Archive for April 16, 2011


April 16, 2011


“He’s warming up. Now, he’s starting to play,” yelled Mrs. Thang

What is a musical maestro called when he/she plays on a stubborn acting sound system? A PISSED off DJ.

This Tambor might have gone down in history as one giant, “technical difficult.” The culprit mainly attributed to the bass heavy sounding sound systems refusal to adhere to quality sound control standards. Several speakers dropped the sound at various stages throughout the night. Even before the night’s headliner took stage, sound difficulties arose during resident/founder Stan Zeff’s musical set as a speaker on stage failed. There, on stage, stood two sound technicians perplexed at finding a solution. With a quick jolt towards the opposite direction of the room one technician clad in all black bolted towards the venue’s motherboard that controlled the acoustics. Sadly, this marked the beginning of the end.

Was there a sound check? “Yes,” stated an online post on a social networking site.

So what went wrong? No one plausible answer abound. Instead, various interpretations offered various answers. One individual blamed the in-house sound system while another individual smiled and ignored the questions all together. Certainly, this seemed not like the Tambor that endured four venue changes in eighteen months and had out grown minor sound technical issues to secure a residence in the world of all things deep house music.

What complicates matters is that the event featured NYC’s Body & Soul, Sacred Rhythms master Joe Claussell the living instrument. What a wrong time for sound difficulties to prevail. Never does a DJ ever want to experience audio issues but this certainly should not be the case when an iconic DJ is up to bat. Joe Claussell settles for nothing less than the best in acoustic sensibility. The humble icon competitively rises above his peers by dismissing tired DJ techniques of mixing in and out of songs and standing statuesque as if wanting a pigeon to poop on his head and waiting for fan adoration. Instead, the tried and true DJ/producer/label owner/record store owner with no-ego (mind you) animates his sets with acrobatic jumps in circles on stage while operating the musical switchboard by tweeking the hell out of the mixer’s knobs as if to rip the controls off the face of the metal hardware itself. Dang, talk about heated energy.

How inspiring to watch a rarity work pulsating the air with unrestraint animation. So, let’s go into this world of unparalleled energy from the mastermind of Joe Claussell.

The loft space marked by the smell of fried buffalo chicken wings gave way to the smell of salty perspiration throughout the hours. The night’s anthem from South Africa’s deep house ambassador Black Coffee featuring the sultry haunting vocals from singer Thiwe’s, “Crazy” (Manoo & Francios A Deep Journey Mix) (played for the second time of the night) jumpstarted the capacitated room packed tight with musical tourists. There were visiting tribesters from South Carolina, Florida and even Seattle Washington. Folks bomb rushed the front of the DJ stage to snap pictures on camera phones and videographers with their video recorders in tote to film the living instrument at work. Manoo’s & Francois A’s ten plus minute afro-house kicker wooed those from the back of the room to the front of the room as hypnotic rhythms swelled the space to make happy feet. One of the maestro’s unique mixing techniques was the ability to play one song for fifteen minutes. Joe Claussell can take a song, start the song from the beginning and loop the track for a mere twenty minutes saturating the audience with musical marinate. The ability to ride a track and interpret every note played, every kick drum beat and the highs and lows of instruments through body movements and those facial expressions (let’s not forget those frowns and stank faces) is sheer talent. The ability to make a song speak a new language comes from the soul and to allow the audience to interpret its meaning is a God given gift amiss in the modern world of celebrity DeeJays.

Literally, the crowd went “Crazy” as Joe dropped the EQ’s, pitched the sound decibels out of this world and had the audacity to bang the bass on the crowd with fierce diligence. The people grew mad yelling at the top of their lungs understanding the impacting language of translation.

From there, Stephanie Cooke’s, “Love Will” (Roots Vocal Mix) with its Caribbean flavor brought all dancers to the floor once again possessed by screams with arms outstretched in the air as if in a revival church service. The music even disappeared to allow the audience to sing a cappella “Love Will/Love Will” before the soft rhythms returned to the mass.

Three songs into the brief troubled set a beautiful Georgia peach from Atlanta seemed to be rushed on stage to perform as several sound technicians converged on the sound system’s mother board in the room’s right rear. Draped in a multi-patterned gold ensemble, the current southern fried vocalist introduced herself as Miranda Nicole and her song, “Kissing You.” As she spoke into the microphone the acoustics sounded so distorted her high pitched voice came across as a high pitch squeal. With her mouth open wide, the soft soprano tried to work the room. However, the accompanying back-up music that rocked the room overpowered Miranda’s soft whispers. leaving the listener confused as to what she sung. If the listener, already not familiar with the tune, had no way to determine what was sung. As so, the make or break performance fell flat on a few deaf ears.

