Steppin’ in It
Last Tuesday, I skipped out on watching Big Mike at The Moon to get out of my comfort zone and try something new, which is why I found myself walking down a set of stairs into Bar 9’s basement. See, back in June, I picked up a flyer advertising the “Summer of Dub” in the “Dub9 Underground Lounge.” According to this little red card, the Summer of Dub featured assorted drink specials ($1 domestics and $2 Crown-and-down ’til 11; $2 domestics after) with DJs Jimmy B and Carmack spinning (natch) dub. I assumed Bar 9’s downstairs component would be filled with the smoky grooves of King Tubby, Scientist, Mad Professor, and the other greats of reggae’s spacey, instrumental offshoot. Boy, was I wrong.
I had to park kind of far away, but by the time I got to the corner of 8th and Houston streets, I could already hear the bass, except that instead of the smoky, loping bass lines I expected, I discerned a different sort of low-end thump. “Ah, geez,” I thought. “This is dubstep.” Feeling a little misled, I headed down the stairs anyway, as an uptempo, minor-key pulse filled my ears.
Bar 9’s underground lounge is kind of sparsely decorated. It’s always kind of dark, but on this night, the gloom was rhythmically stabbed by theatrical light — I’m a sucker for fog and lasers, so I hung around for a shot and a drink, but one round was all I could take. Call me old-fashioned, but the only way I could get into this scene is with some drugs. Maybe. To my ears, dubstep sounds like pot-induced paranoia feels. The music is arguably danceable, and indeed, there were about 20 twentysomethings grooving, but the sound also carries an overarching sense of foreboding, and the uptempo beat kind of set my teeth on edge. Imagine getting tailgated by a semi in a narrow tunnel. That’s sort of what dubstep feels like if you’re not really into it.
But what do I know? I felt out of place, but everyone else was obviously having a blast. At the other end of the narrow room, I saw the DJ’s head nodding along through the fog. I don’t know if this was Carmack or Jimmy B, but I decided to call him DJ Super Saiyan on account of a tower of preternaturally blond hair atop his head. While he didn’t fly through the air and rain punches on any supervillains, he kept the lasers going consistently, and I gathered he was good at spinning this stuff, because everyone seemed to dig it.
I didn’t really, but whatever. My drink was cheap, and I enjoyed doing something different from the usual. After I emptied my Jack and Coke, I headed to The Moon for last call. As I walked in the door, Big Mike’s Box of Rock lurched into “War Pigs,” and I felt like I could finally relax. –– Steve Steward
After Tuesday’s foray into the unknown, I went for the familiar on Thursday, hitting up The Grotto for DJ Natty Patty’s weekly reggae night, NATTYBASS. Natty Patty’s been setting up the steel wheels and thumping Jamaica’s national sonic export for a long time — I first saw him do weekly sets at The Wreck Room — and he doesn’t disappoint. Mixing dub, ska, and a little bit of hip-hop, he crafts a hazy party vibe that’s a nice alternative to crowds at the other bars in the West 7th corridor. While The Grotto doesn’t have the underground theatrics of Bar 9, NATTYBASS is definitely worth checking out, even if the only thing you know about reggae is how Eric Clapton “Shot the Sheriff.” –– S.S.
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