Recently we met with Matthew Bindewald, Christian Castaneda, and Nicholas Harland, the founding three members of the production and promotion group Midnight Freqs. These three started out putting on events at local Seattle parks that were unlike anything we had seen at a local DIY event.
Midnight Freqs brought professional-grade lasers, lights, a full video wall, and an impressive sound system, all to local parks while using no public utilities and striving to be respectful to the venues they used. They quickly caught the community’s attention by presenting a high-quality production experience outside of big clubs and venues. Since then, they have been putting on near-stadium-quality productions at clubs and venues around Seattle.
What made you want to start putting on shows?
Matthew: Me and Chris started hanging out and DJing, doing house parties and live streams. Then we saw an event posted on Facebook at Gas Works and we contacted the guy putting it on and it turns out he needed some help because he had never played a live show before and hundreds of people had already RSVPd. We ended up with two Bluetooth speakers and Chris and I played on an Ipad.
Christian: The reaction was crazy positive. We only played for like an hour and a half or two hours and so many people came up to us and were like “you guys need to do this again this is what I needed in my life right now”. Then we kept just showing up to the park from 5-7 on Thursdays and played some chill house music.
Nicholas: Around the same time, I lived in Redmond in an apartment and was working from home every day. One day my window was open and I heard somebody out in the park playing some house music. I realized by the speaker they were using that they were gonna run out of battery power soon and I happened to have a pretty big REI camping battery. So I brought it out to them and help them keep going. Then we started to do this shuffle meetup thing while Chris and Matt are doing their house thing at Gasworks.
Nicholas: At some point what Matt and Christian were doing was getting pretty big and our shuffle meetups were getting pretty big and people started overlapping between the two groups. Then one day I went to one of their shows and it was kind of a meet and greet. Then for our next shows, we started to collaborate.
What were some of your biggest challenges as your events grew in size and quality?
Matthew: There were a lot of challenges. None of us had any event running experience, and its pretty complicated running events that size. Our last show we held at a park was around 1200 people. We had to buy bigger speakers, staffing, try to have multiple stages, create themes the stages, figure out the lights and how to set them up and how to teach other people how to do this stuff and help out.
Nicholas: We quickly figured out that battery-powered speakers don’t create a ton of sound. We built a 10kw sound system and powered CDJs and a bunch of other stuff all running off of e-scooter batteries.
Matthew: One other issue from the park shows that was really tough was trash. We got like 1000 people at the park and knew there was always going to be trash. We wanted to have a free event and wanted everyone to have fun and look out for each other and take care of the space. We always made sure there we would not leave a single piece of trash in the parks. We had volunteers stay after and bag up tons and tons of trash. For the last show we did at a park we stayed after the show until 7 am picking up trash and packing up.
How has Midnight Freqs grown since we last covered you?
Matthew: We started doing the weekly Thursdays at Vue and we needed to figure out how to keep things fresh. We thought we should bring some headliners in, but none of us had booked anyone before. I texted a bunch of people–and we figured the whole process. We had to build trust with agencies and let them know we will sell tickets and put on a good show.
Nicholas: For our shows at Vue, we would bring in our own lasers but they’re set up as a night club so they have a pretty fixed configuration. So a big thing was when we started doing other venues they were much more flexible on what we could bring in to make each show more unique.
Christian: For our Substation show, we did our own full-stage design. All of the light equipment was ours. we got to do a whole stage build from scratch and the reaction to that was way better than we could have ever thought. When we do shows at other venues we want to transform the way the venue normally looks.
You guys do pretty much all of your own lighting and stage productions, how did you get into lighting and visual programming?
Christian: Our start of being obsessed with production happened because we wanted our little outdoor shows to feel like real shows that we were seeing in clubs and stuff. We had no budget to pay someone and there aren’t that many programmers in Seattle, it’s a very small pool to select from, especially when we are doing a weekly show we need consistency. So I started learning to program lights and bought some lights and went from there and just kept expanding.
You all have computer programming backgrounds, did that help a lot?
Christian: Yes for lighting programming there are a lot of similarities. In fact, some of us have to write code to implement features in our software. I feel like it helped me pick it up really fast, especially since it’s so complicated but its a lot like coding but I’ve never touched any kind of video or light software before.
Do you have any other permanent members in Midnight Freqs besides you three?
Nicholas: There’s Logan our laser extraordinaire.
Matthew: We have people for booking, marketing, hospitality, and stage setup. Our staff is around 15 people right now and there are a ton of other people who are involved sometimes and some who have important roles in terms of each show.
What do you like the most about putting on shows in the PNW?
Matthew: There are so many different aspects that are so interesting and fun. I’m a huge bass head so being able to help the bass music scene here grow a little bit. But seeing my friends every week and having people come to our shows every week and support us, hanging out, and talking with them is super fun. At our Substation show we sold out AU5 and Chime and they were so happy and having a blast, the venue looked crazy good, and seeing a whole room of people have the time of their life is super rewarding
Nicholas: I like the feeling of people’s experiences that are bigger than they expected, there’s this one youtube clip we all love where someone is walking into one of our parks shows, and they’re going through some bushes, and as soon as they get through the bushes and see what the show looks like they scream “holy s*it”.
Matthew: I watch that regularly, serotonin boost for sure.
What do you guys have going on in the future?
Matthew: In general, we’re always looking to improve the show experience, the production, get new acts through, find new artists like underground artists, always aiming higher, and trying to do more fully customized production shows like Substation. Other venues from Seattle want weekend stuff so we can really fully showcase what we’ve been working on in our lab. Also merch at some point soon.
Nicholas: We like club shows but we definitely have more high-production weekend shows in the works and partnering with other groups and stuff.
Christian: Our goal is to give the quality of a bigger show that you typically only see on tours but for normal local artists booking, that’s what we’ve always been aiming for
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