1st Annual House On A Boat
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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