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While many global dance communities were committed to partying at 130 beats per minute—the standard tempo of electronic music like techno, electro, and house—Dave Nada was busy perfecting a brand new genre right here in D.C. One that would shake up the entire scene.
As popular legend would have it, Nada—a former punk rocker turned DJ—was asked to play a “skipping party” for his cousin in November of 2009. But trepidation set in when he realized that a basement full of day-drinking Latin high school kids might snub the house and techno music he was so used to playing at the time. In an effort to create a more appropriate vibe, Nada slowed down Afrojack‘s remix of Silvio Ecomo & Chuckie‘s “Moombah” from 128 to 108 bpm, a tempo that more resembled cumbia instead of the original Dutch house. “Turn up the bass!” echoed from the speakers and the crowd went crazy—a moment of kismet in which Nada realized this new sound was something he could really explore.
He called it “moombahton,” released a five-song introductory EP of the same name via T&A Records in March of 2010, and by October of 2010, showcased this sound at the very first Moombahton Massive party in front of a packed crowd at U Street Music Hall.
Moombahton Massive, U Hall’s only party dedicated to this genre, evolved from Moombahton Mondays, a more intimate, candle-lit gathering held right down the street at a tiny, 150-person capacity bar, Velvet Lounge. Hosted by Nada, Moombahton Mondays began as just another way to make some quick cash. Matt Nordstrom, Nada’s partner in their DJ and production duo, Nadastrom, remembers its cavalier genesis: “One night he was like, ‘Yo, Velvet asked if I would [host] a Monday night and I think I’m gonna do it for grocery money.'”
Six years later, after moombahton has taken Nadastrom around the world and back, they laugh at how casually it all started. “I remember [thinking] this was only gonna be a summer thing because we were already planning on moving out to L.A. that fall,” Nada admits.
Characterized by slowed dembow rhythms, Latin vocals, and heavy bass, moombahton easily creates an intimate vibe by design—an inherently sexy sound. Save for some occasional jumping around and stage diving, moombahton parties mostly saw a lot of ass-shaking and hip-grinding until the humidity in the club rose to jungle levels, the walls dripping with condensation, and barely-dressed partygoers sweating through their clothes.
U Street Music Hall opened in March of 2010 and stood out in a city made up of mostly bottle-service clubs and the occasional punk bar. It became the Mecca of moombahton and was instrumental in shaping the dance culture of D.C. With a 500-person capacity, a state-of-the-art sound system, and a no-frills approach to nightlife, U Hall quickly became the prime destination to hear innovative electronic dance music.
U Hall attracted a forward-thinking crowd and with Moombahton Mondays rapidly outgrowing Velvet Lounge, it made sense to move the party to a bigger audience. Tittsworth, a D.C.-based DJ and a co-owner of U Hall at the time, suggested throwing a moombahton party at his club.
“That was super intimidating because it was such a big club,” explains Nada. “There was definitely a good buzz judging by the turnout for Moombahton Mondays, but I was still nervous [because] it was unpredictable.”
Luckily, Nada took a leap of faith and booked the first Moombahton Massive at U Hall in October of 2010 featuring Munchi, a young producer from Rotterdam who was making moombahton wilder than anyone could imagine, and Sabo, a veteran DJ and the founder of Sol Selectas, a record label showcasing tropical and tribal dance music.
“I wanted to do it with people that get the music,” Nada explains. “I was such a big fan of Sabo and [Munchi] was super excited and hype [to play].”
And then Munchi missed his flight.
“I remember losing my mind because I was moving to L.A. a day or two after the Massive and I basically spent my rent money to fly him out,” Nada laughs.
But the show went on and garnered a better turnout than Nada anticipated. Loyalists from Moombahton Mondays and newcomers to moombahton filled the dance floor of U Hall and it became clear there was a growing desire to hear this kind of music in D.C. So Nada and the owners of U Hall agreed to throw a second Moombahton Massive featuring Munchi and David Heartbreak in January of 2011. Munchi made his flight for that one.
Moombahton Massive at U Hall felt like home and became a family affair for Nadastrom, Sabo, and the rest of the moombahton community. Every month, fans, local DJ mainstays, and close family and friends would pack U Hall wall-to-wall. Nada’s mom even sold her famous homemade empanadas at the party each month.
“We knew everybody there from the managers to the bar staff to the security,” Nordstrom says. “It [had] a Cheers sort of vibe.”
Moombahton Massive had created such a tight-knit community that Nada felt comfortable enough to propose to his wife, Jen Lasher, one night at the party. “It was definitely something I was thinking about for a while and it just kinda hit me to do it [there] because it felt like the most appropriate place to do it,” Nada explains. “Some of her family came out that night and obviously my mom is there and my best friends are there.”
Down on one knee and mic in hand, Nada took another leap of faith that night and proposed to Lasher. “She thought I was I asking her to hold my stuff so I could stage dive,” Nada laughs.
She said yes. And yet again, the crowd went fucking crazy.
Over the span of five years and exactly 42 monthly parties later, Nadastrom and Sabo hosted DJs and producers from D.C. and all over the world, like Toddla T, Uproot Andy, DJ Ayres, Billy the Gent, and Dre Skull.
It’s been a while since the last Moombahton Massive—back in May of 2015—mostly due to Nadastrom producing and promoting its self-titled album, released in February of last year via Friends of Friends. “It’s hard to juggle different projects while we’re out [in L.A.] and it was time for us to take a break from it,” Nada admits.
But it wasn’t long until the employees of U Hall started fielding questions about when the next party was happening. “U Hall hit us up [and said], ‘Uh, we’re getting some calls. People are asking if there’s gonna be another Massive,” Nada laughs. “We said, ‘Let’s do it.’”
The story of moombahton proves that there really is no place like home and D.C. was absolutely essential in nurturing the sound. “Moombahton hadn’t gotten out to a lot of places yet [in the beginning], and in D.C. it was really received with wide open arms,” Nordstrom says. “So experiencing it in D.C. and at U Street Music Hall was a special thing for us.”
The Moombahton Massive Reunion party takes place on Saturday, August 13 at U Street Music Hall at 10 p.m. 1115 U St. NW. $12-$15.