WHAT FRANKIE KNUCKLES DID FOR ME (1955-2014)

April 8th, 2014

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Frankie Knuckles

I dreaded the day when I would lose the Godfather of House Music. My heart suggests I am selfish to hold on to a life as if that life belonged solely to me especially when that life was not mine to begin with. Although I can’t possess another’s life, I can cherish their treasure left behind. So I’m told.

I wish this could be another blog entry of epic proportions. Perhaps this could be a review of Frankie’s 59 years young birthday bash. A spectacular where David Morales and Louie Vega provided the fireworks at a club on Chicago’s Northside on a blistery January, Sunday night during MLK weekend. I wish this was a moving review of Frankie’s long overdue return to Atlanta. Sadly this is not. So I try to type in mere words what made Frankie my Superman of house music, a sort of sentiment to comfort my dancing feet that mourn.  

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Frankie Knuckles commanded a thirty year old dancer to drive ten hours north to the birthplace of house music to attend a two day music festival titled MOVE. The first ever Chicago International House Music Festival featured a list of up and coming DJs along with the who’s who of Chicago and NYC house music markets, all friends of Mr. Knuckles. Everyone gathered at the Charter One Pavilion on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan to experience a relatively unknown DJ from Africa, DJ Glenn Lewis open the event, to see Barbara Tucker parade around with her entourage, to hear Dajae wail, “Brighter Days,” to dance in the rain to Maurice Joshua playing Mary Mary’s “Shackles,” to witness Frankie’s longtime manager, Frederick Dunson play the role of P.R. to finesse, to gawk at Jamie Principle sing and play his piano, to be blindsided by Lady D flashing her thousand watt smile as she crafted her funky house imprint, to experience Danny Teanglia close the first night and watch David Morales wolf potato chips while DJing the second night. The dancer stared at the stage awestruck. His two eyes sparkled underneath the starry night. He had arrived. His house music hero would soon take the main stage.

Fourteen years earlier, my young and impressionable ears discovered a new house sound played on commercial radio. I was a fan of house music and commercial house music remixes. Madonna, Michael Jackson and Mariah Carey belted over manufactured four-on-the-floors, courtesy of recording labels. However, this new house sound arrived on radio playlists dressed in a tux rather than Karl Kani. The sound had class. Piano riffs, warm chords, orchestrated strings and a Hammond B-3 all sounded like Holy Ghost music made for Saturday nights. And I was thirsty for more. I soon discovered the sound’s architect while reading the linear notes on back of a CD maxi-single sleeve.  His moniker, Frankie Knuckles, his crew, Def Mix.  I became obsessed; a Frankie feign. I was Frankie this and Frankie that. I even dreamed of working with the guy in a recording studio remixing this song and that song.  At the age of sixteen, this Midwestern boy had not-a-clue of club land-to me The Sound Factory was just a remix title-as the skeletal structures of the Warehouse and Power Plant stood only four hours away by automobile.

You see, I sneaked into Frankie’s threshold through transmitted airwaves. Smooth Jazz stations played “The Whistle Song.” BET played the video. “Tears” played on late night weekend radio mix shows.

Thankfully, Frankie’s remixes were released at speeds faster than compact discs were pressed. Who can forget the first time hearing the Sounds Of Blackness “The Pressure (Part 1)” (Classic 12 Mix)? My favorites; Lisa Stansfield’s “Change,” Vanessa Williams’ “Comfort Zone,” En Vogue’s “You Don’t Have To Worry,” Chante Moore’s, “This Time,” Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson’s “The Best Things In Life Are Free,” Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” Quincy Jones’ “Stomp” and Toni Braxton’s “Un-break My Heart.” Even Michael Bolton and Ace of Base could not escape Frankie’s re-touch. His music would be highly-regarded and heavily revered by the Gramophone Recording And Modern Music with a win in the Remixer of The Year, Non-Classical category. At the close of the century, the Def Mix sound defined 1990’s house music and Frankie Knuckles emerged as, “The Godfather of House Music.

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On May 25, 2007, my last day of working with obnoxious eighth graders, I received the best gift that any Frankie fan could ever receive, a night with Frankie Knuckles. The Godfather was scheduled to make a rare appearance in Atlanta. I took this as God’s blessing for having to put up with rudely adolescents for an entire school year. That night, I dressed in head to toe white. After a lengthy debate with myself, I left my white fedora in the car. I figured I would have no need for the head piece. Fail. After paying the twenty dollar door fee I walked into the night club. My eyes bucked at the spacious almost empty wooden floor. I checked my phone, 11:00 pm. Still early. Frankie was already in the mix, painting the landscape with his signature sound. What a treat, no opening DJ but four hours of unadulterated Frankie. My ears fell victim to the music. Kim English singing “C’est la Vie” (Scott Wozniak Mix) aroused me to walk through the foyer’s door and dance straight into the arms of the dance floor’s embrace. I felt loved!

Shakira and Beyonce sang “Beautiful Liar,” The Pussycat Dolls whined “Stickwitu,” Marc Evans crooned “The Way That You Love Me” (Dim’s T.S.O.P Version), DJ MeMe provided the disco on Fish Go Deep’s “Cure and Cause” while Kenny Bobien declared “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Frankie had that knack of mixing fragments; the commercial with the white labels, house with disco and the sacred with the secular into one cohesive catalog, much like his remixes.

The minister of music stood perched in the DJ booth high off the dance floor. You could get a nose bleed staring up that high for too long. Being a seasoned professional, Frankie drew the dancing mass into an act of intimate engagement. Be it alumni house heads sporting “I heart NY logos,” Chicago’s Southsiders head bopping, current B-boys spinning and former rave girls twirling, blue-eyed blonde haired gays yelling, and big mommas swinging weaves, everyone danced to Frankie’s “The Whistle Song” with bright smiles.

At ten to three the music stopped. Surprise! Frankie’s devotees received a heart attack; a chance to meet and greet the amiable legend. My moment had arrived. I shook my hero’s hand and all I could muster from the depths of my heart was a shaky, “Thank you for coming to Atlanta.”

What Frankie Knuckles Did For Me

Frankie was there to comfort me after MJ’s death. On July 3, 2009, days after MJ’s tragic news shocked the world, I ventured to Chicago. I contemplated the trip. I had no funds, no prospects and little hope. Besides, I was in no mood for dancing, loud music or MJ tributes. However, I felt compelled to trek east on Interstate 90 to the Green Dolphin’s Boom Boom Room. As usual I arrived early. So I waited outdoors. I listened to the sounds of muffled bass ricochet off the inner walls. “Ba Da Do Do Do, Ba Da Do Do Do.” I recognized the Eddy Grant sampled bass line playing inside the club. As a teenager, I had played the same bass line over and over again.

I paid the door fee and entered the empty foyer. Frankie was playing Michael Jackson’s “In The Closet.” Here I am in shambles and not wanting to hear any of MJ’s music. Yet, Frankie welcomed me into the club with his very own Mission Mix. Talk about chivalry. Chills surged up my spine. How could I not return the favor? So I willed my feet to shuffle from right to left. I stretched my arm muscles allowing my body to warm up to the knocks and slams of closet doors. Frankie had got the best of me.

If that sneaky move weren’t enough, hours later when the room swiveled in circular motion and the brick walls dripped perspiration; Frankie would floor me. He played “You Are Not Alone;” the eleven minute MJ tribute brought the house down with tears. To hear the Godfather of House play his Franctified remix, a befitting tribute, to the King of Pop was cemented in my memory forever.

I left Green Dolphin forever changed. I proclaimed that I would make it out of that challenged-filled season a victor. See, this is what Frankie did for me. Frankie created and played the music that uplifted me to higher heights, he called my spirit to soar with the angels and he challenged my feet to dance a different dance.

