Making the walls dance

Victoria's visuals master Photon is bringing the walls of Upstairs Cabaret to life for the After School Special Thurs., Sept. 26 with DJ Dan

Photon is going to make the walls dance at Upstairs Cabaret for the After School Special

Legendary American house superstar DJ Dan is about to bring Victorians on a disco funk odyssey with his bangin’ beats — but it’s local VJ Photon that is going to make the walls dance at Upstairs Cabaret Thursday (Sept. 26).

With 8,500 lumens of projection power and more than 40 feet of stretchy lycra screens at the ready for Thursday night’s After School Special featuring DJ Dan alongside locals Naomi Nice and DJ Wreckordz, Photon is ready to add another element to the entertainment for the evening. “The whole stage will be visuals,” he says. “It’s a lot of light.”

Photon has been working in the visuals business for more than a decade on the local scene, providing custom lighting and video for a wide spectrum of music — from Prince and Jefferson Starship to DJs like Crystal Method, Mat the Alien, Rennie Foster and DJ Dan.

“I’ve done the visuals for Dan almost every time he’s come to town,” says Photon, whose given name is Erik Nortman. “I love house music. I like the way he makes people dance.”

Photon is ready to bring “a retro disco-house vibe” to Upstairs for the show Thursday night.

Born and raised in Toronto, Photon made the journey to Victoria when he was 21, following a friend who had moved here. He never left.

“It’s a really diverse scene. There’s a lot going on with different things for different kinds of people. There’s so much talent in this city,” he says.

Photon got his start doing visuals after being inspired by a friend who was in the business. “I was already doing lighting when I got into film projection,” says Photon. He began working with a local jam band Wasabi Collective at their weekly shows at Lucky Bar in the early 2000s using slide projections and 16mm film loops.

“Things have changed big time,” says Photon who now uses digital video loops and much more modern technology to create his art.

Photon worked as the resident video tech at Upstairs Cabaret from 2003-08 before leaving to focus on his freelance business, vjcanada.com.

“I love doing visuals,” he says. “It makes the space more interesting. … I used to be a ‘Dead head,’ and I loved the vibe the Grateful Dead were creating with their visuals. I wanted to bring that energy to the scene here in Victoria.”

While some of the acts he works with provide visuals for Photon to use, he sources, and often creates, his own video loops to pair with the music.

“I like urban-style visuals. I like to make them as surreal as possible — not just shots of a city … I like motion graphics layered on top.”

Photon works on a multi-layer platform that allows him to mix layers together — often playing at different speeds to give the audience another sensory experience to be dazzeled by. “I work with the acts, take their songs and break them down into visuals,” he says. “I like to use visuals that make people feel. … and I synch it to the beat of the music.”

And remember: when you see Photon set up at in the club, don’t request a song. “I’m not the DJ,” he says, although he often gets confused for one. “It doesn’t bother me. … I just go with the flow.”

Tickets for the After School Special featuring DJ Dan with visuals by Photon are $20 at Ditch Records and Lyle’s Place. $25 at the door or $10 with a valid student card. Doors at 10 p.m.

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