While shooting the cover story for the latest installment of Vox magazine, I found myself immersed in four local scenes that contrasted yet complemented each other so well.
I was a stranger to each venue, yet, invariably, some patron who had engaged in the bar’s offerings a little too heavily would wander up to me and initiate conversation.
“My friend wants to meet you,” one curly-haired blond informed me. “Hide me! This guy won’t stop bothering me,” a mousy woman exclaimed. “Do you dance?” a tall brunette shyly asked.
Never mind that I juggled a carbon steel tripod, multiple camera bodies, some wireless strobes, and a gear-filled backpack. Photographers are used to multitasking, right?
With a line that stretched more than a block from East Broadway around the corner of North 10th Street, Roxy’s boasted the longest wait for the huddled masses that crowded impatiently along the sidewalk on the eve of America’s Independence Day.
I had to open the door to three of the four CoMo hangouts my editors had picked. Roxy’s simplified the process and left its door open but guarded with a cadre of muscled bouncers that sometimes brusquely, but efficiently, managed the club’s traffic flow.
“Careful with your sh*t, bro; there’s a lot of crazy people up there,” the bouncer thoughtfully remarked as I made my way up the poster-lined stairs to the second-floor party scene.
The scene that greeted me at the top of the stairs affected almost all my senses immediately. Plastic cups were everywhere, in hands, on tables, and on the floor. The cups’ contents filled stomachs, ignited dance floor bravery, and goaded a half-dozen females to rise above their friends — literally — by dancing on a raised stage at the far end of the club.
The soft and steady glow of the disc jockey’s twin laptops contrasted fiercely with the ever-changing rainbow-colored lightning storm that raged above the patrons’ heads. The music, though deafening, was well executed and left me tempted to snap my camera’s shutter to the beat of the latest Tiësto single.
I had wandered into the club three days before, for its “Geeks Who Drink” trivia night and was shocked at the difference. Frontman Chris Bruno’s band, “Buried,” a heavy-rock trio, played that night for a crowd as big as the band.
The lighter attendance allowed me to appreciate the little details of the club’s atmosphere, like its dark hardwood floors that were gorgeous, but invisible a few nights later when covered by a throng of sweaty partygoers.
The club’s owner, Jesse Garcia, recently outfitted the space with an upgraded fog machine, nicknamed “Smaug” as a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed fire-breathing dragon. As a cloud of smoke descended on the club and the laser lights reached the zenith of their frenzy, the club’s partygoers roared above the music and counted down the final few seconds before midnight.
Happy birthday, America.