In Concert: Metro Area
By Chris Richards
How do you make patrons feel at home in a nightclub so new, it still stinks of new leather, fresh paint and hardwood varnish? Book Metro Area -- a Brooklyn twosome specializing in post-disco anthems that feel both fresh and familiar.
Performing into the wee hours of Sunday morning, DJs Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani graced the opening night of Bar 7 on Seventh Street NW, with a set that ping-ponged between elegance and jubilance. With bubbling synths and paddle-ball bass lines, each song that was pumped through the subwoofers felt like an old favorite even if you'd never heard it before. (And considering the duo's lust for arcane dance records, you probably hadn't.)
As a duo, Metro Area has been relatively quiet of late, but the group is responsible for some of the most handsome and durable dance music of the last 10 years. Metro Area's 2002 self-titled debut album was an impossibly cool, deceptively complex blend of electro, house, disco and new wave.
(Clean beats on a messy dancefloor, after the jump.)
But while they stand as esteemed producers, Geist and Jesrani were strictly DJs on Sunday morning, spinning tracks old, new and unfamiliar -- but never their own.
Geist took the turntables first, offering warm, pulsating house tracks decorated with whispering flute lines and chiming pianos. He focused on cool timbres as if trying to relieve the sweat that was beginning to trickle in the crowd. Jesrani followed suit, with airy cuts that made the crowded dance floor feel expansive.
It may have sounded effortless, but it wasn't. At one point, Geist was cramming paper napkins under the legs of his turntable, trying to stabilize a DJ booth that was suffering some opening-night wobbles.
But closing in on 1 a.m., the duo found its sweet spot, reading the crowd -- and maybe even predicting its movements. As one couple broke into a seemingly inebriated game of patty-cake, Jesrani delivered up an electro song with crisp, resonant handclaps. Later, when a different couple connected in a lip-lock near the DJ booth, Geist had just cued up a disco cut urging the crowd to "take a love break."
The crowd was a strange and wonderful mix: investor types in boxy suits; women in skintight leggings and flowing tops; some dude who looked like he stepped out of a Snoop Dogg video, circa 1993. At one point, a shouted discussion about emerging California DJ Dam-Funk could be heard clashing with chatter about registration deadlines for a local kickball league.
Through it all, the music stayed wildly upbeat and willfully obscure -- until Geist unleashed an extended mix of Yaz's popular new-wave hit, "Situation." But this version was peculiar, with shrill bursts of treble stabbing the beat at strange intervals.
Turns out, it was a malfunctioning fire alarm.
It took the entire song, but the folks at Bar 7 finally got the alarm turned off. Geist threw up his hands in relief. The dance floor was slippery with bobbled drinks. The windows were fogged up with steam. A new nightclub was enjoying a messy and fantastic birth.
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