"BOOOOOO-TY FADE! BOOOOOO-TY FADE!" chants a mob of people in snapback caps, cardigans and cowboy boots. The Dallas-based DJ duo of Sober and PicnicTyme are just getting started under the tent at Thin Line Film and Music Festival's main stage. And then a speaker blows out.
"Sorry for those technical difficulties, but y'all need to know I'm not playin' no mo'," Picnic yells. He runs to center stage from behind his MacBook. "Like I said before, this is my dude Sober, I'm PicnicTyme, this is Booty Fade, and you're about to put your damn hands up ... NOW!" It's enough time for the sound man to recover, and within milliseconds the crowd erupts, showered by a synchronized rainbow of pulsating lights, triple-time hi-hats and bass-heavy mixes of everything from trap music to EDM to mariachi.
Booty Fade is more than a DJ and production duo. Since debuting a year ago, the pair has played SXSW and nabbed a Dallas Observer music award for best song. Now they're preparing for the March 4 release of their self-titled EP. But it's more than shows and songs. Picnic and Sober are trying to create something bigger than that, something they describe in summary as "The Booty Fade Situation."
A woman in a leather jumpsuit runs toward the stage, dripping puddles of beer from a back corner bar. "Are they fucking fading salsa straight into Trinidad James?!?!" she screams. "Popped a molly, I'm sweating, WHOOOO!"
That particular transition isn't even a stretch for Booty Fade. Before they were making their own music, the two artists were musical sponges, absorbing everything from punk to Tejano. Picnic's been listening to Tejano for as far back as his memory will allow. He remembers riding shotgun in a 1990 Toyota Corolla, announcing in unison with a radio announcer, "99.1 Kick FM, Puro Tejano" as his mother cranked the volume up. "I was that weird black kid in band that loved rock, Tejano and Stevie Wonder," Picnic says. "Not all soul, just Stevie Wonder, and no rap."
Not wanting to be like everyone else, he was anti-rap to the core until a high school classmate formally introduced him to hip-hop by way of Q-Tip's debut effort, Amplified. He shared his new passion with a blind cousin. "Listening to Dr. Dre and Outkast with my cousin pushed me to appreciate music from a blind man's perspective, down to the smallest synth."
Around that time, 100 miles southeast in Fort Worth, 12-year-old Sober was starting to step outside of the country-Western classics that were the soundtrack of his childhood. Upstairs his dad would be tapping his boots to Merle Haggard while Sober was downstairs experimenting with a new wave of all-American storytellers. "Once I was old enough to start consuming music for myself, I got as far away from country as I could," Sober says. Early on he was introduced to the Beastie Boys, N.W.A and his favorite hip-hop album of all-time, Low End Theory by A Tribe Called Quest. As a teenage skater, punk rock and alternative acts like the Sex Pistols and Depeche Mode added a heavy electro dose to his headphones. "All of the genres I experimented with from my middle school days are the reason behind how I DJ now."
Hyper-speed samples of Dallas rappers fuse as rattling bass lines damn near blow the blond hair off a couple standing near a speaker. "Texas, home of the best. T-T-T-T-Texas, home of the b-b-b-b-b-buh. Texas, home of the best syrup." The high-pitched Dorrough sample echoes as The Thin Line crowd chants with Booty Fade's hypnotic mix. These references to Dallas' legendary hip-hop scene show Picnic and Sober's deep connection to where they both found their creative voices.
Picnic left Wichita Falls in 2001 for school. "I got a video film production scholarship to the Art Institute of Dallas," he says. "Ever since that day 13 years ago, I automatically connected to what Dallas offered me." He formed Dallas-based rap group PPT, which added a taste of eclectic soul to area's hip-hop scene in the early-to-mid 2000s. Sober, meanwhile, had been heading for Dallas since he was a kid. "When I first started DJing in high school, all the DJs I looked up to were making a name for themselves in Dallas," he says. "I would tell my parents I was going to stay at a friend's house and every weekend I would sneak off to Dallas trying to get into functions." After graduating and getting a corporate job in brand marketing (which he quit), Sober formed The Party, a multi-genre DJ collection with Dallas DJs Nature and Select. They built a steady following among the city's hungry and creative, including a young art-school graduate with a taste for the eclectic.
