Adam and I met at my last restaurant job, getting to know each other during groggy staff meals and Saturday brunch lulls. When I learned that he made electronic music, I always told him I’d be at his first gig in the city. Granted, you tell a lot of people this for risk of seeming like you don’t care, but in this case, I actually meant it. Ever since I listened to The Crystal Method’s first CD in middle school so much I burned a hole through it, I’ve been a big techno (not the official term, but the one I use) nerd. Now I’d met someone who actually made it. To clarify, I’m not talking about that repetitive, thumping house bullshit. I mean the sweet sounds of Justice and Daft Punk, the stuff dance parties are made of. I was long gone from that job when I heard that Adam, a.k.a Axton Frick, was finally on the bill of a show (Booty Banger Crew: The Jump Off) at an LES club, but I vowed to attend.
Due to some scheduling confusion and the beginnings of a cold, I almost sat it out, but realized I had to keep my word. With a hot pink shirt and a healthy dose of medicine, I was ready to go. The venue was called Pianos and the velvet rope outside made me wonder if I’d underdressed. Nonetheless, I tolerated the doorman’s attitude about my Maine license (no one believes them because they don’t actually know where it is) and gained entry soon enough. Inside, the place was sufficiently loud but held no signs of a stage, but I spotted another room in the back. I made my way through a set of thick doors to find a dense crowd swaying to the bland guitar sounds of some alt-rock types. Off to the left, one guy manned a small bar which I couldn’t even gain elbow room at to order a drink. I was a little early, but figured that Adam and co. would be along soon to set up. Sure enough, he and his fellow artists appeared in the back of the room with backpacks full of laptops and equipment.
The crowd seemed to be enjoying the current band’s brand of generic rock, but we were ready for some real action. As they wound down their final song, already edging dangerously close to the Crew’s midnight start time, the lead singer had the gall to keep going. “Do we have time for one more before the dance party starts?” No, get off the stage. Unfortunately the heavily intoxicated, dread-bearing sound man didn’t agree and let them continue. “We are the dance party,” the singer said snidely before launching into a particularly non-exciting song. Amid the noise, all Adam and I could really do was say hi and roll our eyes.
Once the jam session finally wrapped up it was already past midnight. Due to the sound man’s incompetence or disinterest (maybe both) it took at least another half an hour to get the guys set up. Their equipment consisted of a folding table, two laptops and a jumble of cables. As time dragged on the room began to empty out and I couldn’t help but wonder who’d actually be around to dance. Vowing to dominate the floor myself if necessary, I slugged back a surprisingly strong whiskey ginger, took the requisite bathroom break in the place’s tiny basement and got ready for a good time. With my ears already ringing from the last band, I could barely carry on a conversation even if I wanted to, and contentedly took to a stool at the side of the room. A thickly built guy with a bus tub barreled around trying to collect as many stray glasses and bottles as possible before the next wave began. Unlike him, I had to conserve my energy. Apparently Adam was in fact last, not first as I’d originally thought.
Once the first guy went on, I wasted no time in getting up. While his skinny, plaid-wearing, curly-haired appearance didn’t exactly scream electronica, Bob Gravity knew how to get things going. Accompanied by a series of crazy videos on a projector screen behind the stage, he’d officially launched the Booty Banger Crew’s first show. As stranded astronauts flailed onscreen to the command of another guy wearing a shirt covered with multiple eyeball squares, Gravity began to rile up the room. The crowd was still small, and likely comprised of friends, but it still had the same effect. Through sounds that rippled and popped like ribbon candy, he taunted us with unexpected pauses and drove us to the point of sweat-coated fervor when it kicked back in. Other shows may captivate people’s attention, but a good dance set can control their whole bodies.
The next couple hours went by pretty quick, consumed by endless beats. I’m sure my dancing wasn’t the most attractive thing in the world, but it felt great to just shake everything out. Both Gravity and the next act, Wolfegang, did the same, treating the stage as their personal dance floor. Wolfegang brought a whole new flavor to the mix, something which Adam told me was called “moombahton.” Indicated by the jungle-themed videos of luscious booty shaking on loop, it seemed to be a mix of reggaeton and hard electronica. Sporting broad shoulders and a black tank top that clung to him with sweat, Wolfegang was a hard-charging dude. In between flaming rooster shots, the previous band kept awkwardly trying to disassemble their equipment, laughably unaware of the videos playing behind them. One of the most interesting was the image of a bull sitting in the Thinking Man pose, and I could imagine Wolfegang doing the same. Another shot of a brand label-filled skull (the Target symbol centered on its forehead) seemed to hint that the Booty Bangers had a lot on their mind.
They also seemed to have a lot of stamina, as Wolfegang’s set ran past the point of artful video syncing to straight up dance interlude. With a shot of the cosmos frozen on screen, he, Adam, Gravity and on occasion a photographer girl (who I later learned was Adam’s sister) took to the stage for an extended dance session. The most clean-cut of them all in a fully buttoned dress shirt, Adam had donned a baseball hat and sunglasses to fit the mood. Sensing that I had plenty of time until he was up, I retreated down to the bathroom for a quick break. Standing in a cramped hallway waiting for any of the three unisex rooms to open up was a nice rest from hours of nonstop dancing. No one seemed sober enough to notice how long you took in the bathrooms and I had to wonder what people got up to in there. Over the course of the night I put Realcity stickers in two of the three, so at least they’d keep us in mind during varying moments of ecstasy.
Back upstairs, the crowd fluctuated as the night went on. While the main bar was consistently busy, it seemed that most of the patrons weren’t interested in joining the fun. I did have the nice surprise of seeing a number of former co-workers, but aside from the usual drunken pleasantries, there wasn’t much to say under a thick blanket of booming beats. It was strangely liberating to dance crazily in front of these people who knew me at work as the straight-laced guy who started dating the hostess and always ate extra food in the back kitchen. We’d all come to see Adam do his thing, though, and soon the hour was upon us. Extending the party past the two hour mark toward 3 a.m. would be no small feat.
I’m happy to report that he pulled it off swimmingly. Partially instigated by his girlfriend Francesca, the stage soon filled up with all kinds of people. She tried to get me to come up but I didn’t quite have the energy for it. Some people actually knew what they were doing, while others drunkenly stumbled as nothing more than eye candy. Regardless, it made for an impressive scene. Having been abandoned by the eyeball-sporting video man, Adam managed to entertain the crowd with nothing for visual aids besides a blue screen and a glowing Apple symbol on his laptop that had been x-ed out with black tape. Having usually only seen Adam in black pants, an apron and a white polo, it was interesting to see him transformed by the power.
Sadly, once the morning approached 3:30, it seemed that no amount of force could keep me going. With my dance moves devolving into sloppy flailing, I retreated to a barstool by the wall and began dozing in place. Between the cocktail of cold medicine, booze and fatigue I was down for the count. I’d seen Francesca approach Adam at the stage a number of times already, but decided it’d be best to make a quiet exit. It’s not as if we could hear each other speak anyway and I didn’t want to break his flow. His usual lop-sided grin was wider than ever and he seemed to be having a great time. As I practically slept-walk into a cab home, Bob Gravity, Wolfegang and Axton Frick were still partying hard. I had a lot of fun launching the Booty Banger Dance Crew series with them — so much so that I couldn’t really enjoy any other music for a couple days. Or maybe that was just the ringing in my ears.