This Saturday, Peach Pit, the monthly dance party devoted to pop music from the 1990s held at DC9, turns 13.
“My little baby is a teenager,” DJ Matt Bailer laughs, as he marvels about the event’s enduring success. “Last month was the busiest it’s been since we reopened after the pandemic — we had 620 people [total],” Bailer says. “So not only are people still coming, but they’re coming more, somehow.”
It’s a reassuring reality to Bailer and DC9 that the party is thriving more than a year since the venue reopened after a long 18 months of pandemic-prompted idling and uncertainty.
“Since stuff started reopening last summer, I’ve been working pretty much constantly,” says Bailer, who once again has a full, variable schedule of DJ gigs every weekend, with Pitchers, Kiki, and Trade the most likely places to catch him in addition to DC9. That Shaw venue is also home to Peach Pit’s eighties-themed offshoot Shady Pines, which will celebrate its 3rd anniversary as a free, Sunday rooftop tea dance this November. “I’m grateful that at least in enough people’s minds, the pandemic seems to be, I don’t know, livable or go-out-able.”
Bailer cites a couple of key factors explaining the lure and longevity of Peach Pit. Foremost among these, of course, is the music.
“The ’90s was sort of the last decade, really, where everyone listened to the same music — there was a radio station in your city or town that played all the Top 40 stuff,” he says. “And it was everything from Celine Dion to Nirvana to Backstreet Boys to Salt-N-Pepa, all on the same station.”
There’s also a nostalgia factor, especially for the 45-year-old Bailer and his cohorts, Gen Xers and older Millennials who were in their formative years during the decade
“These were my teenage and college years. Even the songs I get tired of, I’m not tired of [in the moment] when [a crowd of] people are singing along to them.”
Bailer manages to keep the party interesting by varying up the mix of songs played each month. Although he limits himself to a fixed and finite list of eligible songs — specifically, only singles that charted between the first week of 1990 and the last week of 1999 — he puts serious thought into keeping things as timely and relevant as possible.
For example, in light of the good news and buzz of recent years, Britney Spears remains stronger than ever, secure in her standing as a Peach Pit staple.
The exact opposite, however, is true for the late artist sometimes still referred to as the King of Pop. “I don’t play Michael Jackson anymore,” Bailer says.
“If someone comes out to hear me DJ and have a good time, and if they’ve lived any kind of similar experience as any of the kids in those documentaries did, and hearing a Michael Jackson song would re-traumatize them, even in the slightest way, it’s not worth the risk of even the possibility of doing that to someone.
“Usually, if I’m getting a yen to play a Michael Jackson song, I’ll play a Janet Jackson song instead,” he continues.
Bailer carries justice for Janet by elevating her songs, while relegating to the “Do Not Play” list Justin Timberlake, the ’90s-minted pop star literally responsible for her career-damaging Nipplegate debacle — a man who has paid no consequences for his actions and shown little remorse.
“She deserves all the glorification,” Bailer says. “So I don’t play Justin Timberlake anymore, or ’N SYNC, because he’s a douche. And I’d rather spotlight her and all of her great songs, and give her attention rather than these asshole guys who have been played more than enough.”
As fundamental as the music is, Bailer suggests that the party’s lasting popularity has as much to do with the intimate and no-frills DC9, owned and managed by Bill Spieler, where the party put down roots within its first year.
“The venue is a huge part of it,” Bailer says. “Over the years, people have said, ‘Move it somewhere bigger.’ But first of all, the staff at DC9 are amazing. Bill and everyone there, they just get it. They do it right. They’re wonderful people. They run a great business.
“I also think the size helps,” he continues. “If it were in a bigger space, it wouldn’t have the same energy or the sort of crackling thing that has definitely helped to keep it going for 13 years — the ‘sweaty, fun, sing-a-long, everyone’s kind of on top of each other’ vibe.”
Peach Pit’s 13th Anniversary is this Saturday, Oct. 15, with doors at 10 p.m. Tickets for Peach Pit are $10 before midnight, $15 after, and only available at the door. The next Shady Pines is Sunday, Oct. 23, from 4 to 8 p.m. Admission is Free. DC9 Nightclub is at 1940 18th St. NW. Visit www.dc9.club or call 202-483-5000.
To stream monthly sets from #peachpitdc and #shadypinesdc, visit www.mixcloud.com/djmattbailer.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!