Brian Sikes Howe is the lead DJ for Sugar: The Nü-Metal Party, an emo night-style event that travels the country and makes bodies hit the (dance) floor
One of the most remarkable qualities about nu-metal is how it achieved mainstream crossover appeal without compromising any of its attitude or rawness. There was nothing pretty or polished about it, but it all somehow worked, which makes our event, Sugar: The Nü-Metal Party, work so great. It's a celebration of individuality without being too "exclusive" or "cool" for anyone.
It's been a lot of fun to host an alternative dance party where I can play such a surprisingly diverse range of music and have everyone on board the whole night. Nu-metal embraced so many different styles of music, from rock, industrial, hip-hop, punk and everything in between, so having a party where you can mix all of these genres together is a lot of fun for me as a DJ.
Below, is a list of some of my favorite songs to play at these parties, but it's far from a complete list — I'm always experimenting with different tracks and deep cuts from the era. However, the following 10 songs are bona fide gems that're guaranteed to make any room go crazy.
Drowning Pool - "Bodies"
I think the chorus should speak for itself here: "LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR!" This is a song that's just built for mosh pits, and an excellent track to drop early in the night to get people moving. It's got a great tempo, everyone knows it, it's fun as hell to sing along with in a crowd. It's absolutely essential.
Evanescence - "Bring Me to Life"
This is the sing-along to end all sing-alongs, as far as I'm concerned, and it's a great song for helping the nights maintain some variety. Evanescence are a band who ran adjacent to nu-metal, but one who still played an important role in hindsight. Especially with the younger demographic that I've seen coming out to our events.
Korn - "Got the Life"
This is one of those tracks that's really just a heavily warped and distorted version of a "pop" song, so of course it works perfectly in the specific context of this event. You can jump up and down. You can sing along. You can pretend that you know all of the words to the rap verse parts. It's a classic.
Limp Bizkit - "Break Stuff"
This one needs no real explanation. It's a song that's scientifically manufactured for rooms full of screaming nu-metalheads, and it strikes a great yin and yang balance between being totally pissed off and fun as hell. It's a national treasure.
Linkin Park - "One Step Closer"
This is a song that lifts you off your feet once it kicks in, and does not let up. The chorus is so good and impossible to not scream your lungs out to. It's one of the best from one of the best to ever do it. Period.
Papa Roach - "Last Resort"
It's really easy to compare what we are doing with these parties to the various "emo nights" that exist all across the country, and there's undeniably some crossover appeal between the two subcultures. "Last Resort" is a track that is totally nu-metal at its core, but could also be dropped at any "emo" party, which I think is really cool. It's important for me to have something for everyone at any event, regardless of how niche the theme is.
Rage Against the Machine - "Killing in the Name"
Technically speaking, this isn't anything close to a "party" song, but it gets the room going regardless. This is a track with unbelievable power that you can't help but scream along with. The groove is so nasty and the lyrics are still as sharp today as they were 30 years ago. Rage Against the Machine are a band who've always existed kind of adjacent to nu-metal, but their influence and impact on what the genre would become is undeniable. Absolute legends.
Rob Zombie - "Dragula"
Similar to "Got the Life" and even Static-X's "Push It," this track leans very heavily on a basic dance groove, making it an excellent banger for any alternative dance party. I've heard "Dragula" dropped at goth and industrial nights for years, and Mr. Zombie's crossover appeal is undeniable in the nu-metal subculture. This track just fucks.
Static-X - "Push It"
This song has the craziest energy and really gets the room going with its driving tempo. It's almost impossible to not headbang to this song and it's really fun in the context of a "dance" party because you can actually dance to this one — if you have the moves for it. Or you can just mosh, as well. It's a "choose your own adventure" scenario when "Push It" drops.
Sugar: The Nü-Metal Party 2023 dates:
March 18 Baltimore, MD Rams Head Live
March 24 Fresno, CA Strummer's
March 25 Cincinnati, OH Bogart's
March 25 Sacramento, CA Ace of Spades
March 31 San Jose, CA The Ritz
March 31 Brooklyn, NY LPR
April 1 Detroit, MI St. Andrew's Hall
April 1 Bakersfield, CA Temblor Brewing Company
April 7 Los Angeles, CA The Regent
April 7 Reading, PA Reverb
April 8 Wilmington, DE The Queen
April 14 Chicago, IL House of Blues
April 15 Niagara Falls, NY The Rapids Theatre
April 28 Orlando, FL Level 13
April 29 Worcester, MA Off The Rails
April 29 Lincoln, NE Bourbon Theatre
April 29 Jacksonville, FL 1904 Music Hall
May 5 Denver, CO Marquis Theater
May 6 Indianapolis, IN The Vogue
May 6 Colorado Springs, CO Black Sheep
May 12 Sayreville, NJ Starland Ballroom
May 13 Amityville, NY Amityville Music Hall
May 13 Columbus, OH Skully's Music Diner
May 19 Pittsburgh, PA Spirit Hall
May 19 San Diego, CA Brick by Brick
May 20 Albany, NY Empire Live
May 20 Ventura, CA Ventura Music Hall
June 2 Memphis, TN Growlers
June 3 Phoenix, AZ The Van Buren
June 9 Berkeley, CA Cornerstone
June 10 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst
June 10 Toronto, ON Velvet Underground
June 16 Bloomington, IL Castle Theatre
June 16 Portland, OR The Hawthorne Theater
June 17 Palatine, IL Durty Nellies
July 15 San Antonio, TX Paper Tiger