The crowd of Thin Line attendees reaches that happy place, dancing like they're home in front of the mirror. On one end of the tent, there's a foursome stumbling their way through do-si-do country line dances. On the other end, there are several couples leaning on the wall for support as their bodies sync up with the fast-tempo bounce. The scene of spellbound partiers really isn't too different from where Sober and Picnic first met years ago in a Dallas basement.
"When we first met, it had to be one of The Party events a mutual friend kept inviting me to," Picnic says.
"I actually remember the exact moment I first saw Picnic," Sober says, smiling. "I was doing my set and looked out to see some guy and his girl decked out in their finest gear, just wildin' out, jumping on top of some wobbly chairs."
They were running in similar circles; it was really just a matter of time before the two would meet. "At the time we were both a part of big things coming out of Dallas' music scene. The Party was taking off on the party scene and I had just seen Picnic on the cover of the Quick with PPT," Sober recalls. "Picnic brought a freshness to PPT that made him stand out musically and stylistically, so I figured sooner or later we'd end up in the mix."
A few backpacked stragglers rap along with Booty Fade's mix after the drums drop: "'Bout to hit the club and dance like a stripper." Sober snatches his headphones off as flashing lights sync up with trap music. "I still see a few of y'all out there, trying your hardest not to move," Picnic says on stage behind his MacBook of mixes. "Everything we mix is for you to bug out to ... so before we wrap up I need to see everybody in here dancing, dammit!"
Mixing electric club-ready music and syncing it with the dance-centric samples of well-known Dallas-based MCs and heavy beat drops, Sober and Picnic initially set out to just have fun. "I was at Sober's crib, helping him with a mix and just stopped everything," Picnic says, preparing an impression of his collaborator. "Sober took off his headphones and was like, 'Yo, it would be dope if we did a whole EP of mixes like this, and it would be doper if we went by Booty Fade.'" And, simple as that, Booty Fade was born, surrounded by thousands of vinyl records in an Oak Cliff basement . The duo dropped their first track, "F#$K Like A Stripper," one month later, and the Booty Fade Situation began to take form in basements and at clubs, coming through speakers and even stuck to bathroom stalls.
Picnic takes a swig of Bud Light, and his voice cuts through an onslaught of echoing trap claps to launch his final announcement. "We want everybody to do two things: Check out our new EP dropping March fourth, and take a li'l bit of us with you before we take off." While Picnic continues to describe album release party plans, Sober disconnects from the turntable to make real-time crowd connections. Running to the edge of the stage, he hands out a fat stack of the Booty Fade stickers that have helped quickly cement the pair of visual artists in the North Texas music community consciousness. Once the music stops, the Booty Fade Situation is only half done.
Picnic and Sober are well aware of the Internet's power, but they also realize that building a brand entails more than living in a digital world. The DJ Sober-designed sticker is one of many elements that makes up Booty Fade's hybrid experience.
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"You can't think of yourself as becoming a Dallas legend without a brand the people can feel musically and touch with their hands," says Booty Fade's manager, Rosalinda Ruiz, pointing to a photo-and-sticker-decorated wall of past Dallas musicians. "When these guys give those stickers out, not only are they taking the brand all over the place, they're connecting Booty Fade to a real place in time that landmarks their presence on Dallas' music scene."
As the last bit of conga drums stop and the synchronized light show settles into a uniform white light, Sober and Picnic unplug the MacBooks and digital mixing equipment. As a premade mix of UGK plays, Sober and Picnic make a quick round of hugs and handshakes through the crowd.
"I would say the Booty Fade Situation is something you've never experienced before," Picnic says, looking across the table at Sober. "Musically, we mix so much, you never know what to expect. Visually, with the dope concepts we're working through, everything we've done up to now is just the foundation. And as a brand, we're all about ... leaving you with a li'l something that reminds you we were here."