In SOMA, there’s been a party every Saturday for the past 12 years that features all your favorite musicians. Michael Jackson is a frequent guest, along with Nirvana, Carly Rae Jepson, Dr. Dre, and just about every other artist whose name has appeared on a Billboard chart in the past half century. Bootie is a celebration of the mash-up genre, songs typically consisting of one song’s vocals and another’s instrumental sound, and since August 2003, DJs A and Mysterious D have invited the best in the business to turn up and turn out some of the craziest songs you can shake your ass to.
“We started Bootie mostly so we could DJ a party where people wouldn’t keep coming up to the DJ booth saying, ‘What is this? Can’t you just play the normal song?’” says A, aka Adrian, an Ohio transplant to San Francisco who DJs and serves as the lead singer of Bootie SF’s live mashup rock band Smash-Up Derby. “Remember, this was 12 years ago, before anyone even knew what a mashup was, much less understood the concept of two (or more) songs being ‘Frankenstein’d’ together to create a completely new track.”
As Adrian recalls, he read about the idea of mash-ups before he ever heard one. The concept was immediately appealing, and now classic tracks like McSleazy’s “Smells Like Billie Jean” (Michael Jackson vs. Nirvana) and Freelance Hellraiser’s “Stroke of Genius” (Christina Augilera vs. The Strokes) were two of the initial tracks that inspired Adrian and his partner Mysterious D, aka Deidre, to start making mash-ups of their own. “Either way, we were hooked,” Adrian confirms. “So of course the next step was to throw a party dedicated to the genre!”
That party started at the now-defunct Cherry Bar, a sweaty gathering of 100 people in a single room one Wednesday a month. Eventually Wednesdays turned to Saturdays, and a year and a half after being “well beyond max capacity,” Bootie finally moved to the DNA Lounge, which is still its home today. Deidre notes that the process of evolving Bootie from its humble origins to its current status as a San Francisco weekend staple was a gradual one. “Over the course of five years, we slowly kept building, adding Saturdays, until we finally became a weekly party in April 2011, nearly eight years after we started. It’s been a very word-of-mouth, slow and steady, grassroots growth … but now Bootie SF is the biggest party in the Bay Area. We pull an average of 1700 people every Saturday night — with four rooms of DJs and regular stage shows, including the Smash-Up Derby, the Hubba Hubba Revue burlesque, and the drag performances of the Monster Show.”
One time, when I was telling Adrian how much I loved being a part of Bootie, Adrian said to me, “We want to be ambassadors of San Francisco nightlife to the world.” In that one moment I understood everything about Bootie, why it's so successful, and why I'm so glad our show is a regular part of it. — Jim Sweeney
A trip to Bootie is stimulation overload. Not an inch of space is wasted, with various DJs and bars crammed into every corner of the DNA Lounge. You may walk through one room featuring a visiting DJ from Norway or Hong Kong only to find yourself in the central room of the venue where a gaggle of energetic drag queens are bringing the house down. The atmosphere is reflective of the mash-up mentality: two often disparate sounds congealed into a new catchy monster of sound, often complimented by a backbone of pulsating bass. “One of the key elements to creating a well-produced, successful mashup is getting a hold of an isolated, acapella vocal track,” explains Adrian. “That’s really an essential part, because then you can drop that over an instrumental track and create something totally fresh that actually sounds natural and good.”
While the inaugural wave of mash-ups were often limited to rap vocals over, in Adrian’s words, “easily cut-up instrumentals,” (he cites AC/DC’s “Back in Black” as a prime example) the landscape nowadays has a much wider pool of options to draw from. The excess of raw materials available is due in part to video games like “Rock Band,” as well as remix contest promotions, and D.I.Y. tracks made with music software, all of which have helped expand the number of acapellas and instrumental tracks waiting to be turned into something amazing and insane.
“Ideas come from everywhere,” Deirdre confirms. “After a while of doing this, you start to realize that not only are there only so many chord progressions, but that pop music is constantly cannibalizing itself. So a song from the '70s might have the same key and chord progression as a song from last week. And it doesn’t matter what genre. In fact, the mashups that are severe genre-clashes are usually the ones that are the most interesting.”
Bootie SF is the 'Noah's Ark' of night life; two of every kind of party person can be found here. — Unknown
As to what makes a good mash-up, Adrian says that he and Deidre are always looking for what they call the “OMG WTF” factor, which, in the span of 12 years of producing Bootie, has become much harder to find. “Taking familiar sources and turning them on their ear — turning them into something new that we haven’t heard before — is still what we’re ultimately looking for. Making those musical connections — the connecting threads that unite in spite of different genres or eras — is what we are always seeking.”
