On Wednesday, March 18, Adriana A. Roberts, best known in nightclub circles and amongst mashup fans as Adriana A., launched her weekly “Mashup Listening Party” on Twitch with an iTunes playlist loaded with Fleetwood Mac. “I needed the comfort food of Fleetwood Mac,” she says on a recent video call from Berlin. For Roberts, who founded the multi-city party Bootie Mashup back in 2003, that show was the culmination of a week adapting to an uncertain future and the start of a new DJ adventure.
The previous Wednesday, she learned that both Bootie’s flagship party at DNA Lounge in San Francisco, as well as the brand’s Seattle event, were canceled. Two days later, the same thing happened to Bootie’s L.A. bash. Between those cancelations, though, the popular club night’s team of DJs began work on taking the party to Twitch. They did their first livestream on Saturday, March 14. Roberts spent the weekend learning the ins and outs of DJing online. When she played the following Wednesday, she hadn’t yet set up her DJ gear to work with the livestream, hence the iTunes playlist.
“We were so used to this routine that we’d all been in for so long,” she says of throwing parties. With everything canceled at the dawn of the pandemic, Roberts and the Bootie crew opted to move online. Now, with a core group of six resident DJs (including Roberts) and another six DJs who are frequent guests, Bootie’s “genre-fluid” mix is satiating its fans nine months after the clubs closed – as well as attracting new listeners. On Twitch, they host nine regular shows and have amassed a following of 12,700 followers with a bounty of subscribers to boot. They’ve also relaunched the club’s presence on Second Life and created a Patreon that offers perks like exclusive and pre-release access to mixes.
All this has allowed Bootie to keep the party going in the year of social distancing. But, there’s another advantage to Bootie’s expanded online presence. “I feel more connected with the mashup scene, in general, than I have in years, which is kind of amazing,” says Roberts.
At its most basic, a mashup is when you layer the vocals of one track over the instrumental of another. This style of remix has its roots in hip-hop, where DJs would often blend a cappella and instrumental tracks, and a type of sample-based experimental music known as plunderphonics, notably Evolution Control Committee’s 1994 track “Rebel Without a Pause (Whipped Cream Mix),” which juxtaposed Public Enemy and Herb Alpert.
By the early ’00s, with the rise of both home production software and and file-sharing, mashups became a cult phenomenon. Producers delighted online audiences, DJs and club crowds with unexpected pairings, like Whitney Houston and Kraftwerk or Christina Aguilera and The Strokes. It was during this enthusiastic moment that Bootie was born in San Francisco in 2003.
Roberts describes the crowd in the early days of Bootie as a “Noah’s Ark of nightlife,” with two people from every scene. But, at the core of it were those who were steeped in technology. “Tech nerds are the first ones that really gravitated to mashup culture, latched on to it and fell in love with that,” Roberts recalls.
Over the years, Bootie Mashup spread far beyond San Francisco. As of early 2020, there were regular parties held in Seattle and Los Angeles as well. There have also been Bootie Mashup nights New York and Boston, as well as at events like Burning Man, Southern California’s Wasteland Weekend and Atlanta’s DragonCon.
Over the years, the popularity of mashups ebbed and flowed. Some went viral. Others became party staples. As people became more accustomed to hearing mashups, Roberts says, the crowd at Bootie grew more mainstream. On Twitch, though, they’ve been able to draw in the sort of regulars that originally frequented the parties, people who are passionate about hearing songs of disparate genres layered together.
Twitch isn’t like a club. You’re watching at home. You can adjust the volume to suit your tastes and bounce around your bedroom in your pajamas. Instead of trying to shout something to the DJ or find a corner where you can catch up with a friend, you might have conversations in the chat box.
“The community building has been the most shocking and surprising part of all of this,” says Roberts. It meant relearning how the DJs communicate with the crowd. On Twitch, the DJs are actively educating as they play. They’ll get on the mic and talk to those in the chat, maybe answer some questions and give some details about the tracks they’re playing.
On the Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend, Roberts dives into the new music that she’s been collecting; a mashup of Aretha Franklin and Dua Lipa is stellar. She also drops “Edge of Midnight,” a Miley Cyrus/Stevie Nicks mashup from YouTuber Kelexandra released last summer, and notes that it’s the precursor to the official “Edge of Midnight (Midnight Sky Remix)” released by Cyrus in late November. “Because of the interactivity and because of the format, it actually allows us a deeper dive into this culture,” says Roberts.
While Bootie Mashup has made a smooth transition to live streaming, Roberts stresses that it wasn’t easy. “We did work our asses off to get to this point,” she says, adding that they’ve tried to “reverse engineer” their successes to figure out what works. “We’re making it up as we went along,” she says. But, Roberts adds, that’s not so different from throwing an IRL party, and maybe it’s why Bootie Mashup has been around for so long. She says, “We just continually keep adapting to changing things.”