Posts Tagged ‘DJ Swift’


January 26, 2014




“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.


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.



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.



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.


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.


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.


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

HOUSE ON A BOAT 29.06.13

July 1, 2013

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 


February 24, 2013


 Crossroads is defined by a road that crosses another road, or a road that runs transversely to main roads.*


“Please Stand By” reads the words painted on the wall.    Around the corner, patrons sit at the bar, two pool tables entertain folk, “Pulp Fiction,” plays on several monitors, tired butts sit on couches, and a kid’s horsy ride sees no action.  Over here hangs HD plasmas.  Overhead hangs shiny disco balls.  Over there hangs a speaker monitor from the ceiling.  On the wall behind the DJ booth a graphic novel’s storyboard of love-scorn characters is painted, adjacent that wall freighting abstract heroines pose, as a painted naked anime girl blows a kiss from the DJ booth.  The room with entirely too much activity, dance floor is completely empty.

A pillar of afro house blesses the lifeless floor.  Where is everyone?  Perhaps viewing the event’s live stream video in comfort on a laptop at home.  The time reads eleven thirty.  By the time the hour hand strokes midnight the crowd peaks to forty-something.  A wandering eye questions is this as good as the attendance will get?  Yes. 

Techie synths, Latin percussions and sacred rhythms gather brave sojourners to join the dance ritual. This sacrament comes courtesy from the minister of sound DJ Ausar.  Neither rare or common, the mouth covered DJ runs onto the floor, dances, and returns to the DJ booth to cue the next song.  This is all a night of fun for the city’s Kalakuta radio show host.  However, his night of fun is not without technical difficulties. 

Stop Jealousy,” by Boddhi Satva featuring Ze Pequino (Culoe De Song Kamnguni Remix), the final song in Ausar’s blessing, sets the place ablaze.  That is, until the song lives up to the first word in its title and comes to an abrupt stop.  Please, not again.  Where Ausar drops the ball is where the night’s guest headliner from New York City picks up.   

Sugar Groove’s guest DJ, producer and remixer extraordinaire always manages to bring the “WOW” to the event.  Anyone for electric guitars that scream over afro house, acoustic guitars that pluck sweet goodness from melodic harmonies, pulsating bass lines that transform into staccato jabs of Latin percussions, a Hammond B-3 that takes the track to church and piano keys that play a dazzling sound spectacle worthy of the world’s tenth wonder?  Then look no further than Louie “Lou” Gorbea.  The man knows his music. He knows instruments.  This is his crossroads of diverse sounds.    

Whew.  The music starts.  Lou sheds his jacket, adorns his bald head with a Crossroads shroud much like the ceremony of a minister robing before delivering a sermon.  Lou’s sermon starts with a fiery blast of energy, equivalent to a preacher’s heaven and hell brimstone tactics.  Except, DJ X-Trio provides the brimstone. The “Africa” track pumps at 125 beats per minute leaving behind the previously afro house tracks at speeds of 120 BPMs.  Wait one minute as dancing feet play catch up. 

The minister of music delivers an uplifting message of vocals and soul-stirring music form the global unity anthem of Black Coffee featuring Hugh Masekela’s “We Are One,” to the Elements of Life featuring Josh Milan’s optimistic “Children of The World (Dub),” to the old-school gospel-esque Joe Smooth featuring Anthony Thomas’ “The Promised Land.”    

Trouble brews.  Just like a thief in the night, the enemy sends in a distraction.  Here comes Jezebel.  She is dressed in a black bustier and black knee high boots.  She walks up to the DJ booth to deliver a message to the minister.  “Turn down the bass.”  Jezebel commands before turning around and walking into a chained cage where the distraction decides to put on a show.  Epic fail.  This is no burlesque.  Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

The bass plays “ a whomp, a whomp, a boom” and the music continues.  Pop pusher Lana De Rey sounds innocent yet willing singing “Video Games” over an afro house treatment.  One of the party’s surprise treats.  Some dancers cheer; other dancers are distracted.  The beguilement abounds; conversations, laughter, friendly pranks, actor Samuel L. Jackson’s horrible jheri curl wig, Jezebel gyrating in the chained cage and the hotties mounting white horses.  The room becomes a circus.  Sadly, the music becomes muddled, lost in translation.  That is…..

Until DJ Swift’s, of Sugar Groove, laptop driven music set, surprisingly, places the focus back on the music.  An on the fly remix of “golden voice” Akram Sedkaoui’s on Jerk House Connection’s “Each and Every Day (Life Goes On), with the bass, middles and highs from Maya Jane Cole’s “Simple Things” brought feet dancing back to the floor.  Swift rewinds time playing not one but three Dennis Ferrer’s anthems from yesteryear; Joey Negro presents the Starburst Band’s “Journey to The Sun” (Dennis Ferrer Remix), “Church Lady” and “P 2 Da J.”  NYC’s club Shelter knocks on Atlanta’s club Shelter door with Jill Scott’s “Rolling Hills” (Shelter Mix).  The 1999 tribal banger, Men From The Nile’s “Watch Them Come” takes the dancers around the world to close the party.   

