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After seven years at the Black Cat, the quarterly Britpop dance party known as Razzmatazz—-which packs the Black Cat’s Backstage with velvet-clad moppets bopping joyously to Pulp and Elastica—-is moving to the Rock & Roll Hotel. It debuts at the H Street NE club Saturday night.
But what brought an end to the party’s tenure on 14th Street NW? Amanda “ReddAJ” Carroll, who has been hosting Razzmatazz’s Britpop night quarterly with DJ William Alberque since 2004, says regulars had gotten so comfy that they were going to the bathroom in the restricted backstage area. Black Cat staff kicked fans out of the club two months in a row, telling Razzmatazz that drunk patrons were “causing trouble,” according to Carroll.
“Then, when I went to go backstage without a band hand stamp after closing [at Razzmatazz’s last show in March], the security guy thought I was a security breach and got upset at me,” Carroll says. “He just wigged out on me. I don’t want to be yelled at, so I was like, ‘I’m kinda done.’”
But Black Cat booker Vicki Savoula said that’s not the whole story.
“What Amanda’s saying is not exactly accurate. We had a number of problems that night. But I don’t feel that it’s appropriate to shit-talk anybody in a public forum,” Savoula says. She adds, “It’s my job to make sure that my club runs smoothly, particularly on weekends and especially with DJ nights.”
So Savoula told Razzmatazz to take a break from Black Cat for at least six months.
Both sides insist there is no beef. Alberque and Carroll say the Black Cat is like family, and Savoula says that Razzmatazz’s niche music brought in solid numbers—-usually 150 to 200 per night. In fact, Alberque is retaining his regular Confusion DJ night at the Black Cat, and there’s always a chance Razzmatazz will return at some point, he says.
Carroll and Alberque figured it was a good time to try out the Rock & Roll Hotel upstairs, which has the same 200-person capacity as Black Cat Backstage, but without the Black Cat’s $5 cover charge. Show-goers in the club’s 400-capacity main stage can freely bounce from concert to DJ night without having to open their wallets, meaning a potentially bigger audience for Razzmatazz.
The type of audience, however, is rarely guaranteed. Carroll and Alberque are crossing their fingers for a positive reaction from the club’s house- and hip-hop-loving walk-in crowd. They also hope their longtime fans will make the leap to the new venue.
Booker Steve Lambert isn’t worried. “A Razzmatazz following will come, but there’s really no need. The crowd is already built in. People know there’s a DJ spinning some kind of dance music upstairs, so there’s always a line to get upstairs on Saturday nights,” he says. “If we had any more people, we couldn’t fit them in.”
But to be safe, he told Razzmatazz to play crowd-pleasers on their first night. “I told Amanda that Rock & Roll is a bit different from Black Cat. Like all the other DJs that play here, you’re gonna have to play to the crowd,” Lambert said, noting that the upstairs crowd is largely dependent on the type of band playing downstairs. Lambert describes that crowd as “all across the board,” from professional Capitol Hillers to indie rockers.
Lambert expects Razzmatazz to get enough people to jump around that he’s already booking them for the summer, and is considering them for sister venue DC9.
As for this Saturday, the Razzmatazz DJs will stick to the “Britpop 101” set with songs like James‘”Laid,” Blur‘s “Boys and Girls,” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.” At the same time, they will stay true to their love of guitar songs from the mid-’90s Britpop era, as opposed to the “insanely dancey electropop, beat-matching route,” Alberque says. “We’re not going to be playing experimental indie Britpop on our first night—-just incredibly happy songs that make people jump around.”