Archive for January 22, 2012
Outdoors in the starry-eyed January night the warm sounds of DJ Octopuz’s, “House Music All Nite Long” (Deep Octopuz Mix) escaped the wooden locked doors to the heart of the venue. But indoors the saga played a different tune. The night was off to a slow start; a super slow start; so slow that a budding sense of sympathy was felt for Tambor’s founding fathers DJ Stan Zeff and DJ BE and apprehension for Timmy Regisford. As a matter of fact a Felix the Cat with dollar signs for eyeballs strutting across a pink canvas on a corner brick wall saw more action than the dance floor. It was the artwork from vendor Hie Cue selling painted portraitures to painted earrings from the likes of MJ to the other MJ (Mary J. Blige) that is. Also, the room was hot; not only from DJ BE’s brilliant deep house opener but from the venue’s central heater playing second fiddle to Jamie Wood’s, “Weak” (Maurice Joshua Main Mix).
As the party’s momentum maneuvered from subzero to boiling hot; the crowd grew and with it several outlandish outtakes. A camera’s bright flash blinded the room, causing a sensitive Timmy to wave in disapproval. Several hand held smartphones danced in the air with touch screen buttons stuck on record filming the shirtless wonder. The battle grounds were formed as dancers squared off in combative rounds. All of this occurred while the sound system’s volume escalated from ear pleasing too ear shrieking.
Timmy the provocateur most certainly spoke his own language through beats and song. New York deep house music has that distinctive minimal tribal flavor that dances on its own two feet without the need of aid. It’s this language that NYC’s club Shelter speaks and the purview which Timmy rained upon Tambor. For better or worse, many of the city’s house heads are NYC offspring that dictate Atlanta’s deep house center.
Perhaps the night’s greatest audio pleasure came from Englewood, New Jersey native-not a stones throw away from NYC-Atlanta, GA transplant Regina Belle’s, “Baby Come To Me” a sultry, sensuous, and soulful 1989 R’n’B ballad sounding so fresh and so clever served over a deep bed of house. Who would have thought it? As the vocals built to a rousing crescendo Timmy killed the music to allow the crowd to vocally climax. This whimsical remix was this year’s solution to last year’s “Careless Whisper” by George Michael remixed by Abicah Soul that replicated the exact emotions. By far, this sugary concoction sealed the night’s fate. Another standout from earlier in the night beamed bright from soul hitter Adele with, “Set Fire To The Rain” (Timmy Regisford Mix) that needs an XL/Columbia label representative’s blessing to be officially remixed because that ish sounded too hot to pass up.
Keeping the party’s thermostat on max, Peven Everett’s, “Burning Hot” brought more heat to the scene and set the room ablaze. “Burning Hot” simmered to a heated boil that was allowed to explode into “Think Twice” from The Detroit Experiment remixed by Henrik Schwarz with that three bar piano intro. Apropos, the latter seems to be the unspoken theme of every NYC deep house DJ. Later, Peven Everett’s second offering, “Simmer” remixed by the night’s all-star headliner cooled the room to comfortable temperatures as the song itself was allowed to stand on its own merits minus the extras.
During the night, certain songs mimicked the shade of gray straddling the fence of audible indistinguishably. Certain beats spoke louder than the vocals clawing for the lime light in a dim club. Trying to decipher the first verse to MJ’s 1979, “Off The Wall” or Jodeci’s, “Cry For You” proved dizzying.
Mad props to Timmy’s inveterate style of mixing not one but two but three songs at once, but perhaps if certain songs were allowed to shine on their own without additional frills the music would have had a more pragmatic scope. Instead, punched drum loops, pulsating percussions and percolating piano riffs served raucous to music’s audible clarity. The far too many drop heavy drum kicks served as slight nuances. Although the beats; diverse in their own right, molded together sounded like incessant chatter. Was someone out to beat the life out of the music? Or perhaps the ability to hear out of people’s ears? This made for a mad night and by far not the kind meant for gentle words. After all, the highs and lows of stereophonic are what makes for legendary nights. Right?
All photography by Carlos Bell
Winter kissed the stiff dark air with the breath of icy condensation on perhaps one of the coldest nights of the year thus far. Within the heated warmth of a cozy bar in the heart of midtown a deep conversation ensued about the lack of qualified dance venues in town and how this misfortune contributes to the want of souls on the dance floor. Eerily, not an hour or so had passed when the two conversationalists had found themselves at a hipster hang-out sinisterly disguised as a restaurant by night and a dance club by late night.
CALLING ALL HOUSE HEADS TO THE DANCE FLOOR.
There’s a rhythm to the space. People must respect the dance floor. One cannot step on shoes, fling elbows and bump into people restricting the flow of the dancer’s movements. This is the dancer’s space. Their sanctuary. As much as it delights to see a diverse crowd partying like rock stars, sometimes ire lingers that screams for those wannabes to go and crawl back into the holes from which they came. If you’re holding conversations on the dance floor, please move outside. If you’re too preoccupied with the alcoholic beverage you’re holding in hand, please move outdoors. If you’re busy trying to score narcotics on the floor, then move it outside. If you’re taking up too much space on the dance floor freaking your erected partner then move it aside. If you’re too busy having a faux lesbian encounter licking face and swapping saliva, definitely move it outdoors where it’s cold and cool off.
