It's 10 p.m. on the last Sunday in February and inside Neurolux the pock, pock, pock of a ping pong game echoes from up near the stage, the clack of pool cues bounces from the back room and both join the blare of the jukebox in typical bar babble. Fewer than two dozen people are propped on stools or slouched in booths.
Some look like they've been there awhile, others seem to be enjoying themselves on what could be their work schedule equivalent to Friday or Saturday night. A quartet of friends regale each other with stories of their favorite Family Guy episodes, an older couple sits perched, posture perfect at a table, and a youngish man writes longhand in what, through the dark and haze of smoke, looks like a leather-bound journal.
One guy, though, stands out, and not just for his full mountain-man beard or his friendly smile. Doug Martsch is arguably the most famous person in the bar, in the city and maybe even in the state. It's not out of the ordinary to spot Martsch at a live music venue. It might not even be out of the ordinary to see him out late on a Sunday night. What's unusual about seeing him tonight is the music he's there to listen to is of his choosing. Tonight, he's the DJ.
Listed as Doug Martsch's Sunday Night Dance Party, every Sunday night during the month of February, Martsch took over the dark little raised space near the bar's back door and sent a variety of music pulsing through the PA. On this final Sunday, he sends the spare crowd back in time. Without seeing his setlist, the crowd sways in their seats to Lynda Lyndell's original 1968 funky version of "What A Man" and Barbara Mason's sweet strain in "Yes, I'm Ready." Then a mix of something bass-heavy and vaguely vaudevillian thumps out between some indie rock and straight rock rock.
Martsch greets the handful of people willing to venture up the high step to the door of the DJ booth, as the music weaves in and out of genres. By 11 p.m., the crowd has grown, and a half-dozen denizens have taken up energetic residence on the dance floor. Maybe it's booze-fueled, maybe it's the indulgence of being out late on a school night, but whatever the reason, they dance freely. During a reggae tune, they clap their hands above their heads, and Martsch himself dances to the beat from on high. People continue to pour through the door in pairs, trios and groups.
Bars and nightclubs in bigger cities often play host to well-known, hometown musicians who want to put down their guitars or drumsticks, don a pair of huge JVC headphones and fill a room with music they themselves love. Boise's list of internationally known musicians is a small one, and having someone like Martsch at the turntable—or CD changer—is like a kid putting on a pretend crown. Our small town gets to play make-believe for a few nights.
When asked if he has received any feedback on DJ Doug, Neurolux owner Allen Ireland writes in an e-mail, "Of course. Doug garners the respect and admiration of the music community. When you attach his name to something, people are interested."
Neurolux didn't charge a cover for the Sunday Night Dance Party simply because Martsch played for free. Ireland thinks that Martsch may have decided to do the DJ thing to fill some time while his wife was out of town, but also because Neurolux is a perfect venue in which to try something new.
"Neurolux has always been a place for those who are interested in testing out their creative ideas without limitations. I think that is why Doug chose to DJ there," Ireland writes.
Against The Smiths' "Shoplifters of the World Unite" and the Steve Miller Band's "Jungle Love," the doorman says this final Sunday is the busiest one yet. Sunday may not be the biggest party night of the week, but it's good on this Sunday night that, whether by accident or by design, more people are witness to and part of a unique happening in Boise. So unique it may not happen again. Does Martsch plan on DJing any more Sunday Night Dance Parties?
"I dunno. Maybe once a month," he says. "Maybe."