Through the years, I waited for Frankie’s return to play in Atlanta. In hindsight the hope kept me dancing through the years. I often thought, “Soon Frankie will yet again bless this city with his most precious gift, house music.” After all, Frankie said, “I love playing in Atlanta. I will play here again.” That’s what Frankie told me that special night when I first met him years earlier. Sure every DJ promises to play in your city, again. Naivety believes this promise comforts fans; the jaded believes a DJ is really saying “fuck off” and “get outta my face.” But no, Frankie was not the latter. The Godfather was more humble than god-plex. He was more approachable than distant. He smiled when he had reason(s) to frown. Frankie could have turned his back and gave you the hand. But no, his best attributes were that he never gave up on house music and he never gave up on you. After the recording industry went digital and their calls for remixes stopped, he crafted his Director’s Cut guise with fellow DJ/producer/writer/remixer Eric Kupper. He churned out purchasable downloads of remixes and original material of Whitney Houston’s, “Million Dollar Bill,” The Jackson 5’s “Forever Came Today, Lil Louis’ “Fable,” Candi Staton’s “Hallelujiah Anyway,” B Slade’s “Get Over U,” and Inaya Day’s “Let’s Stay Home.” Even after facing medical conditions that would have wheelchair other DJs into retirement; he toured the world. Frankie pumped his blood into the heart of soulful house music until the very end. Frankie was that man. The man that I will never have the pleasure to see or hear play live again.

Words by AJ Dance

LOUIE VEGA & ANANE 15.02.14 Part I

February 26th, 2014

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LOUIE VEGA & ANANE

Part 1

Black Curtain

There hang long black drapes in one corner of the room, next to the DJ stage and behind the global bazaar. 

A steady stream of bodies treks from out the curtain.

Gofers fetch drinks from the bar before they disappear back into the curtain.

A group of hourglass curves exit the curtain with glowing smiles.

Those left on the outside watch curiously.                                           

Something goes on behind those large black drapes.

You can feel the energy.

Is this some makeshift private VIP, roped off from the common soul?

Or a moon ritual?

 

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Louie Vega

Always, Louie Vega brings the unadulterated soulful house music sound that capsizes at 126 beats per minute.  Foot heavy four-on-the floors slap the faces of dancers.  His sound is not for the faint.  Or for the soft of feet that prance on the tips of toes as ballerinas.  These days, ears have to be conditioned to tolerate stuttered 808’s as hamstrings have to be fully stretched to endure the wear and tear that shall soon follow.   In all, this is Louie’s tribute to his old school roots, when late 80’s house and early 90’s house ruled.  His momentum takes you back to the Devil’s Nest in the Bronx.  A time when vocal house pit the Jacksons against First Choice.  Anyone for Lynn Lockamy?  Inaya Day?  Duane Harden?  To fully understand Louie is to fully understand the sum of his parts.  Vega Records.  Roots remixes.  EOL essentials.  Fania T-shirts?  Louie is not shy to spotlight his ethos.  Louie Vega revolves around Louie’s world. He is a heavyweight in the industry, a revered leader among his peers.  When Louie speaks, people actually jot notes.    People just don’t happen to dance to Louie Vega in the mix.  They are subconsciously pulled into his black hole.  Rather or not education on the dance floor is your dogma.  You will be schooled.       

23:00

Aww, look, the darling couple sits on stage.  His body is pinned against hers.  Their body language speaks love.  She pulls out her smartphone encased in candy apple red.  “Click.”  The selfie captures two loving souls.   That’s cute.  However, the crowd is ready to experience what they dropped Gs for. 

Like a swan’s tears dropping into tranquil waters, Japanese violinist, Chieko Kinbara’s dramatics bleeds all over Josh Milan’s heartfelt “Just Like Love.”  The Timmy Regisford and Adam Rios tropical beat builds to a muddled rise.  The train is running off the tracks.  Can anyone help?  To the rescue he comes.  Where?  To the right of the stage.  His two eyes peep over three Pioneers.  His waist and upper torso bends over the CD players.  The man is dressed in a black tee and sporting his signature stingy-brim fedora.  A tattooed tribal arrow points towards his hand that turns shiny knobs, while his right hand cups a silver earphone.  His stance commands all attention.    

A few facial visages appear stunned.  Perhaps the sight of their idol standing a few feet away smacks them.  Or is it the beat?  The “oonz, oonz, oonz,” clocks at high speeds.  All courtesy of a power kick drum, hissing snares and a heart pounding bass thump.  Bodies erk and jerk.  Inquiries of confusion contort eyebrows.  Smoky vocals sing that adds additional confusion.  The beat overpowers the messenger.  Louie understands.  He adjusts the controls.  Fail.  So, two heavyweights move a monitor closer to Vega’s post for greater sound definition.  The light bulb idea works.

“I was At The Club, somewhere near the bar.” Lynn Lockamy never sounded better in surround sound.  Her accappella plays over the same sixteen counts that startled minutes earlier.  The crowd gets it.  They sing, “When I saw that man.”          

Somewhere the secular intersects the spiritual.  A juxtapose that possesses one dancer to bolt up the stage and back down stage in nanoseconds.  “Can I preach to you?”  Arms thrust into the air.  Hands beat speakers.  Mops of hair wiggle from side-to-side.  People are short of falling out in the spirit.  Whatever Louie laced this “Can I preach to you?” acapella, sets the people free.  Earlier hesitations of premature expectations are now fully abandoned.  The people melt in the hands of Louie.  The room is ripe and ready to receive. 

“Hey, hey, hey, hey.”  A familiar voice beckons from the audio’s output.  ”It’s Not Over,” sings a First Choice soundclip.   The score’s highs pull to the fore, the bass drops into oblivion that leaves the mids pitched against white noise.  Orchestrated strings pull the melody back into existence.  A moody electric guitar speaks with a twang.  The disco re-edit is the Gamble and Huff produced Jackson’s “Show You The Way To Go” vs. MFSB “The Sound of Philadephia” that sucks the room right into Louie’s black hole.

Mr. Vega is eager to show off his universe.  His world is full of stars.  Louie Vega staring Duane Harden, Louie Vega staring Bucie and Louie Vega staring Julie…the list goes on and on and on.  God love him.  Louie is always staring someone. 

If Louie had to play one summative oeuvre it would be Louie Vega starring Duane Harden’s “Never Stop.”  The Sunset Ritual Version lyrically laced with positivity uplifts the room to a higher state.  When lead vocalist Duane Harden backs Cindy Mizelle to sing ”Lift You Up,” the atmosphere erupts with explosives.  Louie could pack his crates, grab his wife and make a run for the door.  The crowd would never know they were robbed. 

Thankfully, the GRAMMY award winner proves why he is the hardest working man in soulful/deep/house music and continues to drop hits.  He plays his Piano Dub of the Native Sons “City Lights.”  Don’t get too comfortable with Inaya Day yelling, “Hey, Hey.”  Louie throws a curve ball.  When the outro bass line filters to low-fi, in comes Louie’s Factory Mix Part 1 for even more hi-fidelity bass trickery.  This guy won’t even stick to playing one of his remixes: he goes in to play two of his remixes.        

A key in F-minor bumps over 125 BPMs.  Is it filler time?  Louie allows the crowd to breathe.  After all, a professional knows not to wear his or her guests out in twenty minutes.  So he cools the school with the ‘Princess of House’ on “Angels Are Watching Over Me“ his Vega Old School UN Instrumental.    

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” The ever recognizable accent of Tambor’s founding father DJ Stan Zeff announces with microphone in hand.  “Let’s give a warm Tambor welcome for the second time to….. “

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Anane Vega

The force of Anane does not pull in the opposite direction but rather digs deeper into the waters that birthed her voice of ancestral soul.   Her Cape Verde, two tiny archipelagos to the left of the Motherland’s shores, roots is her narrative.  At one point growls and chirps resonates through the room.  At safer beats per minute, one dancer feels compelled to join the flock rushing center stage to lay eyes on the DJ. 

