Bootie on a BOAT!

Back in Los Angeles, my favorite two places to go dancing with my friends were Bar Sinister and Bootie. Bar Sinister is LA’s gothiest club, the only goth club with an image to keep up. Sinister was pretentious enough to have a dress code, but the DJs stuck with a familiar set of music genres I never got tired of, and the over-the-top goth club scene was always just fun to be in. We always knew we could go there and just dance all night, however we wanted, and always feel comfortable in the club.

Bootie, like Bar Sinister, was someplace we could go to just dance, where we always knew we would like the music, and where we knew we would always feel right at home. But Bootie was a very different scene than the goth clubs. Bootie refers to “bootleg mashups”, those songs which are more than the sum of their parts. For those of you who do not know the genre, a mash-up is two or more songs which fit together, in melody, rhythm, or even in concept. They’re usually highly catchy, because they contain Top 40 music, and very danceable, because they have rap or dance songs in them. Most have a clever title, which is also a mashup.

There’s a handful of very well known mashup DJs, but only two that go so far as to run a nationally known dance club. Two DJs out of SanFrancisco, Adrien and the Mysterious D, started bringing their SF based dance club, Bootie, to LA in 2005. I’ve been going ever since. My friend Heather introduced me to it initially, and the I started bringing my friends Wendy and Zee. Over the years, we saw Bootie grow in size, going from the Echo club in Echo Park, a small club, to Safari SAMs in Hollywood, and then, when it outgrew that venue, back to the Echo’s downstairs, larger counterpart, the Echoplex. The club even went from once a month to being twice month, and was still always full. Bootie is so popular that it didn’t just grow in size, but grew in appeal, bringing in more and more different people. At first, it was just Echo Park hipsters, but with time, I saw all sort of both alternative and mainstream cultures represented. At the Echoplex in 2011, I would see punks, roller derby girls, rockabillies, ravers, you name it. And, of course, the club was always full of people who just loved to dance. Like we did. At Bootie, you didn’t have to be anyone. You just had to love the music, and be able to dance for hours.

When it came time to move to NYC, we were very sad about leaving behind our favorite dance club in LA. Bootie comes to NYC, but not often -only every two or three months. And I managed to miss it in March, when I was visiting BC last. Fortunately, it came back quickly, and on a BOAT. I’m guessing a dry land venue could not be found, but for a club that’s already sort of pirate themed, a boat is perfect. Ahoy! Arrrrr! Pirate reference here! Obviously, my friends and I all bought tickets the second they went on sale. And then we literally counted down until it was time to get on the boat. All we could think of was how much we loved Bootie, and how we knew we would spend the whole night blissfully dancing.

So, two weekends ago, we returned to Bootie. And for the most part, we did spend the night dancing. It was just a very long night. The thing is with boat tours is that you are on the boat for the duration of the tour. There is no leaving early, or arriving late. In order to be sure we were on the boat, we had arrived at the pier at midnight, the time we thought we needed to be on board. After some panicked searching for the boat, we checked our emails for more directions, and realized that the boat wouldn’t leave until 12:30. In reality, due to the will-call ticket process and the security checks, this ended up being almost a 1am departure. I did some mental math, realized that the 3am return had just become a 4am return, and prayed that the diet Red Bull I’d slammed back in the cab would keep me from becoming a napping heap in a corner.

After a trip to the restrooms (a year of working similar boats in the Seattle waterways taught me that one toilet ALWAYS goes out during a cruise), we went upstairs to the main dance floor for the promoting DJs’ sets. Because Bootie isn’t usually in NYC, the DJs were playing more of a “best of” than the new tracks they usually broke out over the course of an evening in LA. We knew most of these mashups, and loved them, and that was enough to keep dancing for a long time. As the DJs traded off, and kept playing, we would wander to the window to look out at the lights of Midtown, or of Hoboken, but, for most of the night we just danced.

Still, after two hours,I realized that the boat was just going up and down the Hudson, and not really going anywhere that was interesting. By the third time the boat went up towards the West 50s, i was getting tired, and even a little bored. We went downstairs to listen to the guest DJ, DJ Lobsterdust, and to dance under the black lights on the lower deck, for a change. But when we came up, I noticed that several other people on the ship were also a little bored. The boat was spotted with couples making out, far more hookups than we usually saw at Bootie. Bootie is not usually a meat market, but I suppose, on a boat, with three hours in a small space, it increases the odds a bit.

Standing by the door, I heard the DJ calling out that he still had CDs to give away, and I realized that we had been going to this club for so long that the CDs people fought over in 2005 were now obsolete. CDs, to me, are tiny liabilities, clutter, physical objects that take up space. I know I can download the same songs and listen to them on a device, without ever touching a CD. The fact that the DJ was still handing out physical media made me realize that times had actually changed around Bootie. Bootie, while always awesome, is simply no longer cutting edge.

In fact, mashups are so mainstream now that they show up as part of corporate America. The sound team used them as the music that preceded the SAP CEO’s keynote at SAPPHIRE, playing twenty minutes of mashups while over ten thousand conference attendees found seats at the Orlando Convention Center. This, to me, meant Mashups were now acceptable to play at a corporate event run by a huge German software company. Mashups were even considered for promotions on an ice cream brand handled by the agency I freelanced for last fall. Mashups are no longer relegated to underground clubs in hipster West Coast cities. Going to Bootie now is starting to take on a faint patina of nostalgia, a sense of being timeless instead of being on the front edge of time.

By 4am, everyone was starting to slow down, and when the pier came in sight, people started lining up for the door. We were some of the first ones off, and we ran to catch a cab. It took two more blocks of walking east to find one, but eventually, we flagged one down and took it to Houston and 1st. I could have hopped on a train right then, but I decided to stay out for a bit longer, and go for a post-dancing snack with my friends. Also, by then, I was hungry, and a bowl of matzoh ball soup sounded perfect. So, at a comrade’s suggestion, we all went to Katz’s Deli, picked up plated of salty, delicious deli food, and sat down to rest our aching feet and replenish with beef sandwiches, French fries, pickles and soup.

After the meal, we went outside, and realized the sky was getting light. It was almost five in the morning. We had successfully managed to stay out all night. For me, this was a victory. It was a triumph over Getting Older, a victory over the exhaustion that I fall into at the end of the day. It was a success to not be the Mommy Cliche who goes home early. I had stayed out all night just being me, just Jillian, a me that wasn’t a mommy or a wife, but who was out dancing all night. It may not have been the smartest decision, but it was my decision.

Seeing the sky get light, rejuvenated by soup and pickles, and with the last of that Red Bull still in my system, I wanted to go watch the sun rise over the East River. It would have been amazing, to me, to stand in the Lower East Side, and see the sun come up over Brooklyn. But everyone else was tired, and wanted to just grab a cab and head up to their apartments. And I knew that not only was it not very safe for me to go wandering around the LES before 5am, but that exhaustion would hit me sooner rather than later. I also knew my already sore feet would become unbearable if i kept going, and that i would be limping from blisters soon.

So instead of going to look for a sunrise over the East River, I went to the F train, took it home to Park Slope, and walked home. But even at 5am, exactly seven hours after I had left my own house, I still walked with a bounce in my step, still with a mashup song in my heart. I walked home from the subway, under a rapidly lightening Brooklyn sky, and thought about how much I love my life, and how happy I am to have what I have, in New York City, with my dearest friends to dance lal night with, and then my husband and son to come home to.

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