While Bootie may have its roots in San Francisco, the outfit has expanded across the globe. Bootie currently has 10 parties in various cities and countries — including Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Bangkok, and several other locals in the United States. “The mashup scene has always been an internet-based scene,” explains Adrian. “Since you couldn't buy these tracks in a record shop, the only place you could find them were online, so it makes sense that most of our other parties have developed by cultivating online relationships with other mashup DJs and producers, and conspiring with them to throw Bootie mashup parties in their own cities around the world.”
Deidre notes that the tracks that work really well in one place are often the ones that work best anywhere. While the international parties certainly boast a regional flavor to their musical offerings, she has noted that mash-ups seem to have a universal appeal. Indeed, the appeal must be universal, because in the 12 years that Bootie has been around, there’s cameos from famous musicians, medical emergencies, and just about anything else you can imagine coming out of an evening dedicated to dancing, drinking, and being crazy.
One of my most favorite memories to date was about four years ago or so: Smash-Up Derby was performing, as we do every two weeks. A previous guitar player was really into jumping off the stage into the crowd during our last song at that time. Well, he did his move, and miscalculated and landed on a lady right by the stage! It was like watching someone go bowling and hit a 5/7 split or something – he fell on her, she fell, and then people toppled over behind them. Luckily no one was hurt. The guitarist KEPT ON PLAYING! Man… I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't play my own parts properly. — Angela Momiyama, bassist for Smash-Up Derby
In 2008, Lady Gaga made an appearance at Bootie LA, opening up for the Bootie SF house band Smash-Up Derby. “She vogued to a mashup of ‘Just Dance’ and didn’t even bother to lip-sync,” Deidre recalls. “Nobody in the audience cared about her. We even had 5000 special “Bootie Mashes Lady Gaga” CDs which we could not even give away. Six months later, she was on the cover of Rolling Stone.”
Then there was the time Adrian split his urethra on stage during an apocalyptic disaster-themed stage show. “I did it by slipping while jumping up on a go-go box to launch ‘fallout’ (confetti). Afterwards, I went to the bathroom backstage and starting spewing blood from my penis everywhere … and I had to get rushed to the emergency room. After the show, everyone assumed that all the blood backstage was fake…. until one by one they realized that nobody had used fake blood in the show! I ended up flyering the emergency room, inviting the nurses to the party, and after they put me in adult diapers and told me there was nothing they could do (they couldn’t stitch it), they sent me off. I made it back to Bootie in time for last call and my last DJ set. When all the tough-guy security guards heard the story and saw me still rockin' it on stage with a ripped urethra, they were all weirdly impressed. The next week, the drink special at DNA Lounge was called Ow My Urethra.”
At the Bootie 10 year anniversary, I met the cast of Real World Explosion, got invited back to the Real World house, and somehow ended up in the hot tub in my underwear and on TV! Yes, I was THAT guy. —DJ Tyme aka Doug from Entyme
Just this year, Bootie was asked to DJ the Nerdist.com Comic-Con party. The party was filled with all the best celebrities of the nerd/geek/comedy worlds, including Chris Hardwick, Felicia Day, and even Frodo himself, Elijah Wood. But name-dropping and luxury have never been the name of the game at Bootie. The evening is dedicated to everyman opulence – the chance to dance freely and forget the work week ahead. As long as people keep lining up and buying tickets, A and Mysterious D have every intention of giving them their money’s worth for the forseeable future.
“As for where we would like to take Bootie Mashup,” muses Adrian, “ if we could ever get around those sticky copyright issues, we would love to be able to officially release Bootie labeled mashup albums highlighting the great mashup producers we work with and play with around the globe. And perhaps have a Bootie Mashup radio station on Sirius XM. Of course, throwing parties is what we love to do, so taking Bootie Mashup on tour, or creating a tent for summer concert festivals, or simply bringing more parties to more and more cities is always on the horizon.”
“As pop music culture evolves and changes, Bootie evolves and changes with it,” Deirde says. “We’re always taking what’s fresh and new and finding the connecting threads in all the genres and styles of music that have come before, whether it’s last year’s track that sounds nearly the same, or a song from three decades ago that unexpectedly fits with it like a glove. Just like any art, there always seem to be new creative visions and ideas to explore.”
12 Years of Bootie — 12 of A Plus Mysterious D's Favorite Mashups