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Dubstep music makes bodies tingle

It’s not music that makes much sense on a laptop.

Or an iPod, even.

The “Ah-ha!” moment only really comes when you hear it live.

“You have to feel it,” says Robert Scott, a Vegas-based DJ and show promoter. “Then you’re like, ‘I get it.’ ”

He’s talking about dubstep, a rapidly advancing electronic music genre with the emphasis on the low end.

And by “low,” we mean such deep frequencies that, fed through the proper sound system, it all literally makes your limbs tingle, like you’re straddling a suddenly awakened fault line.

Scott’s partner, fellow DJ/producer/promoter Jerad Howard distills the essence of the music down to one word: “bass,” he says. “It’s just all bass.”

Well, it’s not all bass, as dubstep borrows liberally from a variety of traditions: reggae, hip-hop, house, trance. It began as dub remixes of two-step garage tracks in Britain in the late ’90s and only recently has become a growing presence on these shores — and in this town.

And you can credit Howard and Scott for the latter development.

Friday is the two-year anniversary of their once-a-month dubstep-centered events, which have grown steadily in popularity and become one of the most vibrant regular music happenings in Las Vegas.

Even the name of the night is evocative of the music: Smash!

The exclamation point being very necessary.

“It represents what the sound system does to your chest,” chuckles Scott, clad in a T-shirt and a blue stocking cap, working on a beer at Steiners on a recent Wednesday night.

“Or how you feel when you leave,” adds Howard with a knowing grin of his own.

Both veterans of the Vegas drum ‘n’ bass scene, they were drawn to dubstep in large part because of how wide-ranging the sound is.

“Everything I had to make wasn’t cool unless it fit into this box. Everything had to sound a certain way,” Howard says of his drum ‘n’ bass productions. “When I started hearing dubstep, there was so much diversity in it. It was just new. The tempo’s different. There’s not so many constraints.”

Since launching Smash! — which has taken place at the Bunkhouse, Beauty Bar, Forbes and the Aruba Ballroom, where it returns Friday night — Scott and Howard have been able to bring to Vegas such dubstep notables as Mala, 16bit, Breakage and Lazer Sword, to name a few.

And for the upcoming show, headlined by Philly DJ Starkey, Scott says the sound system has been boosted to pump out a Richter Scale-agitating 30 percent more bass.

“I’m definitely going to make sure that we always have a bucket full of earplugs in front,” he says. “I don’t want peoples’ ears ringing for days.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

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