A lot has changed since San Francisco based promoters/DJs/remixers Adrian and Mysterious D (aka A Plus D) began their mashup party Bootie SF a decade ago as an intimate low-key monthly midweek gathering at the (now closed SoMa disctrict bike messenger-turned-lesbian bar) Cherry Bar in SF - a place for friends and fellow fans (plus those curious) of the then burgeoning mashup scene/culture to get together and dance to the latest mashups (melds of two or more songs together - often from disparate genres - and born out of the hip-hop production style of sampling and mixing). For starters most people didn't know what a "mashup" was. Another thing different back then was that people still bought a lot more CDs than they do nowadays (it was more troublesome to download mp3 files then too) - and hence were most appreciative of the free mashup mix CDs that A Plus D generously handed out at every party back then, and still do to this day.
Another major difference between now and then was that back in 2003 and for two more years there was no YouTube - a place synonymous with remixers, from young aspiring bedroom producers to established major club DJs, showcasing their latest mashup productions. "You've got a whole new generation of kids coming up who aren't even aware that there was a time when "mashing up" songs or videos was looked at as something unique or weird. It's simply another way to consume music, and a way to put your own stamp on pop culture," A Plus D told the Amoeblog this week taking a break in their busy week from prepping for tonight's (August 17th, 2013) big 10 year anniversary show at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, coordinating with the numerous Bootie satellite clubs in cities all around the world, updating their heavily trafficked website, plus getting ready for Bootie's upcoming annual trip out to Burning Man (it was at Burning Man in 2004 where the inseparable pair got married).
"When we first started Bootie back in 2003, we said that mashups were either the future of music, or a trend that was going to be over within six months. Of course, we always believed deeply in the former! But then the 'buzzworthiness' of mashup culture did wane after a year or two and many trend-jumpers, especially music journalists, left it for dead. But a funny thing happened on the way to obscurity. Just like remix culture, which started to flourish in the '80s, it never really went away," said A Plus D who, like the flyers for their mashup parties meld two peoples' faces together, speak as one in interviews. As A Plus D note mashups are not really a musical genre, but actually a production technique and this, to me as one of the many DJs who spin at the Bootie parties, is the key to their accessibility and popularity: that you can take any two or more styles of music and transform them into something totally new and appealing to someone who otherwise may not be open to the individual components of the mashup.
As gifted mashup remixer and Bootie regular DJ Tripp, who will be spinning at tonight's party, noted about mashups, "Something really strange happens. You can hear a "what if" scenario. What if Christina Aguilera sang with The Strokes? What if Prince and James Brown jammed one night? What if Nine Inch Nails did a duet with Ace Of Base? It becomes a whole new entity unto itself. I know most mashups I love involve songs I didn't like in their first form." In agreement is Nashville, Tennessee based mashup remixer Titus Jones whose popular productions get a lot of play at Bootie parties. "To me the best thing about mashups is their ability to change your perception of the music within them. No matter how many times you hear the original version of your favorite song, it's never going to change. But, take the vocals from your favorite song, and layer them over something completely different and unexpected, and that's a brand new song. It's a brand new way to hear your favorite music, and it breathes life back into it!"
Over the past decade mashup productions have snowballed in number and have also grown in sheer diversity of sounds and genres. "Back then it seemed like every other mashup was either an Eminem or Missy Elliott bootleg," laughed A Plus D who recalled when they started out there was comparatively few mashups to choose from. Princess Kennedy, who is among the midnight mashup performers at tonight's anniversary show, was there at the beginning of Bootie on that first Wednesday night in 2003 - even before then in fact. "I was with Adrian and D eleven years ago in London," recalled Princess Kennedy. "We went to this club in Chelsea where they were playing this really fucked up but in-a-really-good-way music. I think if I remember correctly it was a Nirvana / Destiny's Child mashup [2 Many DJs' "Smells Like Booty"]. Immediately we were obsessed by the sound and of course A Plus D were completely wowed by the concept. They came back to SF and said Hey we're gonna do this, wanna be our first performer? The first night was fun and messy, but that was the Cherry Bar back then, and even though it was a small crowd, it was busy for a new night and it was evident pretty quick they had a good thing."