The male and female species are rarely treated to lay eyes on a Glamazon.  Let alone a Glamazon DJ.  A simple gesture as pulling her sandy blond locks back into a tail captivates the room.  The “Bem Ma Mi” singer radiates a glow that blings brighter than the ‘Rock’ gold chain hanging around her elongated neck.  Voices whisper, “Beauty is only skin deep.”  But in Anane’s case her God give beauty is layered not linear.  Not one to rest solely on her symmetrical cheekbones, the singer, DJ, wife, philanthropist and most recent entrepreneur proves she has skills.  The music she plays is self-evident, realized and afro driven.  A fact her partner-no, not Antonello Coghe-acknowledges in eye distant.  A head nod to her hubby at work provides approval for him to chime in the fun.   The two stationed at polar opposites of the mixing spectrum align their chakras into one cohesive body.  Impressive, breathtaking and sometimes all over the place is what the two display.  A husband and wife DJ tag team.  After all, Louie and Anane are house music’s Jay and Bey.      

“Flowers bloomin, mornin’ dew and the beauty seems to say…..A velvet voice sings.  “It’s a pleasure when you treasure all that’s new and true and gay.”  Rhythm and Blues lovers recognize the voice they grew up with as Luther Vandross.  Then from nowhere, Glow’s “Change of Love” goes from straight disco to proper Jersey house.  Dancing feet keep pace for the second verse.  Until a voice announces, “We gon take it back.” 

Where Anane stops:  Louie starts.  Electric synths jabs staccato punches.  The volume slowly ascends.  The ears of elders recognize the ear candy.  “Say are you happy” an angelic voice asks.  Feet stomp the floor.  Arms thrust into the air.  “Have you been down to the club that the worldly people love.”

Perhaps this Moon Ritual is not the “Club Lonely (Lonely People)” that Lil’ Louis envisioned.  Black, brown, tan, yellow, beige and peach faces dot wall to wall.  People are adorned with their spouse, people whisper amongst friends and even the single dance hand in hand.  No one appears to be lonely.

A few counts later the medley switches tides but stays true old school.  “Can You Hit It/Hit It,” a powerhouse vocal repeats.  Again the crowd goes AWOL.  “Brighter Daaaaaaayyyyy.”  Singer Dajae wails into the air for an extended frame on the Cajmere’s Underground Goodies Mix.  Lads take note a professional not only knows the right song to play at the right time but the right remix to play of the song. 

Earth People’s “Dance” floors feet and silences every criticism.  “I Got Something for your mind, your body and soul.”  A First Choice sound clip brags.  The party man does not stop there he continues throwing down classic heat from Chitown to the 5 Boroughs.  But around the corner lurks eyes that glow with fire in the dark.  A force flies from the speakers.  Knees crash onto the concrete.  Acid house spews its vengeance.   

BLACKOUT.  One dancer is stretched out between a speaker box and a railing. 

 

 

 

 

Visuals & Words by AJ Dance

 

 

 

LOUIE VEGA & ANANE 15.02.14 PART II

February 16th, 2014

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A Different Energy

 

Through hazy vision and dim lights the stage appears as one giant schmooze fest.  Louie’s stage manager is not attentive.   People dart to rub elbows with the “Hollywood of House.”  Do you even know who Louie Vega is?- people dance on stage.  Pearly whites, handshakes and bear hugs overpower the music.  The Hollywood couple must have messaged all of their mangs and dames to hobnob onstage.  Their bleached blond bangs and soulfro frocks are completely strange, never having graced a prior Tambor.  

When Anane puts down her bedazzled gold phones she grabs a Fambor faithful for a dance.  One by one, more and more lovelies join the awesome twosome.   Onstage rumps shake in the air.  “Cerca Di Mi” never sounded so sexual.  

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An unusual amount of sex straddles the air.  And the potent seduction only increases with ritual mating calls.  When Africa’s Busiswa references queens and her royal highness on the DJ Zihle acclaimed “My Name Is,” actual freaks run to the dance floor.  Wet bodies frottage.  Hips gyrate.  Groins gravitate.  Arousal is felt.  The people are molested on the dance floor…by the music. 

The energy is not all defined by sex. The smoke free zone becomes a hotbed for cancer sticks to spew venom.  Toppling off table tops, aluminum cans piss carbs and cals onto the once covered baby powdered floor.  The room reeks of sweat.  The walls perspire.  The cement floor gives way to slippery puddles. 

A voice yells over Femi Kuta’s “Truth Don Die.”  “There is a different energy in here.”

Of course, this is a Moon Ritual party. 

“Just what is a Moon Ritual?”   

A phenomenon not easily defined but worthy of experience.   

Back on the platform, myths become future folklore.  Local legendary DJs, transplants via NYC, perform an impromptu “I’ll House You,” another adlibs, “I Get Deep, I Get Deep, I Get Deep.”    

Somewhere in the ritual’s final minutes, Louie shines his spotlight back on the real stars of the night, the dozens of people still gathered on the floor, by playing Stevie Wonder’s “Another Star.”  He teases the crowd.  “Is It All Over My Face?” Fifty voices chant. “Hell Yeah.”  Loose Joints has the hanger-ons love dancing.  Louie loves “Days Like This.”  He smiles.  Then he tells the people to “Stand On The Word.” That’s funny.  Sunday morning church service is only hours away.    

All the while, Louie never utters one word into the microphone.  His voice is amplified through the music he plays, a projection that allows him to stand taller than his stature and outshine the brightest of his contemporaries.  This is the power of the Vegas, to make anyone and everyone feel like a star for the night.  From old friends to new friends.  From dancers to wallflowers.  From music makers to music breakers.  From Beverly’s hills to Georgia’s red clay.  Louie’s world is all about stars.  

Visuals and Words by AJ Dance

JELLYBEAN BENITEZ 25.01.14

January 26th, 2014

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JELLYBEAN BENITEZ

23:00

“I’ve never been here. Hardwood floors. Great sound system, although the music is turned up a bit loud. Oh, they have mirrors too! I feel like I’m sixteen years old again. Dancing in a mirror. I like this spot!”

Mixx is the upscale lounge/nightclub that hosts Sugar Groove’s fourth Saturday night soirees. Step outside onto the bamboo/Zen covered heated patio. “Cough. Cough.” The air reeks of cancer. Hmmm, but the smoking patio is where your favorite libations are served by the shirtless. Cancer? Or Sex? Perhaps both.  Back indoors, the smoke-free facility is the place where Sugar Groove needs to be. Look up. The upscale video lounge plays a variety of Sugar Groove’s founder, DJ Swift’s visuals from house to hip hop.

23:10

Beware of the silent DJ. He disappears into the crowd. His face shows here and there, but never twice in the same place. He rarely utters words. He does not boast or advertise his skills. Beware he is the most deadly Minister of Sound. His DJ set is no warm-up, but the real deal. Look up. The mysterious figure parked in the elevated DJ booth plays like he has a point to prove. He pounds the beats hard. He warps the mids. The music he plays announces that he too can hang with the big boys. This DJ does his research before his gigs. He knows to play Native Sons & Inaya Day’s “City Life” (Piano Dub) and when to play Shaun Escoffery’s “Days Like This” (Deepah Dub Re-Rub). His DJ sets connects with the sparks of dancing hearts. He is Atlanta’s best secret, Andrew Marriott.

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23:50

A black fur coat and black shades struts the outer limits of the dance floor. “I didn’t know we had prostitutes here.” Straight from a Blacksplotation film, the shadowy dressed figure hops onto an elevated platform. The crowd gathers for a close-up. Sexuality oozes from her mouth and into the microphone that curls from her ear to her lips. However, no one hears a word. She kneels down, closer towards the floor. A DJ flips her microphone on. It’s a swift and smooth move. “Freedome” she moans. Cheers of support sound from the crowd. Suddenly, her black fur and her S&M stilettos fall to the floor. Jaws drop. Body paint, duct tape and a thong seductively prance around onstage. This is Atlanta’s Kiwi. She is a work of art.

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00:00

A minute has passed since Jellybean Benetiz has blessed the people with his presence in the city. Perhaps his day gig, radio show host on Satellite Radio’s Studio 54 station has kept him at bay from house music. Anyone remember Jellybean Soul? Aint Nuthin’ But a House Thing parties? Even his Facebook name changed from Jellybean to John.  Or maybe, the fact is that Jellybean is not too keen on playing short timeslots in soulful house music’s post-age of parties. Thankfully someone persuaded the NYC legend to grace the city with a two-hour solo set.

