If you remember anything about OC's dance music scene circa 2007 (before the term EDM became a scourge upon the land), you probably have some foggy memories of being at Detroit Bar on a Wednesday night dancing your ass off to Chemical Brothers or Groove Armada while DJ Dan Sena manned the decks. During Detroit Bar's heyday, Busy Work was the place where locals came to let vodka-fueled confidence guide them to the small dance floor to get over Hump Day and party with panache. A lot has changed since the weekly residency took its final bow in 2009. Aside from Detroit Bar morphing into the Wayfarer, Sena's been a little more scarce on the dance scene. These days, he's been engaging in busy work of a different sort—producing music for other artists, continuing his dual life as a hardcore musician and popping up as a DJ at gigs here and there. But 2016 promises to be the return of Sena, who partnered up with fellow DJ Astroteric and Andrew Martinez to deliver a brand-new Thursday night residency at Casa (formerly Avalon Bar) called BOOTLEG!
Despite the tight quarters inside the revamped club (which finally dropped that douchey RSVP password business at the door), the aural parameters for Sena's new, bi-monthly night are as expansive as the Sahara. Pretty much anything goes as long as its good music you can sweat to while worshipping the business end of a subwoofer. We can definitely expect the seasoned selectors to put some bona fide dance floor fillers along with guest DJs and a few surprise guests. Whole point, Sena says, is to cultivate a dance party that's free from pretense. Even if it means recapturing the same spirit that made club nights go off like Busy Work back in the day, it's clear that Sena will stop at nothing to make sure that you wake up on Friday morning with a hangover, a smile and some more foggy memories of the newest little club night in OC. We recently talked to Sena and Astroteric about the birth of BOOTLEG! which starts at Casa tonight at 9 p.m.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): What inspired you to get back into the dance music scene after being out of it for a few years?
Dan Sena: I wouldn’t say I fell off, I just got burnt out with Busy Work. That party went on for three years from 2007 to 2009. Doing a weekly party is a lot of work. I never quite learned from my mistakes at the time, I just wanted to throw a fun party so I wasn’t really thinking like a business person about how to nourish something and help it grow. [When Busy Work ended] I spent a lot of time after that just producing music, releasing stuff on Dim Mak and other labels. I met up with this guy who does a lot of the booking for Kitsch and Casa and he offered me the night. [Astroteric] and I have been talking about doing something there.
It’s a very different spot than you remember it when it was Avalon Bar.
Yeah, obviously I remember it with Mike Conley as the Avalon. It was a fun bar but wasn’t really geared toward musical enjoyment. It was kind of this dingy punk rock spot and Mike was a punk rock guy so it was rad. And bands sounded good there but for DJing it wasn’t very good. And now Casa has this new sound system and more space so it’s great. And they stopped doing the whole RSVP password thing they were doing before so it’s kinda of like being at Avalon again with the atmosphere of Casa.
Do you keep up with what’s going on in the dance music scene out here since you stopped deejaying at Detroit Bar?
I haven’t really, but I kinda think that’s a good thing because I’m going into it unbiased. And most of all I just want to create a fun night again which I think the scene is missing. I’ve talked to some friends about it and a lot of people don’t really know what’s going on around here anymore. I feel like OC goes through its peaks and troughs. There will be a bunch of great parties for a few years and those parties will burn out and people are waiting for something to fill it. I like that Casa is a small space too because I almost feel like I’m re-branding myself again with this.
Does that re-branding include the types of music you want to play? Do you feel your style as a DJ has changed?
We’ve done a couple of gigs at Casa that weren’t under the Bootleg name and we spun a bunch the old tunes from 2007 and they went over great. We’re all about throwing a fun party. Let’s not worry about pretense or what the cool new tune is. The way I look at it is if you’re gonna risk your weeknight to come out, even if you have work at 8 in the morning, let’s make it a good night for you where you can wake up and say, "Man, I got totally trashed last night, but I had a great time.” It’s about doing something inclusive, not exclusive. I think people really got carried away with the exclusivity of club nights. We’re gonna have our friends come down and play and if one person wants to do a techno set, that’s cool, or deep house, it’s as long as it’s fun and everyone is having a good time. I also feel that doing it bi-monthly gives people something to look forward to.
Astroteric: We’ve got all these great venues in OC now with national headliners coming through but I think we’re still lacking when it comes to nurturing local talent. A place like Casa allows us to bring in people who want to play Sutra or Observatory but aren’t ready yet...We’ll also be sneaking in some big acts we can’t talk about yet.
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It’s also important for young DJs to have a place where they can learn to take risks with what they play.
AT: We’re not afraid to throw on some obscure track just to get people’s attention. You can go to any club and listen to progressive house or deep house, that’s expected. But to have a track that turns your head, that’s what we want. We want people to get involved and come up to the DJ and go man, ‘I love what you played, what’s the name of that track? How can I follow you more?’” The place is gonna be like a petri dish of networking for small artists and people just coming into the scene. This is a local bar and we want to keep it that way. It’s definitely gotten really nice, it’s a little posh. But with that poshness comes a really good sound system.
DS: With locals who aren’t familiar with what Avalon turned into and are still thinking they do a password there, it’s an opportunity to come check it out and see that all those old rules got thrown out and you can enjoy this place again.
BOOTLEG is tonight at Casa and takes place the second and fourth Thursday of the month. First people in the door get free PBR until it runs out. No cover. For full info, click here.