"The early days of the bootleg mashup scene were insanely eclectic and adventurous, with many producers attempting crazy genre-clashes and creative combinations. Granted, this often translated into shoddily-produced train wrecks of tracks, but every now and then you would find a gem. There was much more of a sense of humor, irony, and cleverness to mashup culture back then," said A Plus D of the production values of a decade ago, adding that, "Nowadays a lot of that original spirit of cleverness seems to have been lost on the new generation of mashup producers. Sure, many mashups today are better-produced and musically in-key, but they're also what we call "what's the point" mashups: EDM vs. EDM, hip-hop vs. hip-hop, current chart pop vs. current chart pop. There's no creativity behind it, and it's almost too easy. The original spirit of mashup culture was literally "mashing up" stuff that you wouldn't think should go together, or taking two songs separated by decades and finding the common musical thread. That doesn't mean mashing up David Guetta with Avicii, or Pitbull with Rihanna. Sure, technically those might be mashups -- but they're also completely boring and uninteresting. Bootie's job is creating and finding what we call "proper" mashups -- tracks that are truly genre-clashed and clever."
As any promoter in a major metropolitan market like San Francisco will attest, building up and then maintaining the popularity of a weekly club on a weekend night is an incredibly challenging feat. Yet Bootie SF at DNA Lounge on 11th Street every Saturday somehow packs them in week in, week out with capacity crowds split between the huge main floor dance area and the three upstairs (separate) dance rooms. DJ Tripp reckons that the continued popularity of Bootie can be attributed to that, "There is something for everyone. There's so much new music all the time and the DJ's and producers that have been really keeping up bring the best stuff. Whether it's hip-hop, EDM, reggae, or pop we can pull from anything our minds come up with. I know I've had an idea on the way to Bootie and made the track with 10 minutes before my set. 90% of the time the crowd is really loving it. The newness of music coupled with the classics helps Bootie stay fresh after 10 years." Titus Jones concurs saying that people are drawn to "discovering new music paired with old favorites" and that, "It's a love of music that brings everyone together, and Bootie is the Mecca of the Mashup World."
Another factor in Bootie's success is that it transcends the hipper-than-thou attitude and never takes itself too seriously. "Bootie's formula is simple; love to party, throw a good one, and people will follow," offered Princess Kennedy. "We're also not afraid of a good ol' crowd-bonding mashup sing-along. Love it or hate it, pop music unifies us a culture, and by mashing up these songs, we're celebrating (and satirizing) pop music on our own terms, putting our own unique spin on songs that might otherwise seem overly-familiar," said A Plus D. "We also program a lot of variety into our events. We have three upstairs rooms where we invite other clubs and DJ collectives to bring their party into our party, creating a lot of nightlife community. If you don't like what's being played in one room, there are two or three other rooms you can go explore to find the vibe you're looking for. We also book interesting acts and performers, such as Smash-Up Derby (our live mashup rock band), Hubba Hubba Revue (burlesque variety show), circus acts, drag queens, dance crews, and more!"
Summer mix by renowned DJ Earworm who often premieres new productions at Bootie
At tonight's 10 Year Anniversary party at midnight A Plus D will be throwing down a "Best of Bootie" retrospective set of the best mashups of the last decade. There will be performances by Princess Kennedy, Suppositori Spelling, Myster C, Xavier Toscano, Adrian, and more! Entyme will be doing live video mixing. At 11PM there will be a showdown between two resident showcase acts : Smash-Up Derby vs. Hubba Hubba Revue simultaneously on two stages. Between the three rooms and the main downstairs room will be such DJs as John!John!, DJ Tripp, Brass Tax, Glitterazzi, and Grandpamini (from Bootie France). DNA is at 375 11th Street, San Francisco. 21+ $10 before 11pm. $15 after. More info here.