To title Jellybean Benitez a NYC legend is one-dimensional. Born in Bronx, NY of Puerto Rican descent, he started his journey of music over forty years ago. The young man dated a certain rising star before she became the goddess of pop music. Listen to a radio station to hear some of his production and remix credits from Madonna, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, to Whitney Houston. Even film scores and television talk shows aren’t immune to his Midas touch.

It is his Midas touch that he is about to lay on the crowd at Sugar Groove.  The music starts off encompassing the elements of jazz house. The tempo of the four-on the-floor escalates. Orchestra strings twist and warp in the air. This is house music dancing towards hard-house.

“Years ago, I heard Jellybean play in Miami.” One dancer recalls. “He played all classics. One-hundred and thirty five beats per minute is so refreshing to hear tonight.” Certainly so, DJ Jellybean surprises, although for some elder heads privy to hear classics or disco he disappoints.

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The tempo cools to a balmy 125 beats per minute courtesy of a cowbell on the Frankie Feliciano Ricanstruction Mix of Matthew Bandy’s sleeper “Wish.” Josh Milan’s signature vocal does nothing to ignite the crowd. Actually throwing into the mix Josh’s former group Blaze, works. Dancing bodies notice. Mouths sing “Brand New Day.” The “Little Louie” Vega produced classic is instant brand recognition. A barrage of afro-house dialect steers its global influence into the sound sphere. The tribal sounds fall somewhere between seductive, playful and temptingly sexy. One afro track is steamier than a singing wife and her rapping husband’s hyper-sexed performance on a televised music-award show. In the club, one body is pinned against an orange wall as a dancer humps against his groin. The term afro-sex is coined.

The 5”5’ (1.65 meters) DJ stands on the tips of his toes to see the crowd beneath him. The observance is painstaking, a gesture Jellybean appears to be much uncomfortable with. “You know I’m not a fan of elevated DJ booths.” One dancer notes. “A DJ needs to interact with his/her audience.” Rightly so. Sadly, elevated DJ booths seem to be a mandated-city ordinance for gay clubs.

The line between the secular and sacred further blurs. The music disappears as Gospel House King, Kenny Bobien wails, “The Only Way.” At this point, Jellybean throws his arms into the air and claps his hands to the Ralf Gum’s Artistic Soul Spiritual Touch Mix. His wife notices. She follows suit. So does the crowd. This is church. Jellybean is the Minister of Sound, Mixx is the sanctuary, the people are the congregation and tonight’s message is house music.

Four-on-the-floors give way to an R&B groove courtesy of Kings of Tomorrow’s “Fall For You.” April’s sultry vocals have the crowd waiting at the “red light.” Downtempo R&B turns into the quiet storm on Ralf Gum’s monster, “Take Me To My Love” assisted by Monique Bingham’s vocals.

It is Shaun Escoffery’s “Days Like This” (DJ Spinna & Tickla Mix) that pulls dancing feet back onto the floor for peak-time performance. Fist pumps slash through the air. Mouths wide open yell “Days Like This.” While Jellybean has the crowd’s attention he steps it up a notch and plays the newly reigning anthem from Louie Vega starring Duane Harden on “Never Stop” (Sunset Ritual Mix).

Stand on the elevated platform and gaze across the intimate setting. There goes “that guy.” The guy who pops into the DJ booth, shakes hands with the DJ, who he doesn’t know, and then proceeds to mack on every, available or unavailable, honey in the room. Excuse me, who are you? New faces shuffle amid familiar visages. Couples pose for photos. In the background, sculpted pectorals and six packs course the room. Hold up, is someone doing the Nae Nae? For better or for worse, the face of the city’s house movement is changing.

02:00

LED effects plaster greens across the floor. Greens morph into reds that spin around in a dizzying slideshow. The room starts to spin. The beats bang harder. The music speeds faster. DJ Swift plays kamikaze. The music crashes into the waves of deep house to proper house. No one is left unscathed from Justin Timberlake f/Jay-Z to Kiko Navarro. For virgin ears the music lends much to process. However, DJ Swift’s loyal listeners bombard the dance floor as the venue empties. All the while Jellybean never leaves the DJ booth, a place he appears to feel at home. As he assists DJ Swift on the controls the two serve a feisty Latino assault.

03:00

Jellybean Benitez is the real deal. A deadly Minister of Sound. Stand back. He has no need for an entourage. If he so chooses, he can hide in a crowd. Neither does he wear out his welcome. He maintains a quiet and ordered spirit. He is not braggadocios. He subscribes to the notion that the music he plays speaks from his heart. And his audible voice spoke loud and clear as he delivered another soul stirring experience. His gut instinct proved right, to capitalize on the contemporary instead of yesteryear’s trivia. As much as his job is to take people on a journey, two hours was entirely short of time. Although he is better fit to explain his absence away from the house music world. One fact reminds true. The people miss him. Mr. Benitez, please don’t stay away for so long.

Visuals & Words by AJ Dance

MARK FARINA 28.12.13

December 29th, 2013

Mark Farina

22:00

On the final Saturday night of the year, the weather out doors is entirely too cold, too wet and too rainy.  Mother Nature’s dramatics is enough to keep people indoors, buried underneath blankets.  However, there is one person who can command people, from across the city, out of town and even out of state, to brave the wintery bliss; to trek through puddles of water and be drenched in rain, to assemble together under one roof.  The individual……… will be revealed later.      

If ever there is a house music, or funky house music, prohibition this will be the gathering place.  A makeshift bookshelf in the back of pizzeria is strangely out of place.  Truly, there is more than meets the eye.  At the painted encasing one utters a password.  A smart looking gatekeeper pushes up his framed spectacles against his shaved head.  He carefully examines the guest list.  Suddenly, he radiates a bright beam of whites that blind like a deer caught in headlights.  His tatted sleeve leads to his hand which scratches off names on his clip board.  The ecstatic guests are now permitted entry without cover charge.  Step underneath the clandestine threshold.  Be amazed by the backroom for guests to partake of beloved booze, spirited conversations and dirty dancing.  Shoes are stepped on.  The fur of wool jackets and bare shoulders are brushed against as the spirited journey towards the front of the room.  Nothing says bar time like hearing the ringing of cash registers open and close.  The liquor pours freely.  The liquor pours frequently.  The face of President Alexander Hamilton exchanges hands.  A tweed vest and baby blue colored button-up dress shirt darts back and forth between liquor shelves.  The bearded bartender is dressed damper enough to bartend at a five-star establishment.  In the midst of several brunettes engaged in laughter, there he stands, at the rustic bar.  The man who the people have come to see the legendary DJ, Mr…….   

Mark Farina is a world-renowned DJ/producer who needs no introduction.  The San Fran king of funky swing is no stranger to the city, having played in town a few months prior.  However, the affable star has never played a secret show in the city, in a room that has a prohibition era feel with its hanging lamps, blue painted walls, and wooden floor.  

Mark, with drink in hand, breaks for the makeshift wood DJ compartment at the front of the room.  Dressed in a black Gramaphone LTD 2843 N. Clark, Chicago, IL tee, he cues Chic’s “I Want Your Love.”  Nineteen seventy-nine disco morphs into “onze, onze, onze,” house music.  The pulse of the party picks up pace.  All are happy.  Dancing feet rush center room for prime-real estate which is occupied by a blonde bombshell wearing black-rim glasses performing squats while a guy sporting black headphones hogs corner space.  Someone should hang a no vacancy sign.  However, everything is all good.  Love is in the air.  There is love for the dancers, music, the guest DJ and especially for the organizers of this rare treat.

Forty-eight hours earlier event promoter Lil’ Steven, who lives and is in Santa Fe, created the last minute word-of-mouth soiree.  The event was hushed.  The location was hushed.  There was absolutely to be no posting of the event on any Internet social networking sites.  If so the exclusive shindig would be entirely cancelled.  A glance around the room reveals the darling machines that assisted Lil Steven’s execution.  There is Houseb4titties texting, “A Okay.”  The Mrs. Rachel Pryor Hoffman provides hostess duties to Mark.  Event coordinator, Jory Johnson, AKA DJ Sublime, is nowhere to be found but his presence is felt.  Restaurateur Ryan Baker dances back and forth, playing hype man.  From Macon, GA, Tim provided three CDJs for Mark to helm.  Even former Twijit Recordings, Daniel Gresham shows face.  DJs from old appear along side DJs of the new guard.  Honestly, this many house alumni have not gathered in the same room for ages.  This is a house head reunion.

