Certain scenes have a beloved matriarch at their center. She's the queen bee booking the fun shows, throwing the selfless benefits, or just spinning the records you most want to hear. In the case of Michelle Smith (AKA DJ Mamma Casserole), all of the above apply. A staunch garage-rock, soul, pop, and punk aficionado (as well as a politically minded activist), Miss Casserole spins everywhere from after-hours parties to a Reykjavik record shop called Bad Taste (where she just recently visited) to various clubs around town. She co-promotes W.I.R.E.—a Baltic Room staple on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month—with Chris Olson and Phil Pickens. And she's taken over booking live music at the Comet. Most recently, she's teamed with Razrez frontman Aykut Özen for a new War Room night called Chinese Rocks. Named after the infamous punk song by the Heart-breakers, the third Thursday of the month will belong to this duo (starting November 17, with special guest DJ Albert from the Chocolate Watchband). "The theme of [Chinese Rocks] will be sort of like the glamorous English Disco night that Rodney Bingenheimer threw in L.A. in the '70s," Smith explains. "That showcased a lot of cool underground talent like Sparks, T. Rex, New York Dolls, the Stooges, and early punk." In between her jet-setting and record collecting, I checked in with the always-bubbly Mamma about her myriad musical passions.

How do you guys brand W.I.R.E. to stand out from other club nights?

We don't just play typical dance music that revolves around hipster irony (cheese), hiphop, or house. We play harder-edged dance music that's pretty eclectic and more rock-based. We run the gamut from brand-new indie underground dance... e.g., a band like Duchess Says—this amazingly discordant electronic band from Montreal that no one has heard of—to power pop, straight-ahead '70s punk, '60s garage, Back from the Grave comps, northern soul, '80s new wave/post punk, and glam. Our songs segue based more on feeling than style of music.

How did you get into event promotion?

Back in the '80s in Boston, I would book/promote punk shows at local clubs. I worked at a record shop so I had a lot of contact with bands and music-industry people. In Seattle, I started throwing theme-based dance parties at the Comet, then I booked a Howard Dean benefit at the Comet, which raised a good amount of money. I assisted with booking some local events for No Vote Left Behind—Chris Olson's anti-Bush organization—and started getting more contacts. Then I did random one-off events at the Comet, which evolved into becoming their booking person. [At the Comet] I'm trying to showcase some local bands that otherwise wouldn't be able to get a weekend gig. I also like theme-based nights... for instance, we had a pajama party [in September]. My other private aim is to book the bands I absolutely adore—and promote the hell out of it so people come to see them. A band like the High Dials are utterly incredible, but for some reason have not gotten the credit they deserve in the States.

What interests you about this kind of work?

My number one passion is music. I think that it's so important for community building... most of my friends are involved in music in some fashion, so I see my events more as parties I throw so I can see all my friends and get some love.

What are the ingredients for a successful club night?

Well, it's always nice when we have a lot of people show up... but often the smaller events, when they are really intimate, can be the most fun. [Like] when you have a crowd gathering around the DJ booth, dancing their butts off, without any attitude and with just a load of happiness. It's the best feeling ever to have that ability to bring joy to people.

What other jobs do you currently hold?

I run a program for homeless veterans in the ID. I have done case management/social work there for eight years and I do promotion work for Filter magazine. I also do booking/consulting for Razrez, Romance, and Infomatik.

What are some frustrations you have with working in the music business?

It's hard enough doing this work, and when there is either inconsistent or no communication, it's so frustrating. But I have been lucky; I have a great relationship with most of the bands and clubs I work with. One other part is the sadness I have for people that are not taking care of themselves as they should. We all know drugs and booze are part of the scene, but if you are talking to me nonstop while I have my headphones on while DJing, maybe you have a slight problem?recommended