Once again, South Africa’s deep house reins came to the rescue. After the highly anticipated performance that proved a highly disappointed spectacle, several handclaps ripped from the speakers to the delight of scattered praise. Zakes Bitwana with Xolani Sithole on vocals, “Clap Your Hands” reigned supreme with no technical difficulties. A few songs later, as Joe’s body possessed by sacred rhythms acted out movements to the crescendo groove of a heavy track laden by Hammond B-3 organs romping over deep percussions (surprise) the music goes completely kaput. With arms raised in the air the living instrument displays disgust at the situation, the musical moment of spirituality has been compromised not only for the master but the followers.

Those standing near the stage took note of Joe’s frustrated visage and felt a chilly presence. It has to be noted when a professional DJ is not happy, it translates into his/her musical set and the audience can sense the same through the music. Yes, a few salty murmurs were heard throughout the room. However, during the unexpected interruption the night’s all-stars, the AUDIENCE’s enthusiastic synergy saturated the frustration in the air. The people so busy screaming barely perceived the issues at hand. The crowd overlooked the dilemma and stood ground with unconditional support. Not once did the crowd give up. As a matter-of-fact, the tribesters rhythmically took Joe’s hand, helped him to stand in the midst of the ashes and encouraged him to continue the musical journey with screams of unadulterated praise and approval. That’s what a party is all about.

Approximately 30 seconds after the mishap, African drums arose from the deep and the people danced. Not only did they dance they danced harder and screamed louder. Sensual flesh weaved from left to right in dynamic movements and if fortunate enough one had ample space to maybe spin around in circles. The room packed tight like a sweaty stench army barrack housed all of the foot soldiers. It was at this juncture of bodies meets souls that caused the crowd to beat with unconditional support. People were so wrapped up in heaven that there was no time to be preoccupied with minimal sound distractions. Above all, the need to have the best time prevailed throughout the arena.

By 2 am the stage exploded with a BANG!!! As if a heat seeking missile tanked the elevated platform, Joe Claussell really showed Tambor what he was all about. The energy in the room pulsated with musical contractions giving birth to unspeakable ecstasy. A sheer magnetic force of rhythms pulled dancing bodies closer to the stage and if not onto the stage. Even Joe’s vessel weaved and bopped deeper than it had ever during the night like a heavy weight boxer avoiding jabs in a world title fight. Those swift movements seemed to signal the coming storm of a musical assault that was about to slay the room with harmonious vengeance. The winds of change blew about the 5600 feet space, taking all prisoners within its path. Gone were the earlier plagues of sound difficulties exchanged for free flowing musical interaction between the living instrument and dancing vessels. Joe was in the flow. He continued to spin the mixer’s knobs by tweeking the EQ’s and dropping the bass on those able to stand. The combustible hearts of men and women violently leaped from chest cavities and exploded with fire. Screams of joy resounded as whistles shrilled and hands waved in the air. This was Tambor and there was no stopping the Joe Claussell train.

The musical rumble continued with Miranda Nicole’s, “Kissing You” (Libation Mix) also the night’s anthem that played for the second time in two hours. The blissful track of warm pads over choppy beats played for about fourteen minutes. In mid-song after the classy piano solo, the single was looped and started over from the beginning which pleased the crowd.

Josh Milan’s lusty, “Your Body” took Joe and the audience to cloud nine. What a high! Sweat rags waved in the hot air as shirts fell to the floor and stilettos were kicked off feet. Then came the Detroit Experiment’s, “Think Twice” (Henrik Schwarz Mix) with that pulsating Detroit Tech that drove the people mad. Not one mouth was closed as bodies were thrown in the air to a repeated piano riff while saxophones raged war over beating tech synths. The song’s steady melodic build-up could not cease a war’s army from the musical assault. By the song’s end the room resembled a war ravaged apocalypse.

Then the house lights were turned on that revealed sweat ridden faces and disheveled hair do’s or hair don’ts. Thankfully, that wasn’t enough to get Joe off the musical decks as he decided to save the best for last. Detroit’s soul crooner, Kem’s, “Heaven” (Marlon D and Groove Assassin’s Club Mix) galloped on a white horse and raptured all the saints to heaven in a twinkling of an eye. All the saints that were still left dancing on the floor rejoiced for this was heaven at its best.

