MOOMBAH-WEEK: Washington, DC: Home is where the heart is
by Marcus K. Dowling
This is a tale of reckless American punk club music with international influences. Less than 1000 days old, moombahton’s rise is a stunning tale of Dave Nada’s invention blending with technology, a perfect example of evolution and diversity, a now global sound that’s everything and nothing at the same time. “Past present future music,” it invokes cumbia, dancehall, house, disco, hip hop, dubstep, soul, rock, punk, and so much more. With the nascent genre’s only hard and fast rule being that the pace cannot leave over 108-112 BPM, it’s the height of controlled anarchy, an underground movement turning hip partiers into a sensual minded two-stepping army. It’s peace, love, unity and respect remixed, a brand new thing for a brand new dance music generation.
Moombahton’s explosive Internet expansion is tempered by steady growth in local underground scenes. This is even the case in its city of invention, Washington, DC. Dave Nada famously invented the sound in the city’s suburbs, honed it in its darkest underground corners and unleashed it fully in the city’s most explosive incubator. Now, as the sound begins to slowly insinuate itself into internationally recognized DJs live sets and infiltrates the radio programs of international tastemakers, in the Nation’s Capital, moombahton fortifies itself in the same spots in which it was fostered.
Most key are the Moombahton Massive parties at the 40,000 watts of sound housing “temple of boom,” U Street Music Hall. Quite easily America’s most vitriolic and forward thinking monthly shindig, the event is so successful that it is being held on Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve of this year. Internationally famous turtablist/producer Craze, LA’s most influential DJ Thee Mike B, cumbia and Latin style maven Uproot Andy and instant legends like party resident DJ Sabo all have manned the decks and slayed. This is a party that isn’t for everyone, favored by young Latinos finding their voice in EDM, early adopting hipsters and people who enjoy the punk rock meets elegant disco feel. Dembow, cumbia, hip hop, electro, club and so many more styles are explored, producers gifted in the nascent genre becoming next generation underground superstars with each track dropped.
Billy the Gent is a tattoo artist and passionate father of a newborn daughter by day, and by night is the emotional spirit of DC’s moombahton movement. Looking for the guy who grabs the microphone and utters scatterbrained witticisms that exhort revelers to get crunk and go insane? Trying to find the guy who will jump feet first out of U Hall’s DJ booth? Looking for the man who is quietly the producer on the rise on the most wild and unpredictable side of EDM? It’s Billy, and, if you listen to his collaboration with Richmond, VA’s Long Jawns on “Vibrate,”it’s the aural interpretation of the producer and DJ’s nightly existence.
His partner in the monthly Tropixxx party at Velvet Lounge, the dive bar that began it all is Cam Jus, who, at any given point is the man fully self-aware that he’s the coolest guy in the room. His moombahton production skills have increased tenfold, as the student of audio engineering is his own worst critic, lending to tracks that are bass friendly, immediate and purposefully iconic, representative of the fare that makes one want to immediately throw their hands in the air.
Tropixxx was the space responsible for the controlled insanity that dominates the video clip for DC native and U Street Music Hall co-owner Tittsworth’s collaboration with Alvin Risk, “Pendejas.” A warming then tumultuous rumbler of a track, it celebrates many of moombahton’s disparate energies in one production. Hip hop’s bang, melodic cumbia, disruptive dubstep and wild punk energy dominate. The video’s shoot? A fire code violation waiting to happen, Tittsworth crowd surfing amidst a never-ending spray of Natty Boh ale, pretty women behaving badly and insane crowd moshing. Once the video was released, it became a legendary moment in the genre’s development trapped in the annals of history.
On Dave Nada’s genre introducing track “Moombahton,” it’s stated that “When you’re in DC you turn up the bass.” In continuing to meet that standard, the root continues to bear the fruit of moombahton’s future.