How MNM Presents brought bass to Buffalo

MNM Presents

Mike T. Marshall’s love of EDM turned Buffalo into a bass-music hot-spot. The bass rattled the metal roof, even in the upstairs bathroom. On the balcony railing, attendees sported fuzzy ears, glow-stick necklaces, and beaded bracelets. An array of lasers moved sporadically across a sea of hundreds of headbangers as smoke cannons shot plumes of CO2 to the beat. The DJ blasted the crowd with dubstep as someone in a 10-foot long dinosaur costume moved along the front barricade.

If that’s happening in Buffalo, there’s a good chance MNM Presents is behind it. MNM Presents is the premier electronic dance music (EDM) promotion company serving Buffalo and Rochester. MNM brought dozens of EDM titans to Buffalo including Excision, SVDDEN DEATH, deadmau5, and Subtronics. MNM events bring out up to hundreds of EDM fans, many wearing typical rave attire: colorful neon clothing; beaded jewelry known as kandi; hand fans; ski goggles or sunglasses; pashmina scarves; or jerseys repping popular DJs. Events often feature lasers, large screens portraying mind-blowing visuals, and smoke machines, but always contain extremely loud, bass-heavy sound systems capable of blasting fans at over 120 decibels.

Though its events can vary (sometimes including indie, reggae, or rap), MNM specializes in bass-heavy EDM like dubstep, a genre often characterized by loud, aggressive, and bass-heavy tracks with signature buildups and “drops,” or points in a track where the bass-line or rhythm suddenly changes, designed to inject energy into the music. Founded in 2001 by Mike T. Marshall, the company outgrew the dive bars it started in and would go on to regularly sell out major Buffalo venues like Riverworks and Town Ballroom, and acted as the catalyst for a thriving EDM community.

In the early 2000s, Marshall, his brother, and their friends were attending raves in Toronto; the grassroots movement that would become MNM Presents began forming around them. “I will forever call myself a raver. I started raving in the ’90s. I loved it immediately and wanted to know more about it,” Marshall said. “I wanted to make it part of my life almost immediately.” The group were avid fans of Drum and Bass (DnB), a genre characterized by fast-paced drum loops and heavy bass lines. Marshall’s brother and friends also DJed, and needed a place to play. Marshall wasn’t a DJ himself, but said he “loved just being a part of it,” so he took it upon himself to find a place to play.

Marshall tried his luck at a bar called 658 (now Shea’s Bistro and Bar) on Main Street. “I just went in there one day and told the guy, ‘Hey, I think I can pack this place,’” Marshall said. 658 accepted the offer, and Marshall got to work. “I was putting flyers on cars. I was going out to every club night in the area,” he said. After promoting the event for a couple of months, the big night kicked off with a bang. Marshall kept his word: 658 was packed. Following the successful launch, the DnB night at 658 became “The Return,” because it returned weekly on Thursdays, each event gathering “a few hundred people,” according to Marshall.

Marshall credits the early successes to two things: showcasing DJs who typically did not play together, and the fact that no one else in Buffalo was advertising DnB music at the time. For the first two years, MNM Presents was exclusively putting on DnB events, with Marshall managing everything from the design of the flyers to the MC’s. As “The Return” grew, Marshall needed acts from outside Buffalo. After many phone calls, the headliners came. Lotus, Chromeo, Girl Talk, and Diplo’s Mad Decent were some of the first MNM acts with “real clout,” according to Marshall.

This new influx of talent caused MNM Presents to host events branching into other EDM genres such as “Sunset Sundays,” a weekly house music night that entered its 16th year in 2023. MNM Presents also became known for its annual Christmas party. Starting in Marshall’s house in the late ’90s, on Christmas night the group would see family during the day, and throw DJed parties at night. In 2004 when the party became large enough, it moved to Pearl Street Brewery. “Pearl Street said, ‘You’re crazy, but we’ll try it.’ And it was mobbed, it was packed,” Marshall said. Every Christmas night up until the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of the day it fell on, the four-floor event would draw a crowd of festive ravers. Marshall hopes to bring it back but has run into issues with the venue and its staffing.

It gradually cultivated a scene that would put Buffalo on the national EDM map, something Marshall is thankful for. “It’s something I said that I wanted to do a long time ago, and I’m still doing it, and I still love it,” Marshall said. “I do like to think that I’m going to be the old grandpa raver watching the kids rage out and have fun, because I’ll never get sick of watching that.” You can usually find Marshall floating around before shows in a less-than-flashy outfit, doing more observing than dancing. “I don’t party too hard anymore minus the music,” he said.

Many Buffalo and Rochester ravers, such as frequent attendee Sierra Murphy, are grateful for MNM and Marshall’s impact. “This area would be seriously lacking if it wasn’t for the fact that we have a seasoned raver leading the local scene,” Murphy said. In his two-plus decades of raving, Marshall has seen several iterations of the EDM community. The talent required to get on stage has remained the same, but the equipment, what artists garner appeal, the music, and the culture have changed. “I never thought I’d see mosh pits at raves. But I love it,” Marshall said. “All of us kids that were going to raves in the ’90s were also going to punk shows and hitting up the mosh pits, so to see it combined is pretty neat.”

Marshall thinks Buffalo’s EDM scene has made itself known nationally. He ranked Buffalo a B to A- on a national scale. “We’re not Denver, and we’re not Chicago — we just don’t have the population. But I would say that we got a pretty strong fan base for our population. Buffalo parties man, they go out, they rave, and I love seeing it.” Marshall facilitated many performances he’s proud of, like the time he brought six-time Grammy-nominated house DJ deadmau5 to perform after many years of dreaming. “I find him to be so iconic,” Marshall said. “I would say that might be the only show I can think of where there were Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, Gen Zs, and Alphas all at one event.”

MNM Presents also strives to help local DJs gain exposure, and Marshall considers meeting local talent and hearing their perspectives on the scene to be a fun part of his job. “Mike has worked with me for years to help support the REZI project and has helped me foster many connections in the scene,” Alek Slon, who DJs with the stage name REZI, told The Spectrum. “He’s been a very trusted partner of my project and a close friend, and I’m glad our paths crossed when they did. MNM Presents shows have always felt like home to me.”

It’s not uncommon to see opening DJs join the crowd after performing or attending other MNM events. “For the past 20 years, they’ve been providing a safe place for people to party. There’s never anything that goes wrong. I’ve seen such shit shows with promoters in other cities that have completely dropped the ball. Mike would never do that,” David Morris, who DJs as Mort, said. “I appreciate that so much, not only for myself personally as an artist but as a fan and a person that the dubstep scene means a lot to. He’s the king of the city for that.”

Looking to the future of MNM Presents, Marshall wants to “keep the train rolling,” and hopes that some ideas he’s had for “hundreds and hundreds of days” may finally come to fruition. “I’ll know when it feels right and when it’s time to strike it,” Marshall said. “There may be some pretty neat stuff coming up.” In the meantime, you’ll find Marshall living in the suburbs of Buffalo with his wife and their 2-year-old son, and enjoying the bass at each MNM Presents event.

– Dominick “PITLORD” Matarese

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