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“Tracks was very transformative and influential in the D.C. music scene, far beyond any of the acclaim that it’s gotten,” says Patrick Little, who was the general manager of the storied straight-friendly D.C. mega-nightclub when it ended its 15-year reign in 1999.
As detailed in this week’s Metro Weekly, Little led efforts planning this weekend’s Tracks Reunion event, with parties reflecting the different nights and different music that was played at the former venue in Southeast D.C. near where Nationals Stadium now stands. Ed Bailey, who now runs Town Danceboutique and Number Nine, helped set those nights in motion as Tracks’s promotional director, alongside Tracks investor John Guggenmos, in the early 1990s.
The reunion launches at DC9 tonight, April 26, with an event that features DJs Mohawk Adam, Earic Patten and Michael Meacham and combines the music heard at Tracks on Thursday and Friday nights, both of which attracted a largely straight, young crowd. Expect the rockier side of dance music: “Basically the harder music that was starting to evolve and come out of England,” Bailey explains. “[Thursdays at Tracks] was a younger thing because this was the newest music… This was as the rave scene was being born in this country, so we kind of embraced that.”
Town Danceboutique kicks off Saturday festivities at 6 p.m. with a cocktail mixer, a display of Tracks memorabilia and a silent auction, plus beats by Rocky Lavorata and Tim Sheehan. But the focus of the night is a dance party celebrating the dance-pop and ‘90s-era club anthems popular at Tracks with a predominantly gay white male audience, as spun by Sheehan, James Graham, Michele Miruski and Bailey, who was the resident Saturday night DJ at Tracks for much of the ‘90s. The reunion ends Sunday night at Phase 1 of Dupont — the old Badlands/Apex space — with a party catering to a gay black crowd, featuring edgy hip-hop and hard and soul house by DJs Sam Burns, Mike Malapit, Geoffrey Cee and Miruski.
Bailey says dance music, particularly the music heard on Saturday nights, changed pretty rapidly during his decade at the club.
“When I started at Tracks,” Bailey explains in detail, “I was playing alternative music. I was playing Annie Lennox and the Smiths and the Cure and New Order and Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys. And literally, right when I started was when music that kind of evolved out of that world to become more of what we would call house music today was starting to exist in a way that was relevant to the people on the dance floor. So songs like “[Theme from] S’Express” and “Pump Up The Jam,” songs that were created using the same technology as a lot of the new wave music. Kind of the same drum machine that New Order and Depeche Mode were using, but doing it with a little more of a disco influence. So instead of using new wave synthesizers in creating dance music that came kind of more from a rock side of the world, people started using these new wave synthesizers and drum machines to create dance music that came a little bit more from the R&B and disco side of the world.”
Bailey likens how the music evolved at Tracks to that of MTV during the same time frame. “It went from being kind of about these alternative artists,” he says, “to becoming a little bit more about dancier artists — Madonna — and a little bit less rock.”
You can also listen to these classics and more in Metro Weekly‘s Tracks on Tracks Spotify playlist