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NEW YORK -- Yesterday it was jukeboxes. Today, it's the ipod. An upscale New York nightclub has set up a unique DJ booth complete with a pair of iPods. The catch -- Patrons are invited to be the DJs. The club is called Apt. (pronounced A-P-T), a trendy lounge in Manhattan's meat packing district decorated to resemble a tony New York apartment. Housed in an anonymous warehouse at 419 West 13th St., the bar thrives on obscurity. There is no sign outside and no website.

Next to the dark wood bar is the DJ table. The set-up revolves around a standard mixer, which allows the DJ to fade between two music sources. But instead of the two standard turntables, a pair of iPods have been substituted.

One is a 5-GB model containing about 1,000 songs, the other a 10-GB model with 2,000 songs. Connected by headphone jacks, the iPods sit on Plexiglass blocks, one on each side of the mixer.

Would-be DJs take a numbered ticket from a deli-style dispenser next to the DJ desk. A stack of print-outs of all 3,000 songs are available to help DJs prepare their set list. The print-out also provides a quick guide to DJ etiquette, including the rule, "Playing of any heavy metal ballads will result in immediate expulsion from the premises."

With 3,000 songs to choose from, patrons play everything from Black Sabbath to Basement Jaxx.

Everyone gets seven minutes to play a set; the time is counted down on a giant digital clock placed in front of the mixer.

Matt Maland, 27, a part-time DJ, has even figured out how to make the iPods scratch. By hitting the center button twice in quick succession, the music backs up a fraction.

"It's not really scratching," he said. "It's a phony effect. People don't throw their hands in the air, but it's amusing I guess."

Maland has played at Apt. three or four times recently. "It's fun," he said. "It's different. It's a challenge. You have to think what songs go together more than vinyl because you can't beat-match."

Maland said he hadn't come across a similar set-up anywhere else in New York. "It's funny because it's kind of an obvious idea," he said.

The iPod DJ set-up has been operating for just over one month, and provides hours of boozy, gregarious fun. Half the bar crowds around the mixing desk, offering advice or criticism or just dancing away.

"It's pretty easy," said Sai Blount, the lounge's music promoter, who spends most evenings manning the set-up, patiently helping people. "We made the whole mixing thing pretty simple for them."

Blount said iPod DJ-ing has become a major attraction. The fun starts at 9:30 and runs until 3 or 4 a.m., every night of the week.

"It gets pretty crazy," she said. "We have people yelling. Some people boo. A couple of girls came in here three or four weeks in a row. They got really good. They were like professional."

A lot of the customers had iPods or expensive cell phones sitting on their tables. One woman proudly showed off her $13,000 (she claimed) white gold cell phone she'd just dropped out of a second-story window (it survived). Blount said patrons often bring their own iPods to spin their set.

The staff initially uploaded about 900 songs on the iPods, drawing heavily on a list of Beck's iPod collection recently published in The New York Times Magazine.

The bar has started a request list for customers to add their favorites. "We get a lot so the manager or the staff are always taking the iPods home with them to load them up," Blount said.

Downstairs the bar has a large basement dance floor where professional DJs from New York and Europe play.


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