THE BOWELS OF BELLTOWN

Last week, when my plans to visit some hot new club vanished quicker than free pills at a party, my plan B quickly became venturing into the depths of Belltown's bowels and beyond. The first stop was Soulsonic at the EMP Liquid Lounge. The vibe there has a "museum bookstore meets the Red Robin bar" feel, which just inspires me to gulp down as many weird colored tropical drinks as possible. DJ Vitamin D was playing hiphop, soul, and dancehall, and the dance floor was spare, inhabited by a few groups of single women and a couple or two. The old "when in doubt, play Tribe Called Quest" trick seemed to work pretty well to get people out of their seats.

Polly Esther's was right across the street--and the instant I suggested the place, our photographer gave me the "hell fuckin' no!" look, but a little bribery can get you everywhere. Once inside, the club was everything I'd imagined: There were two women dancing together on top of the bar, the DJ was playing random Top 40 dance songs, and the "dudes standing on the dance floor but not dancing" factor was high. Since I'm originally from San Diego, as a teen I spent my fair share of time in cheesy Tijuana clubs, and while I'm pretty tolerant of ridiculous behavior in night clubs, I wish I could say the same for my photographer. He grabbed me and dragged me out of the club like Ulysses hightailin' it off of the Island of the Lotus-eaters.

The next stop was Belltown Billiards, to see their hottest DJ, Ben "Jammin" Blackburn, do his thing. Inside, the air was moist and heavy with Drakkar, hair gel, tanning cream, and cigarette smoke. I started feeling claustrophobic as I slowly negotiated my way to the dance floor, overwhelmed by a sea of halter-tops and tucked-in polo shirts. There wasn't much room to dance, but I felt a little more at ease with Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk pumping, though the lights on the floor would shut off from time to time for some strange reason--I think to encourage you to make out with the person to your right.

After all of this fancy excitement I needed a place to chill out and reflect on all of the evening's profound experiences. I stopped into Bada Lounge, where Peter Madril was spinning world-beat-inspired grooves. The place was laid back and quite spacious with hyper-minimal futuristic decor, like a giant Manray for straight people. Some couples stretched out on couches and chatted, a few wound down at the bar, and I had my last dance of the evening.

Soulsonic, every Wed at 9 pm, EMP Liquid Lounge, 325 Fifth Ave N, 770-2700.

Polly Esther's, 332 Fifth Ave N, 441-1970.

Belltown Billiards, 90 Blanchard St, 448-6779.

Bada Lounge, 2230 First Ave, 374-8717.

nicolae@thestranger.com

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