Meanwhile, Mark continues to show-off his Epicurean taste of the finest house.  There is swing house with its gravitating push and pull.  Sprinkled between funky house gems are diamonds like Teddy Pendergrass.   But the party’s spotlight falls on one Midwest metropolis.  Chi-town’s Peven Everett’s “Stuck” kick starts vocal house.   The Windy City’s Lil Louis, under the moniker of Black Magic, “Freedom (Make It Funky),” blows the house down.  “I have this record on vinyl.  I brought this song at the record store that I used to work at over twenty years ago,” testifies one native Chicago house head.  Her pearly whites hang suspended from ear to ear as Jamie Principle’s raps, “Baby Wants To Ride.”  The Frankie Knuckles produced classic is not only one of house music’s early international hits but a Chicago house mainstay.  “Is It All Over My Face?”  The music disappears as the crowd yells, “Hell Yeah,” just the way Chicago audiences sing.  The Loose Joints classic has the crowd, “Love Dancing.”   Just as the hits keep coming, so do the drinks.  Mark toasts a cheer.  The bubbly must place Farina in x-rated mood.  The room is smoking hot, and not just from the glowing amber of cancer sticks spewing a chocking stench into the air.  The Mary Jane kicks into high gear.  BT Express’ “Peace Pipe” gets everyone so high people appear wanting to dance on the walls.  By now everyone is playful and falling over one another.  Handshakes, high-fives and hugs become norms.  Suddenly, Mark drops the bass, fades the mids and tweaks the highs.  His ten fingers dance across the mixer’s cues.  The music builds to a heightened anticipation.  The crowd stands on the edge of their toes.  But, Mr. DJ takes his time.  The crowd continues to wait with extreme eagerness.  This one man show puts a hurt on the people.  Ready and steady his right index finger and thumb slowly pulls the cross fader.  And then he….BAMS!  Mark smacks the crowd with the Nightcrawlers “Push The Feeling On.”  The MK Dub with chopped vocals causes the crowd to go apeshit.  Mark does it again.  He has a knack for teasing the audience.  Hands fist pump.  Mouths sing the melody.  Bodies burst into sporadic fits of dance rage.  Even, a dance circle crops in the center of the room.  B-boys turned B-men wearing ball caps and checkered plaids, hand spin and freeze.  Their bodies, stuck in mid air.  Spectators cheer on the acrobatic stunts.         

01:30

Sadly, the time has come to bid our great friend, adieu.  He must move on to greener pastures and play his alterative guise for an eclectic crowd across town.  Not before he leaves, he takes the microphone and utters a muffled thank you and a goodbye.  If that is what he says.   Nobody seems to mind; everyone must be wasted.   

This party was straight-up blue lights in the basement. The mushroom jazz curator paid homage to his Chicago roots.  The majority old school playlist would make Southside Chicago proud.    Suffice to say, seventies disco, eighties soul and early house music is the architect that has built Mark Farina’s house.   After all, Mark Farina can move away from Chicago but you can’t take the Chicago out of Mark Farina.    

CHOSEN FEW DJs 21.12.13

December 22nd, 2013

CHOSEN FEW DJs

Winter’s arrival announces sixty degree temperatures. A gust of warm air dances into a car’s rolled down window as a 10th anniversary Kenny Dope remix plays into the night’s air. While trying to find a spot to park, blinding blue beams flash in the rear windshield. “Uh oh.” One of the city’s finest, dressed in blue from head to toe, exits a newly purchased navy Ford. However, the only “protecting and serving” the law enforcer is concerned with is the scanning of license plates and the identifying of tags of two parked vehicles. The driver trying to find parking breathes a sigh of relief. For the owners of the two vehicles parked in front of a “no parking sign,” a sigh of relief will be the last thing they will utter as they discover a gift attached to their windshield. Merry Christmas from the APD.

Down the street at the events facility, fifty shades of brown wait huddled in front of a massive wooden door. Standing in the line that snakes down a ramp, conversations ensue. One dialogue stands out from the rest. A gray haired individual pushing the mid-century mark asks, “What makes a successful party?” 

The Ingredients for a Successful BANG!

One can argue that taking time off from throwing events allows for rest, recuperation and reinvention. This is one key ingredient for throwing a successful party. Nothing wears people out more than having to throw a party every week or every month. Not to mention those who feel pressured to attend every weekly and monthly event. Take, for example, the Tambor party. After a four month hiatus, the drum makes a much-anticipated return with a must-attend event.


Founder DJ Stan Zeff and right-hand man, DJ BE’s winning event formula is sought after by party promoters/event planners the world over. The two prep a musical concoction that wins over the skeptical purists and trumps the egos of naysayers. One key element that must be realized is the key of collaboration. Thereby, Tambor brilliantly teamed with one house music’s premier international networks. The Chosen Few DJs, the brainchildren headquartered in the birthplace of house music- Chicago.

Tambor’s winning formula begins with bestowing their guests with a generous heaping of southern hospitality. Be it a genuine welcome; glowing smiles, a caring hello, and a free gift; a CD, sticker or glowing tambourine, that greets guests at the two wooden doors of the facility.

A whomp, whomp, BOOM. The sound of heavy bass pulls bodies into the door. Listen and feel the beat. The one thing the people can’t deny is the clear and crisp acoustics. The sonics deliver a BANG! Pull out the earplugs, you will need them.

Two red and two silver giant orbs hanging from the ceiling add a plush holiday touch. The air is saturated with the aroma of love as Tambor-ites exchange XO. If a party has no love, the party is no success.

Already DJ BE and DJ Stan Zeff blaze the dance floor with a surround sound of furor. Together the two are unstoppable. And so this party proves as people can barely make their way up to the DJ stage without stepping on dancing sneakers or experiencing elbow jabs in the ribs.

12:00

Center stage stands Chicago’s Chosen Few ambassador, Alan King. The lawyer by day and DJ by night starts the party with a dose of jazz injected soul from Ralf Gum’s featuring vocalist Jon Pierce & trumpeter Kafele on “Never” (Louie Vega EOL Mix). Pat-ta-pat, pats and thump-di-thumps tells the dancers to form a semi-circle. The beating of live percussions kicks the party into full afro gear. Those dancing wallop their knees and their arms flail into the air without any structure or synchronization as their movements interpret the drum’s ancient language. From afro house the Chosen Few ball cap wearer segues into disco territory. Remember a little disco goes a long way. And boy does Alan deluge a heavy dosage of blue lights in the basement. The graying of hairs, receding of hairlines and the balding don’t mind. That Southside sound causes even music snubs to shake in the air, red, blue and green glowing tambourines. “Look” says one woman dressed in all black with an outstretched arm that points to the floor covered with white residue. Even the baby powder comes out on a disco jam. Attorney King steers the music reigns back into the provocative purview of South Africa’s resident Ralf Gum. This time former Tambor guest Monique Bingham sings “Take Me To My Love.” The fist-pumping Quentin Harris’ Shelter Vocal version of “Disrespectful” by Chaka Khan featuring Mary J. Blige works bodies into writhes. This house veteran knows how to work a room: after all he has been DJing for nearly four decades.

01:00

A body walks onto the stage.  The music fades.  “I didn’t know she could sing.” A voice yells from the back of the crowd. The room grows quiet. The party people are silenced. Tambor’s founding father offers a spirited introduction, “Tambor let’s give a warm welcome to Atlanta’s own…”

 

She shimmers in a gold and black jumper that sways over her black leggings. She bounces up and down on the heels of her black spiked boots. “Dance. 4. You.” She coos like a sexy Santa. This is the voice of the Chicago native and Tambor’s beloved, Cortney LaFloy who performs, without prior warning, her soon to be release debut on Tambor Music. The song’s producer, another Atlantan via Chicago, Steve Chi Profess stands behind the ones and twos playing music maestro. A swarm of “awws” traverse the room as digital cameras flash, videos film and happy feet dance in show of loving support. Cortney LaFloy drops the mic and dances across the DJ stage. Her live performance ignites fiyah. Promoters take note, there always has to be an element of surprise thrown into the mix. The unexpected flavor keeps the party turnt up.


