Live: Makeout Couches, Fanny-Packed Bartenders, And Cultural Mashups Galore At Que Bajo!?
Uproot Andy and Gecko Jones, clearly enjoying themselves
One Thursday a month (it varies), DJs Uproot Andy and Gecko Jones (of Dutty Artz) throw a cumbia-themed dance party called Que Bajo?! After stints at Rose Live in Williamsburg and APT in the Meatpacking District, they've finally found a hopefully permanent home downtown at Santos' Party House. Usually a mix of South American and African dance music, it began as an outlet for the two to play records they were tired of "sneaking in" at other parties: Last night's event stayed true to form as they celebrated the release of the Bersa Discos #6 EP, featuring Bersa Discos labelmates and fellow enthusiasts Disco Shawn and Soul Selecta/Turntable Lab's Sabo. Much intra-couple foreplay did ensue.
When we walked in around 1 a.m., Sabo had just taken over the decks for a reggaeton set while an older couple commanded the dance floor, the woman wining up on her man. Attendees were mostly a mix of L.E.S. twentysomethings, well-dressed couples (I will never understand why men wear suits to clubs), and the party's regulars from Brooklyn and beyond. A small cash-only food stand served up Cubano sandwiches, $6 beef and tofu bahn mi, and other regional delights. The bartender, decked out in pajama pants (sans underpants, we noticed), a cut-off tee, and a fanny pack, served up drinks, reaching over the two couples who'd stubbornly taken up the entire length of the open bar. The dance floor never slowed: While some lurked on the outskirts taking in the diversity, most were happy to jump right in. "You usually have to go out to Queens to hear this kind of music," one sweaty girl told us. "It's great to have this in my neighborhood!"
Meanwhile, Sabo's set turned into an energetic romp as he played a reggaeton remix of the famous "Cumbia Cienaguera" mixed into the more famously known tech-house rendition--Samim's "Heater"--to yells of approval from the crowd. His set staying true to the "new twist on cumbia" theme of the EP, mixing classic Afro-Latin tracks with recognizable house jams, all the while dancing furiously himself behind the turntables. That energy was matched by a group of dance-floor-domineering men who turned out to be international cumbia promoters themselves. "In other parts of the world, they focus on different things," a Parisian named Grandpamini told us. "In Paris, African music is in the minds of the people--here it's Latin music. It's nice to see these guys keeping it alive, this is great!"
The night slowed down as Uproot Andy got on--mostly, we assume, because the older crowd had partied themselves out. Gecko Jones waved his hands over the crowd, conducting those dancers who remained as Andy unfurled Latin-influenced hip-hop, dancehall, and even bhangra remixes. I looked around as Vybz Kartel's "Yuh Love" (produced by Brooklyn's own Dre Skull) rang out over the speakers: A few couples had found their way to the couches for a quick makeout session, while others slowly grinded up against one another on the dance floor. And really, that's how every party should end.
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