Is it because it’s late, or is it because you did something that ran them away? And what are you going to do about it? All of these are the bones of what reading the room means.’
If flat energy is anathema to Medina, then an empty room is his muse. ‘In Austin, it feels like the room was made for us to be there, and that’s a good feeling because now all we have to do is nestle in and tweak our components, programming and presentation into what it needs to be for the city of Austin.’
Learn more about Soho House Austin here.