Add a former recording label VP of Artist and Repertoire who has worked with Will Smith to Justin Timberlake in for success. Take one listen to the Pied Piper of RnB’s stepping anthem to hear how influential this DJ impacts the world of music. Wayne Williams is that DJ.

01:10

Where DJ Alan King played warm-up, DJ Wayne Williams appears hell bent to pick up the tempo. The sensual dialogue between a flugelhorn and a sax turns up the furnace. Shoes slip and slide. Bodies half way fall onto the slippery surface once covered with baby powder. Yes, the cement floor sweats. The unmistakable sounds of the undeniable Josh Milan’s “Thinking About Your Body” causes an uproar. Not only does a successful party don a DJ who knows what song to play at the perfect time-an art truly devoid in 21st century DJ culture-but a DJ who knows to play the perfect remix at the perfect time. Louie Vega’s Dance Ritual Mix delivers a bang to jump off any soulful house music party. As Josh’s ad-libs fades, the veteran DJ again surprises. Osunlade, the Yoruba soulster, offers “Dionne.” Ms. Warwick’s looped vocals are so heavenly, they can bounce on clouds. Suddenly, the beat bangs harder. Heart pounding four-on-the floors thump faster as Chicago house takes lead. Out come the sweat rags. Out come the pearly whites. Out come the feet that dance faster and harder. One house head hangs her chin low and bathes in the ambience of raw beats. She has a defining moment; she is gripped by the power of house music. The fifty minute adrenaline rush of Chicago house and disco house closes out on an inspirational note. “Lift Him Up” takes the spiritual saints who are in the know to church. Another key for a successful house music soiree is to have a DJ who is a DJ first, not a label owner, producer or party promoter, to heat the party up. Certainly, the Chosen Few originator, DJ Wayne Williams is more than the necessary ingredient.

02:00

Where DJ Wayne Williams drove the party into hyper drive in peek hour, DJ Terry Hunter slows the music down to a “catch your breath” tempo. A rework interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “Supersition” is thrown in mix. Midsong the melody takes a dramatic turn into deep tech territory. Dark haunting keys steadily build wrath into a climatic shadowy mirage. The minimalist patting of drums disappears into a bottomless abyss. Dancing feet are unaware of what to expect as they try to keep pace with the two-faced tune. Don’t fret. Terry safely leads the dancers to South Africa rhythms, a place where the DJ appears more confidently exploring than his Chosen Few contemporaries. Although the T’s Box label head does tread on 120 BPMs and disco rhythms courtesy of DJ Spen’s Re-Edit of Chaka Khan’s “Live In Me,” Terry quickly returns to the Motherland where he scoops up the Princess of House, Bucie, on Louie Vega’s “Angels Are Watching Over Me.” From the heartfelt, Terry takes it old skool with a nu skool twist of Patrice Rushen’s “Haven’t You Heard.” Joey Negro’s Extended Disco Mix excites the crowd that sings “I’ve Been Looking For You.” As to pay not enough homage to Mr. Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” Terry drops the instrumental over a subtle disco count. From that moment on things get crazy and a bit hazy.

02:45

On the DJ stage DJ Alan King sports a “We Play Different” logo across his black tee, recognizable name property of an online dance music download store. DJ Wayne Williams strips his black jacket to reveal a Chosen Few tee. DJ Terry Hunter’s black Chosen Few tee sparkles with silver embroidery. Add to the mix DJ Stan Zeff who breaks up the monotony with a purple Tambor tee. There appears more brand recognition than a summer blockbuster movie. 


Thank you(s) are exchanged. There is a thank you to Tambor. There is a thank you to the Chosen Few. A historic speech is delivered. There is a group photo with the DJs. Then there is another group photo with everyone in the building. DJ Terry Hunter, the BANG remixer, appears stunned at all of the commotion. How dare anyone interrupt his DJ set? Seizing the moment he launches into a fury of guitar riffs that thrash against the brick and mortar. Dancing bodies leap high into the air before their soles crash onto the cement floor. Blurred circles bare witness. Hands are raised in praise. The gyrating of bodies appears to be high off psychedelic rhythms. A few curious railbirds scratch their heads. One DJ softly asks, “What is this finale closer of 70’s rock meets disco soul?” Shazaam displays, The Jackson 5 “I Am Love.”

03:00

There you have the successful makings of a hit party. Successful parties take time to create, show their guests love, are not afraid of team collaboration, have a banging sound system, include an element of surprise-be it a live performance or guest DJ-invite guest DJs who know how to work a crowd; by knowing what song to play at the right time and invite DJs who are DJs first. Last but not least, a successful party unifies, not divides. Dj Stan Zeff said it best, “We are one!!!”

QUENTIN HARRIS 20.07.13

July 21st, 2013

Quentin Harris

00:00

 “The party is in the main room!!!”  A Tambor guest observes.  Her hazel eyes scope the vast lounge and concert hall. The event space dazzles underneath its natural lighting.  In case this much is forgotten, Tambor is an event, an experience in and of itself. Haters are silenced.  And bloggers be hushed.  A surprise looms in the air. 

Close to four years ago, a DJ led Atlanta’s House Music Movement to church.  Where would this same DJ drive the movement, if he were to play tonight? Church?  The Promise Land? Or NYC’s Funkbox?  All guesses were subject to personal interpretation.   

Right off the bat, the music flies from the speakers with a clean and clear appeal.  The music swings not too bass heavy.  But has the right amount of kick for the space.   Rumour has it Quentin Harris returns to Tambor.  That rumor turns true.  The DJ/remixer/producer/songwriter appears onstage ready to score.  First up, Adele’s “Rumour Has It” hits a homerun!  The Quentin Harris Fuck What You Hear Re-Production clocks a safe 4 minutes and 45 seconds, however, Quentin plays the song double time.

Guitar chords break the surge through the sound sphere.  Disco house enters the playing field.  A familiar pitch delivers the drive to Chaka Kahn’s” Live In Me.”  Quentin takes the DJ Spen Edit to another level.  He loops, “Groove with the Motion, Let’s Take It To The Top” for what seems like minutes.  “Tambor let’s take it to the top.”  DJ Stanzeff cheers.  And so the party continues its ascent into the outer field.

Subtle bongos play.  Cautious ears must take note.  In the background “Ahamdulillahi” plays.  Who?   Not who, but more like what?  This is the sampled intro to JT’s “Let the Groove Get In” off The 20/20 Experience Part 1.  If you blinked, you missed it.   

Quentin Harris travels to his Midwest roots to bestow the dancers with some good lovin’.  Chicago house legend, Cajmere along with Chicago vocalist legend, Dajae represent on “Satisfy.”  As people sing the hook and their feet shuffle over baby powder the song plays entirely too long. 

Onstage, Quentin’s tattooed sleeves that weave between a laptop, a mixer and a sequencer look nice.  However, some hard bodies paid to see the Sacrifice tat.  Quentin pays no mind.  Although hard at work, he appears all too relaxed dressed in an “Open the Games” black tee that stays on his back all night.  His body language eludes pose and refinement while the music screams, “sex.” 

“Is this Prince?”  A voice yells.  The eruption of horns blaring over a guitar sounds so.  Actually, the Purple One takes a back seat on this track to let his former girl group, Apollonia 6 sing, “Sex Shooter.”  People scream amazed at the execution of rocking the old school.  “Satisfy.”  Again, the Cajmere song reappears?  “Are You Satisfied?”  Dajae sings.   “Yes and enough.”  The crowd answers.   

Moving on.  A gospel house track plays; sadly, the vocals are mixed too low to make out the lyrics and that’s said by the people dancing in front of the speakers. 