Evidently, everyone and their momma received the e-vite to this party as the confined shoebox was packed wall to wall. All kinds of people from all walks of life showed up and showed out. The old heads domed in hats to cover ski slopes danced with skinny leg hipsters crowned with baseball caps; the party girls with bleached platinum blond threads mixed with the city’s soul heirs wrapped in winter scarves over green graphic tees; the free spirited bohemians with head ornaments shook hands with the music purveyors analyzing every song played as a vampire actor cruised the room. The club’s (oops restaurant’s) vibe was fair, but made for all show, as a culinary frozen meal delivered from a microwave served in an exclusive restaurant to the lacking of tastes. The esoteric couldn’t help but debate if this was real. Of course, having a local neo-soul singer and the cast of a vampire network show lounge upstairs only made the situation at hand more complex.
As the seconds marched towards minutes the atmosphere revealed a frenzy of happenings; a whirlwind of haze as smash-up memories were blurred into mush. What was this place where people seemed stoned and others overly intoxicated? There was a rush to make sense of the mad chatter, dark displays and subterranean beats. But then it all made since, the event’s rare appearance from a headliner via the pond en route from London appeared in the DJ booth with the neon green painted wall.
The “Something For The Weekend” vocalist Ben Westbeech seems to be one of those wicked mates. American translation: A Good Time Charlie. All one has to do is just click on the “Something For The Weekend” video to find the handsome chap frolicking through high thread count cotton sheets and spilling champagne with not one but TWO lingerie clad models. It’s this persona Ben enjoys the most that oozes into his laptop centered DJ sets. So don’t take the trained cellist too seriously but then again you can’t but take his craft seriously. It’s this contradiction that baffles the mind like a kid with ADHD but provides the reason for the singer’s unstable duo- persona. The respected average height and average build DJ/singer/songwriter/producer’s ambience transformed the building with a split-image horse painted mural and an expired museum ad exhibit that replaced the once orthodox Dr. Martin Luther King Junior close-up into a hotbed of beats, sex and decadence.
The jack of all trades straddled the room with a triad contraction; playing Masters of Ceremony, crooning with a sultry voice and dropping heavy hitting beats. The songster dropped the original music to, “So Good Today” his huge hit which garnered acclaim on the serious level by singing live vocals with the crass and soul of a blue-eyed Billy Dee Williams. Later, followed perhaps the night’s most ambitious undertaking the crowd singing/yelling, “Can I Get A Little Something For The Weekend” with Ben muting the music to allow the crowd’s praise to assume forefront duties. And it worked. The spectacular moment solidified the crowd’s knowledge of what was going on and who was getting down. At times the songster/DJ became so worked up, throwing up his arms in the air and jumping up and down and around in the DJ booth that he could have easily been mistaken for a god-plex DJ hero. Even so, Ben continued having so much fun with the audience that he slammed the breaks on the music and abruptly killed, Crystal Water’s, “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” and yelled into the microphone, ”I’m not going to play the song unless you sing along.” Having rivaled nerves the owner of the venue ran into the DJ booth to offer cautionary advice. It’s all good because the people sang, “La da dee, La dee da” at the top of their lungs as the impeccable sound system pumped a heavy bassline that made the head wobble with whimsical joy. Then the British accent resounded, “We’re going old school house” as the audience cheered ever more.
So the crowd transported back to the 1990’s peak era of house music’s golden years, with the likes of Hardrive’s aka Masters At Work, “Deep Inside” with diva Barbara Tucker’s vocals bringing more heat and Jaydee’s, “Plastic Dreams” from the Dutch/Italian DJ duo; transitioned from receding hairlines to high-top fades. Running orchestra strings of Carrie Lucas sampled, “Dance with You” stirred into the pot as Jaydee’s, Plastic Dreams” drum loop followed behind to welcome warm vocals from Duane Harden singing, “You Don’t Know Me” by 1990’s powerhouse producer Armand Van Helden. There were a slew of sound bites from the intro of Robin S, “Show Me Love” to The Bucketheads with, “The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)” that tickled and tempted the crowd’s ears silly with tantalizing expectations. Rounding out the nostalgia, Kings of Tomorrow’s, “Finally” with Julie McKnight on vocals, ushered the aughties and blazed new trails into the 21st century house scene.
Yet again, the unassuming Ben quickly pulled out another alter ego, Breach from his programmable bag of software; as if transforming from singer turned DJ wasn’t enough. Talk about ADHD. The much welcomed alias delivered a harder edge drop reminiscent of that 1990’s bass-driven house nostalgia from Chicago’s “Juke” to Chicago’s “Ghetto House.” There was no stopping this Doctor Jekyll/Mr. Hyde complex that announced, “I’m going to slow it down for the deep heads” which sat all too well with the crowd. If slowing the music down to sing live the lyrics to Hamburg, Germany’s outfit Lovebirds, “Want You In My Soul” the number one house track of the year on a certain digital house music website is going deep then so be it because what would follow next would be the night’s real butt kicker. An overexposed rapper whose famous wife had just recently given birth to a famous baby came rapping from the speakers. WTH?!? RME. Hip-hop had reared its head. The Brits can be known for paying homage to hip-hop during the final hour of their music sets. Respectably Ben’s musical palette wavered all over and not just staling the life out of one particular sound and time period. Every genre from UK 2-step to electro to new school vs old school registered on the radar. Certainly not two dimensional this musical set came across three dimensional which challenged the limber notion of predictability.
Technically speaking, since there was no dance floor or not much dance space in the restaurant due to overcrowding a hasty dash was made to check out the sights and sounds of the party in progress next door at Space 2. Two DJs on a make shift wooden stage bumped out funky house grooves under a bed of R’n’B croons from Brit sensation Estelle’s, “American Boy,” to 1990’s new jackers Blackstreet’s, “No Diggity” to Brown & Steve Littlemen’s “Changin” (Vernon & DaCosta Mix). Talk about some fresh air. This happening was even more dynamic because of the excess space to move about, to walk around and to dance freely from obstructions. What an unexpected closer to a dizzying night.