Had it not been for the audience’s unrestricted praise and unbridled support the night might have flopped. However, the courage to draw strength from the inner spirit prevailed like a mustard seed of faith. Truly, this unrelenting character defines what special nights are made of. For the most enduring of all facts prevailed, various tribes of people harnessing the power to capture the essence of the DJ’s heart to catapult sacred rhythms into the universe.

All photographs by Carlos Bell for Carlos Bell Photography

CHEZ DAMIER 04.15.11

April 16, 2011


The storm promised to dampen the night’s festivities. Outdoors in the windy air lightning flashed and thunder boomed as a deluge fell from the sky. In the distance, several tornado sirens marked by repeated calls for shelter sounded throughout the metropolitan area. This deadly weather was highly unusual for a night out on the town. Or was it? After all, it was the month of April.

Despite the obvious, the show was scheduled to go on in the mid-size restaurant lounge/make-shift club located in the building marked by a painted mural of the late great civil right’s activist, Dr. Martin Luther King seen on the establishment’s outside wall adjacent a miniscule parking lot. The reason for this event, the night’s headliner Chicago native/Detroit adopted Chez Damier of Detroit Techno fame was in the house. Local legend Kai Alce, Chez’s former mentee warmed the brick and mortar space with smooth sounds of sexy saxophones, sensual beats and exotic chords. This was comfort music. The kind of music that kept you dry on a rainy spring night and warm on a cool spring night. The kind of music that accompanied a hot cup of tomato bisque. The kind of music that filled the restaurant with trendy hipsters yelping back and forth over small plates of tapas.

By the stroke of midnight the quaint venue lay claimed to be pack with people. No storm could discourage those from seeking a musical adventuresome night out on the time from attending. From left to right sexy bodies grinded to subtle beats as kisses were exchanged between strangers. It’s this unusual synergy that begs, is this a sit down restaurant or a dry humping niteclub? Only the owners of the hotspot scurrying back and forth with empty cocktail glasses in hand could answer the question. Everyone else was left to ponder should I stand up or should I sit down.

Finally, a 6 feet “6” 260 pound bouncer helped to move three rectangular tables out of the way to make extra dance space. Immediately, hard core dancers secured the prime real estate to show off fancy footwork and spacey spins.

Back behind the musical decks, Kai Alce seemed stuck somewhere between neo-soul house and soulful broken beats. Sultry female vocals wrapped around instrumentals sung, “That’s How Much I Love You” which met the crowd’s curious approval. However, the night’s stand out so far, Makam’s, “You Might Lose It” (Kerri Chandler’s Deep Mix) readied the crowd for Chez’s arrival. Taking a much needed cue from 1990’s house music peak, the tune made the feet dance with joy next to three JBL’s positioned throughout the room. If this was any indication of what to expect for the rest of the night then the people were in for a treat.

To say Chez’s set was nothing less than dynamite would do no justice. The Chicago DJ/producer led the crowd into classic house music territory of old-skool mid-west sound straight from the source itself Chicago. The first track played, shook the room with heavy four-counts that were heard down the street at the bustling intersection of Edgewood and Boulevard. Staccato jabs of synths ripped through the air to make fists violently pump with joy. Even the sound system with its precision clear crisp sound enhanced the acoustics that allowed for audio pleasure.

Song highlights included Whitney Houston’s 1988 Top 10 hit, “Love Will Save The Day” a classic white label remix played at NYC’s famed Sound Factory back in the mid-1990’s. Also, in the mix an afro-beat thumper that kicked the crowd into the African jungles dancing in dashikis and loin clothes. The deep penetration readied the crowd for what followed, French house DJ/producer Yass,’ “He Reigns” the 2007 gospel anthem with throat deep tenor vocals by Leslie O’ Smith. Another surprise in the well executed/well-rounded thought out classic house set came from Chicago’s Lil Louis, “Club Lonely” a four count straight up banging dub that blew the roof off the hinges. The classic house heads exploded with bliss as the beat disappeared in favor for “The No Name On The Guest List” conversation during the song’s mid-section climax.

After the righteous set, hometown hero Kai Alce closed the night out with Jazmina’s cover of, “Let The Rain Come Down” the sample heavy tune mixed with Frankie Knuckle’s, “Tears” aided by Robert Owens blissful vocals. The song(s) kept the hard core’s dancing and singing until the final note played. WOW! What a night.

On a side note, a must for any public venue is to have adequate comfortable room temperatures that allow your clientele to breathe easy without sweating buckets of water just by standing in the room. Please, do not burn your customers with unventilated hot air especially if they are dancing. Proper air ventilation and a working air conditioner are needed at a dance party. It’s only the month of the Aries and folks were sweating like it’s the dog days of summer. Enough already.