Quentin digs deep into his back catalog.  He pulls song number eleven from his debut opus, No Politics.  A titled aptly needed for these days.  Time treks back to the year 2006.  Soul songstress Tina Broussard’s “Joy” (Quentin Harris Mix) breaths life into these troubled times of polarized views.  Quentin plays the song in its entirety, allowing his signature production work of electric beeps that pong over spacey beats, to shine.

What does the world need?  More joy!  Amid the news of a large municipal filing bankruptcy, racial tensions and protests, Quentin seems to be in a happy place.  Or so speaks his message, he delivers through the music.  Lord knows, the crowd could stand to hear some more positivity.  So the in-demand music producer delivers nothing less-than-his-stellar, his mega anthem that has won over global dance floors, his interpretation of Leela Jame’s “My Joy.”  The melody bouncing over soft percussions ignites ears.  Hands fly into the air.  Bodies jump up and down.   Even upstairs, the very important people sway from side to side.  But before Margaret Grace sings one lyric the music vanishes into thin air.

“I’ve Got A Deeper Love.”  A smokey alto wails over no music.   Quentin pays homage to his Detroit’s Mrs. Aretha Franklin with her early nineties Pride anthem, “A deeper Love.”  All of a sudden, the boys appear dressed in ribbed shirts and tanks that reveal toned biceps and protruding pecs.  The grown and sexy rush front and center stage.  They all sing “Welfare Don’t Need.”    Queen ReRe’s a cappella flutters on.  The beat to “My Joy” drops with a bang into the mix.  The vocals and music play together in perfect harmony and peace.  People of the world, please take note.

Quentin Harris is no stranger to the world of house music.  He’s heralded to command both American soulful house dance floors and European music festivals alike.  So when he drops a dirty beat of pure tech house, heads pay attention.  Bells ring as the four on the floor dissipates.  The music stutters on reverb.  His two hands take the helm of the Bozak and lifts the sounds to a climatic build and then drops hardcore thumps onto the screaming house heads.   Quentin shows-off, playing big room beats that builds and drops into frantic states.  The musical styling puts the T into Tambor. 

A male’s voice sings the blues that only pain produces.  The voice complains about a woman who deceives him and cheats on him.  He calls her out.  She’s a “Millie Vanillie.”  Cajmere’s green haired alter-ego, Green Velvet featuring Russoul shows face on the whimsical track. 

A house music party without playing a Peven Everett song is like a house music party with no subwoofers, the two go hand-in-hands.  The famous Timmy Regisford and Adam Rios concoction falls from the sound ware.  “Burning Hot” rejuvenates.  The former Timmy Regisford study lavishes by extending Peven’s vocal hold for more seconds than needed to make the crowd shrill with ecstasy.  The room’s temperature flies off the meter. 

“Tambor let’s give it up for the infamous Quentin Harris.”  DJ Stanzeff announces with a proud smile. 

 02:07

The Tambor Party founder works his own surprise.  Daddy Tambor starts his music hour off “Perfectly” with Shea Soul’s raspy vocals singing over the Layabouts’ signature beats.  DJ Stanzeff rocks the crowd with a mixture of deep, spatial, and stretched out themes that unite the elements of the night.

03:00

What a surprise!  Quentin drove the party to the edge of amazement.  For the ears wanting to experience a different sound, Quentin delivered.  For two straight hours, the Funkbox NYC resident banged the beats.  He never drifted to one subgenre or slowed the beat down.  The music played at the right tempo, the drums kicked a harder four on the floor all to construct a heavier sensation.  Some songs played too long and certain segments looped too often but that is Quentin’s choice style of play.  Let’s be real, “Let’s Be Young” plays for an Olympic ten minutes.  Sadly, the track was not included in the party’s playlist. If people complained after this Tambor installment, perhaps their pulses and heartbeats need to be checked, because this experience could not be dismissed with a callous nod.  Better yet, Quentin would say, “Kiss My Black Ass.”   

Visuals & Words: AJ Dance

HOUSE ON A BOAT 29.06.13

July 1st, 2013

1st Annual House On A Boat

18:30

A bead of sweat rolls down his bald head.  “Man it’s hot out here.”

At that moment, a tranquil breeze blows to the rescue.  The eastwardly wind cools the brow.  The nose tingles with a mingling of scents: fresh morning dew and magnolias meets fish.  Stand on the dock that sways more than the waves.  Look, northeast.  Across the sleeping bay Bambi sneaks onto a grassy knoll but once spotted, disappears into the dense forest.  Trees vibrantly burst with hues of green, gold, copper and orange that tricks the eyes into seeing harvest season instead of summer solstice.  Listen to chirps sing from trees.  Touch a flowery branch.  It wiggles.  A flock of feathers appear that soar into the azure.  As the sun plays a game of peek-a-boo, wispy cirrus hide the star’s face until it is ready to smile rays of light.  Mother Nature provides the entertainment.  She adjusts the temperature to a balmy 81 degrees Celsius with low humidity. The view is nice and all.  However for the smiles arriving, by the minute, to one of the largest freshwater docks in the world……

Where is the boat?  The boat is nowhere to be found.

Perhaps the event’s attendees were purposely told to arrive early so no one would miss the launch.  Damn you CPT.  Or perhaps the delay is naturally out of anyone’s control.  Whatever the reason, there will be no house music without a boat. 

Someone’s finger points north.  “Here she comes.” A New York accent announces.  Hopefully the boat’s late arrival does not foretell the luck to come.  No one knows what to expect on this 1st annual boat ride.  House on a Boat will either be the best or a bust.            

19:00

She arrives!  Her majesty shimmers in all her glory.  She measures 53 ft by 14 ft, is painted all white, is a double decker and appears ready to host the event of the year.  Names are checked, then crossed off a list.  Ticket stubs exchange hands.  One by one the people disappear into the grandeur vessel.  Once indoors, warm smiles greet the passengers who are pointed upstairs to join the festivities.  On the upper tier awaits two spacious decks, one at the boat’s front and the other in the rear.  The upper tier’s midsection is covered where underneath sits the bar.   Thus far, the bar in setup sees the most action.  People gather.  Soon, every seat at the bar is occupied with butts.  Voices chatter, gossip and laugh.  Also, they grow impatient.  “I need a drink.”    

Hawaiian flower necklaces are passed out to the lovelies.  The ladies wear the pink, green, purple or orange arrangements around their neck.  Thirty minutes later most of the necklaces have turned bracelets wrapped around wrists.  Summer dresses showcasing bold colors and displaying dazzling prints decorate the deck.  Wedge heels catwalk the carpeted floor.  Sculpted hairdos, fresh from salons, wow.  Brimmed fedoras sit atop heads.  One warrior appears stunned.  “People are, actually, dressed up.”   

19:15

The coordinators of the auspicious event work hard.  The Puerto Rican bartender with a broad smile and warm eyes is all too lovely.  She pulls her shoulder length hair to one side as she waits for bags of ice.  Later she volunteers a lovely, dressed in white from head to toe, from Uruguay to assist with mixing drinks.  The two create party bowls of mixed chips and pretzels.  Sugar Groove represents with bowls of sugary candy.  Menus advertise: one dollar bottled water, four dollar Sangria (crafted the correct way and not watered down) and five dollar mix drinks.  Bottles of Coca Cola, coolers of “That Drank” and jugs of Arroz con Gandules appear behind the bar.  “I’m going to be one happy man, once the bar is setup.”  One man announces ready to get his drink on.    The action continues at the fore as DJs plug cable chords into inputs.  A DIY light structure appears next to the boat’s driver’s seat.  After a quick sound check, the boat has yet to launch.  However, the late start does nothing to dampen the festivities.

19:35

Drinks pour.  “Cheers.”  Toasts are made.  People appear genuinely happy.  Movement is felt.  Could this mean?  Yes it does.  The boat has launched.

“Oooh! Ahhhh!”  Fingers point at and cameras click at the breathtaking beauty as the boat travels northbound.  Officially Lake Sydney Lanier is named after Macon, GA born poet and musician, Sidney Clopton Lanier for his inspiring “Song of the Chattahoochee.”  The man made body of water completed in 1956, was built and is controlled by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.  The lake, positioned in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of the state, lays 36 miles (57.92 kilometers) northwest of Atlanta.  Just in case someone feels homesick.  However, the urbanites are all too busy marveling at the lake that contains 59 square miles of water, 540 miles of shorelines and spreads into four counties.   

