San Francisco’s ‘Bootie’ scene feels the West Coast Love
I had the chance to see San Francisco DJs Adrian and Mysterious D,the backbone of the ‘Bootie’ mashup scene,play a packed house DJ set earlier this year in Seattle. The show was a special Valentine’s edition of a quickly expanding party series that now tours around the world. Seattle native DJ Freddie,King of Pants joined them as the three alternated sessions and shared the stage with the crowd that spilled over from the dance floor below.
“We love Seattle,” said Adrian,sporting red dreadlocks and a double-well drink. “I wish we could come up here more often. This is already our third party here in the last six months.”
Earlier this year,locals may have seen posters around town with the graphic of Kurt Cobain’s face mashed with the face of Lady Gaga. A bold statement to make in Nirvanaland,yet one that has been particularly well received there. The ‘Seattle-freeze’,or reserved attitude sometimes observed at local shows,was not on hand. People threw their hands up like they just didn’t care that Biggie Smalls was rhyming over Miley Cirus. A giant inflatable pirate crowd surfed. Girls grinded on speaker monitors on stage. Lost shoes and shirts were seen on the floor.
The visuals of the iconic splice-face posters pretty well match the sound. The “Nir-Gaga” mashup is as much of an opportunity for cultural commentary as it is irresistible,booty-shakin’ ignorance. Still,the whole point according to Adrian is to bring people together. “50 years of pop music,all we do is just keep repeating ourselves. Bringing people together is the whole point. That’s what makes a great party.”
The West Coast particularly has been receptive to the genre with San Francisco being the unofficial world epicenter to mashup parties,mainly thanks to the Bootie club series,which A&D started back in ’03.
“On the West Coast there is a history of cultural cross pollination that works for what we do,” noted Adrian. “Plus,in California especially,there is an outlaw tradition.” (Bootie’s website points out “99.999% of all mashups aren’t legally cleared by the artists” which is why all recorded content is chucked out for free at shows and online.)
With eyes beaming widely between sets,Adrian went on the further hypothesize on the West Coast connection. “I think historically,people have moved west to get away from the seed of government which is on the East Coast,and also just to get away from old world sensibilities. And traditionally the West is where you go to re-create yourself.”
Recreation is definitely what Adrian and D are up to,focusing less on combining current hits than on mind-bending combinations spanning 20 years or more. One of their more recent hits is a MGMT vs. David Bowie blend.
“I have a problem with taking current pop music and mashing it up with current pop music,” explains Adrian. “A lot of Vegas DJs do this. To me,it’s called what’s the point mashups. It takes the fun out of what mashup culture is. Sure technically it’s a mashup,but whats the point? The fun of a mashup,the cleverness,is taking two artists who wouldn’t even in the same room together and putting them together. Taking two eras separated by 20 or 30 years and putting them together.”
As Adrian pontificates backstage,Mysterious D is working DeadMau5 into The Temptations.
While some see the mashup movement as a fleeting trend,Adrian sees it as a logical evolution fitted to our times. “Ten years ago I think growing up as a teenager you would be defined by what you listened to:are you a hesher? Are you a hip-hop kid? Nowadays,we live in the IPOD shuffle generation.”
Speaking of old world,I asked Adrian whether mashup could be considered the new folk music because it considers music as a collective tradition that can be expanded upon.
“Its funny you say that,because I actually like to think of it as the new punk rock because there is a DIY sensibility to it.”
Not to mention that outlaw element,presumably. Still,Adrian points out that like the rise of punk in the late 70’s,there are currently a handful of great artists amidst “a shit-ton of bad mashups out there. Just because anyone can do it doesn’t mean everyone should.”
Sometimes,the Bootie crew admitted,the mashup genre gets a bad name because of mixes that are simply not good. So what is it that makes a great mashup?
Adrian continued to use was “clever”,and also referred to “the surprise factor”.
Specifically,he explained,“The two critical things are tempo and key…I’m shocked that a lot of DJs are great with beats but they don’t hear musical key. We’ve found that the best mashup DJs are musicians because they understand keys fitting together. And then the third thing is arrangement. You want to make the two songs sound like they should fit together. If it’s just like,‘holy shit,this actually works’,then it works.”
That intuitive attraction combined with total surprise summarizes the crowd’s behavior at the Chop Suey show. When LL Cool J suddenly busted into the mix with “Don’t call it a comeback,I’ve been here for years!” midway through the verse from “Come on Eileen”,the crowd seemed to have a collective moment of ecstatic surprise,with hands thrown ceiling-ward and dance levels brought up another notch. Repeat that phenomenon every 30-45 seconds over the course of a few hours,and you have the makings for one raucous $8 party.
Perhaps not exactly the type of raucous you may be used to,and that’s the point.
By Caleb Knox
For free downloads of from the Bootie crew,check out bootiemashup.com/sf/. DJ Freddie,King of Pants can be found @ djkingofpants.com. Adrian and Mysterious D recommend Seattle DJ’s Maxx Destrukt,DJ TopCat,and DJ Victor Menego. Also see Sean Majors and Prince of Ballard for more Seattle mashups/blends.