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Downloaded and Ready to Rock

iPod Nights Turn Amateurs Into Digital DJs at D.C. Club

By Jose Antonio Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2005; Page A01

The DJ who calls himself P.Vo is very pleased with himself. Two dozen or so clubgoers at Gate 54, the basement lounge at Cafe Saint-Ex in Northwest Washington, are stumped. They're wondering what P.Vo is playing.

Is that Nine Inch Nails and the Bee Gees? "Closer" on top of "Staying Alive"?

Evan Zimmerman, left, and Anna Koeckeritz at Cafe Saint-Ex iPod night. (Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

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P.Vo, taking a sip of rum and Coke, asks: "Where else can you hear this?"

It's 9:20 p.m. on a recent Wednesday. P.Vo, known by day as Paul Vodra, is the first of 21 DJs -- ahead of Seeking Irony and Weird Curves -- who will play at this city's version of an iPod DJ party. On this night, the most popular MP3 player, the iPod, serves as the lounge's source of music, roughly three songs at a time. No turntables. No vinyl. Bring an iPod. Be the DJ. Please sign your DJ name on the white board in the front.

P.Vo downloaded the Nine Inch Nails and Bee Gees song -- a mashup, two songs mixed into one -- from a peer-to-peer software program called SoulSeek. He's blasting it from his iPod, which is hooked up to six speakers: two in the front, near the bar; two in the middle, where clubgoers are dancing; the remaining two in the back, in front of a poster for the film "La Dolce Vita." Here, amid the industrial look of the lounge -- with Christmas lights for an added touch -- Vodra, a 29-year-old software programmer from Arlington, transforms into P.Vo, an iPod impresario who mixes Missy Elliott with George Michael to come up with a song he calls "Get Your Faith On."

The iPod Jukebox night, held at Cafe Saint-Ex every second Wednesday of the month, attracts mostly white-collar types in their twenties and thirties who heard about it from a friend of a friend, or read about it in a link to a blog. It's perhaps the most public manifestation of how the iPod -- with 8.2 million units sold in 2004, more than 5 million during the holiday season alone -- has gone mainstream, spawning an entire iPod culture that goes far beyond wearing those distinctive white earphones.

There are professional "iPod loaders" who will fill your iPod with music; "iPod jacking" sessions where owners swap iPods to check out one another's playlists; "podcasts" where you, as a wine connoisseur, for example, can upload a 17-minute rumination on the glories of a 1953 Chateau Petrus so other wine connoisseurs can download it to their iPods; and sites such as iPodlounge.com, not at all affiliated with Apple Computer, to keep you updated on what's new in the iPod universe.

If your iPod allows you to keep your whole CD collection in your jacket pocket, then the iPod DJ night allows you to show off your music, karaoke-style.

"In the next year, more and more clubs are going to have a night like this," says Kathryn Wildt, 28, taking a breather from her evening's responsibilities. The Bollywood version of "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" -- titled "Don't Stop 'Til You Get to Bollywood" -- plays in the background.

Wildt, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, co-founded iPod Jukebox in April 2004 and keeps it moving along, one DJ at a time. (Fritz Hahn, who covers nightlife for washingtonpost.com, is the other founder.) Wildt bought her iPod "a year and five months ago," she says, and calls it "Gayle." ("I just thought it looked like a Gayle. My computer doesn't have a name, but for some reason this one has a name." She's not the only one in the lounge to give her iPod a name. Holly Tegeler, 24, calls her iPod Karl, with a K. "I knew he was a boy," says Tegeler, a Web developer. "I don't know why, I just know he is.")

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