“Dinner Is Served.”  Hungry passengers waste no time rushing downstairs to the full kitchen, yes full-size kitchen equipped with working appliances: oven, stove and sink. 

Guests gobble on fried chicken, lemon pepper chicken wings, meatballs, rice and beans, mash potatoes, toss salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, chips and salsa, crackers and tuna, a fruit tray of melons, green grapes, purple grapes, strawberries and watermelon, desserts piled high of chocolate chip cookies, red velvet butter cream frosted mini cupcakes, and chocolate mousse mini cupcakes.  D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s!  Adjacent the kitchen is a spacious plush carpeted living area with contemporary furnishings that aim to please.  A thirty-inch plasma with satellite services sits on display in the entertainment center.  People sit and mingle on two comfy couches.   Bar stools positioned at cabinets allow for additional sitting.  The most impressive view is the outdoor fore deck.  People seated at the table eating are afforded a panoramic view of the boat treading through open waters. 

20:00

Hands clap.  Arms fly into the air.  Mouths open wide.  Feet shuffle on the tattered carpet.  Hoots and hollers accompany the music.  Grins turn to full smiles.  Heads bop up and down.  Bodies rock from left to right.  And so does the boat.  “Whoa.  People hold steady.”

A sizeable crowd writhes to the polarized pulling of afro futurism.  DJ BE plays the soundtrack to the most magnetic sunset.  Cameras capture snapshots of nature’s majestic splendor as the ball aglow disappears behind black waters and shaded trees.    

20:45

At nightfall, the dance, drinks, eats and laughs continue.  A figure standing well over six feet tall wearing a red baseball cap, a red shirt and white pants shifts the music to old-school disco house.  The grown and sexy crowd rush to the dance space.  The DJ’s name, Elliot Ness, illuminates in lights on his own DJ coffin.  To all you DJs, this is how you advertise. 

A familiar voice sings, “I Heard You Say.”  The crowd sings the rest.  The all too familiar kick drum punches from two speakers positioned between the DJ coffins.  The sound maybe clear, crisp and overly clean but the song is old, stale and tired.  Hey, it’s time for a bathroom break.  A walk downstairs and a right turn later, reveals there is more to this boat than meets the eye.  This is not just a boat this is a luxury house boat.  The master bedroom is a behemoth to behold.  A king-size bed is elevated by three black platforms.  The room’s furnishings are wood grained-a rustic yet modern appeal.  The bedroom contains a half bath that’s occupied.  Across the carpeted hall is the full bath with a, very slow, flushing toilet, sink and shower.  There is a line to use the bathroom, a very long line, that stretches down the hall to the closed off additional bedrooms and closet space.

Back upstairs, behind the DJ setup, NYC’s DJ Ruben Toro is seen canoodling the bartender’s mother who appears to have discovered the fountain of youth.  She blushes. 

“Welcome to the Red Room, honey, I can’t sell you what you already own, “a drunken voice calls from the wild.  Where the previous track played lacks vision, the follow-up track challenges.  Dennis Ferrer’s risqué, “Red Room” revs up the amps.  Timmy Regisford and Lynn Lockamy’s, “At the Club,” Jill Scott’s “Crown Royal” (Shelter Mix) and the latest smash, “Over” (Josh Milan Honeycomb Mix) by Joy Jones keep the dance floor rocking. 

21:00

The music fades into a whisper.  DJ Elliot Ness’ wife grabs the microphone and with the voice of angel makes an important public service announcement.  No one is sure of what to think. 

The music starts.  A voice hums a few notes.  Peculiarly, the smokey alto sounds as if it is singing live.  Surely that can’t be the case.  The disco-esque gospel-tinged vocals command attention.  Heads turn.  Bodies swivel 180 degrees.  Fifteen plus has gathered in front of the DJ setup.  Additional bodies rush front and center.  There stands a woman singing.  She wears a black lace top and black skintight pants decorated with crosses.  Her left wrist is wrapped with spring green Hawaiian flowers. Minds ponder.  Who is she?  What is the name of this song?  Inquiries can’t stop a slew of digital point and clicks that snap pictures and digital phones that record the spectacle.  Still the people remain totally clueless of who performs before their eyes.  The attendees were promised a surprise but this is no surprise.  Minutes pass, the song ends and the next song starts.  Familiar music explodes like fireworks in the peaceful night’s air.  The music time travels back to 1993.  The crowd screams.  They jump up and down.  They yell at the top of their lungs.  They get it.  Folks, this is Robin S commanding her all out only top 40 hit.  After the crowd of 30 years and plus composes themselves, or so they would have Robin to believe, she allows them to sing the hook, “Show Me Love.”  And love is what the crowd shows her.  They sing.  They dance.  They give her a heartfelt applause.

Then the “itus” attacks.  Bellies budge; the dance floor empties.  The party ebbs to a slow burn.

A baseball cap and a brown graphic tee with cupcakes on the front appear behind the coffin.  Sugar Groove’s DJ Swift takes the musical reins.  He summarizes the mood best when he plays the lyrics, “Deep. Deep Where The Sun Don’t Shine.  Deep is the Place I Call Home.”  The air is dark.  The water is deep.  The people can definitely call this boat home. 

On the boat’s rear lower floor is an open deck, minus any guardrails, or protective fencing.  Another blast of fresh air billows the brow.  The breeze feels serene, not to boisterous and not too faint.  The temperature is not too hot but the right amount of cool.  Mother Nature yet again provides the ultimate setting to a perfect night. 

Lounge chairs recline and conversations kick into full gear.  Topics range from the cost of next year’s boat ride to Robin S on the “mofo” boat.  Romantic couples hold hands.  The sound of the boat’s motor soothes.  Take off your sandals.  Dip your feet into the cold waters.  This is living that champagne life.    

Upstairs, Ruben Toro delivers with “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that brings two former Paradise Garage dancers who entertain with dance moves not seen this side of the century.   For everyone sitting down and watching, all eyes appear to be tired.  Eye lids close.  One dancer takes a disco nap.   Others recline in chairs.  Their body language reads: ready for bed.  Warm cups of coffee and strawberries are served to keep the guest energized.  One thing is for sure the party people will sleep well tonight. 

01:00

The boat picks up speed.  She lands safely at the dock. You don’t have to announce twice it’s time to leave. After a round of bear hugs and heartfelt goodnights are exchanged, the people dash to their parked vehicle.  Vroommm.  In less than ten minutes the completely dark parking lot sits completely empty.    

03:00

Zzzzzzz.

 House on a Boat sealed its permanent position in the city’s historic archives of house music.  Expectations were exceeded and preconceived notions crushed.  Besides the boat being tardy to the party, the event was fully executed with finesse.  Kudos to everyone involved: to those who envisioned, who seized the opportunity to create such a purposeful outing in these parts, the laborers who financially sacrificed, to the many DJs who rocked the boat, to the surprise special guest singer who re-launched her career, to the dinner buffet, to the drinks served at the bar, to the extra helper who volunteered at the bar, to the boat’s staff: greeter; Stephanie, kitchen server, Tacara, to the boat’s driver, Terry, who kept everyone safe and sound and a massive shout out to everyone who attended the first ever annual event. 

Next go round, interest will skyrocket.  Tickets will sell out in record time.  Attendees will appear in droves.  House on a Boat will only grow from here.  Get ready!!!  Atlanta now has two must attend house music events each year: the region’s largest outdoor house music annual park party and House on a Boat.  Honestly everyone must experience, at least, one boat ride trekking an alluring lake while grooving to the sounds of soulful house music.  See ya on the next.  

Words and Visuals by AJ Dance 

HOUSE ON A BOAT PT II LAKE LANIER 29.06.13

June 30th, 2013

Visuals: AJ Dance

GREENHOUSE 23.06.13

June 24th, 2013

Visuals: AJ Dance