The split stairwell at the Roseland divides the drinkers from the all-ages crowd, which works better than you'd think—and looks a damn sight better than the Crystal Ballroom's plan. Nag Champa burns up at the top of the stairs, and we're hit by a flash of light. Two massive floodlights pulse, blinding the full—if not quite crammed—dancefloor.
DJ Suketu is on. Clean-cut with cool glasses, he looks like a Pearl District professional. "Where are the married men tonight?" he hollers in his subcontinental accent. Hands and voices respond. "You should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Throughout the night Suketu—billed as the world's number one Bollywood DJ, an accurate description judging by the fan reaction—drops the volume of the music and hollers to get the crowd excited, giving shout-outs to famous singers or remixes; to recognize the Punjabi region of India; and (most often) to inquire where the single ladies in the audience are. His enthusiasm is electric, if not a bit superfluous.
Most everybody in the place looks to be of Indian descent, and there are lots of first-generation parties of guys in their 20s or 30s—but there's a good contingent of middle-aged folks as well. Not to mention every yoga instructor in town. The music pounds throughout the night—mostly house-y versions of popular Bollywood songs, as well as some generic club hits from the past couple of years. It's the Bollywood numbers that the crowd loves, though - many singing along as the big choruses repeat. Suketu lip-syncs and dances along to quite a few numbers, clearly having a great time himself. "Portland, you rock!" he yells.
A tall fellow with a sweater under a suit jacket is dancing up the front with money fanned out in his hand, which he's waving above his head. He climbs onstage and plays as if he's going to throw the money. He puts a blue note in his mouth, and my friend (who spent some time in India last year) turns to me and jokes that putting a Rupee in one's mouth is a terrible idea—but then again, so is dancing and drinking all night, right?
Sweating, we head outside for a smoke. A Sufi on his way in is asking the security guard, "What about my knife?" as we pass, and a group of drunk guys exit behind us. One didn't like the set: "He doesn't know to play the public music!" he says in a strong accent. "For twenty-five dollars..." he sort of stumbles into his friend before shouting "Let's go to Kells! They have green beer!"
Inside, Suketu is wrapping up his set. He brings out the local folks who put the show on, and they're all having a blast. Hell, everyone's having a blast. Even the stoic guy in the glasses and golf sweater gets down when his song comes on. Circles of women in their late 20s, draped in traditional dress, are getting down. Old guys are getting down in the back. The white Indophiles hiding in the wings are getting down with jewels between their eyebrows.