Pete Kalamoutsos was heading to a Greek restaurant in Rockville with his friend Tiësto, a Dutch DJ who was at the time on the verge of global stardom. It was 2003 and Kalamoutsos was running a dance-music event company, Club Glow, while also working around town as a DJ. In the car, Tiësto posed a question that would fundamentally change Kalamoutsos’s life—and also DC’s music scene: “What do you want to do? Do you want to be a superstar DJ or a superstar promoter? You can’t do both.” Kalamoutsos thought about it and decided Tiësto was right. “Whatever you do in life, you’ve got to do 100 percent,” he says now. “You can’t half-ass it.” So he decided to ditch DJing and focus on the business side of things.
It would take another nine years, but that clarifying moment culminated in Kalamoutsos’s creation of Echostage, the 30,000-square-foot club in Northeast DC that today is recognized as one of the premier music venues not just in the District but on the planet. Last year, DJMag named it the world’s top dance-music club.
Now Kalamoutsos is hoping to raise DC’s dance-music profile even further. Working with the California promoter Insomniac, he’s staging a major two-day festival on April 30 and May 1. Dubbed Project Glow and held on the grounds of RFK Stadium, the event will mix veteran global electronic acts such as Above & Beyond, popular American DJs such as Diplo, and emerging talent like John Summit. (Insomniac bought Echostage in 2020, although Kalamoutsos still runs its day-to-day operations.)
Balding and even-tempered, Kalamoutsos doesn’t come across like a high-flying nightlife impresario. The child of Greek immigrants, he grew up in Rockville and regularly visited family back in Greece, where he was exposed to the early-’90s European dance-music scene. Later on, he became convinced that a version of those clubs could be replicated in the Washington area, with its abundance of college students and significant international community. That hunch was right: Echostage opened in 2012 and quickly attracted the kind of stars—Avicii, David Guetta, Skrillex—more typically found spinning in New York, Las Vegas, and Miami. Why has it gained such a passionate following in the District? It’s a place where the strobe lights aren’t solely red or blue. “When I look over the crowd, it’s Black, white, rich, poor, gay, straight, Republican, Democrat, whatever,” Kalamoutsos says. “They want to let loose on the weekends. You go through the [doors] and you’re like, ‘I’m here.’ ”
This article appears in the April 2022 issue of Washingtonian.