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.