The party had its share of challenges, some expected and others not so expected.  Sadly, the venue kills the vibe. No wonder the attendance slacks.  Sugar Groove must be at a crossroads.  The question begs further growth away from the venue or a slow death at the venue.          

Words and photography by AJ Dance


RUBEN TORO 22.09.12

September 23, 2012


The candy man was back at it at again, but this time at a new home called the Shelter and not to be associated with the NYC club with the same moniker.

Fred Everything’s featuring Wayne Tennant “Mercyless” (Atjazz Mix) greeted guests at the front door.  Traveling up a flight of wooden stairs that landed safely on the second floor where door fees were paid in full and the left hand was stamped, one viewed the sounds of razor sharp synths mercilessly slice and dice fellow dancers on the dance floor.  Immediately thereafter appeared, neon blue and red glow sticks dancing to a beating cowbell.  Cough, as a couple of lit cigarettes traveled by spewing their poisonous venom into the air.    

Having thought this was a real night club and not a Corner Tavern- minus the wooden jumbo dining booths-carbon copy of the restaurant chain scattered throughout the city, the displayed tableau reeked disappointment.  The décor seemed a bit confused, stuck between Midwest Saloon and slutty art show with two shiny disco balls hanging from the ceiling.   The rear of the former restaurant housed two pool tables, adjacent the dance space sat a mechanical horse kiddy ride (found at the K-marts of old) as paintings of three-fourths naked anime girls totting guns hung on walls.  Alongside the room’s right wall sat the only bar that served a pretty tastful “Sex On The Beach.”  However, no sex or beach would be found near or far.  Only a wooden floor would quench such appetites that safely allowed dancing feet to sway softly and smoothly without sending knees to the operating room.  The venue’s frontal feature, a platform stage, with a birthday party in progress, sat underneath two ceiling speakers that banged out a not so clear and crisp auditory effect. Four monitors dispersed throughout the establishment played the Box Office flop, “Suckerpunch” that proved much more entertaining and eye appealing than the environment’s aesthetics and the cacophony fugging up the party.

Opposite the bar, in the DJ booth, veteran DJs sounded more like amateurs.  A frustrated looking DJ Yusef having much difficulty mixing in and out of songs played three no-no’s; Jill Scott’s, Crown Royale”(Timmy Regisford Mix), Distant People’s featuring Nicole Mitchell “Make Me Over” and the latest interpretation of Gregory Porter’s “1960 What?.”  Even Atlanta’s starling Miranda Nicole’s “Kissing You” (Rune Mix) proved fatal and couldn’t save this train wreck.

Next up, Sweat Zone’s DJ Ant B preferred classics over contemporaries.  Frankie Knuckles’ Presents Satoshi Tomiie featuring Robert Owens “Tears” and Lil Louis “Club Lonely” could have stayed bolted and locked in the vaults of yesteryear’s record crates.  However, the packed dance floor disagreed.

Bar none, this was the largest crowd Sugar Groove had hosted.  From the dance space, bodies overflowed.  Don’t get it twisted.  Most of these cats were age forty, heck they were older than age forty-five.  So there was not much in the form of eye-candy, unless over-the-hills rock your boat.

Damn the mixer that continued to wreak havoc as songs were cued in and out of with nauseated annoyance.  Songs transitioned from mere off-count to overtly mismatch.  The people  “hooted” and “hollered” and rollicked with no care.  Only the city’s plentiful of DJs and a few spoiled house heads kept note. On a side note, why was Marlon D’s “Jesus Creates Sound” played twice within the same hour by two different DJs?  The song is a classic but c’mon, twice in one night.  Really?

DJ Ant B brilliantly added into the pot Stardust’s 1998 epic, “Music Sounds Better With You” before transitioning into the gazillion interpretation of Goyte’s mammoth “Somebody That I Used To Know.”

As the candy man DJ Swift mumbled a few shout-outs into the microphone, the bowls filled with gooey Laffy Taffy and crunchy Dum Dum Pops proved more satisfying to the palette than the music.

Afterwards, NYC’s Ruben Toro who sported the shimmering initials rt on a black tee came on board and took the crowd circa 1995 with The Bucketheads’, “The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind).”  Miraculously, ALL mixing and sound technicalities disappeared.  Uhmm?!?  As the speaker’s sound output increased, Ruben transitioned from song to song without a trace of trouble.  Sadly, too much went on in the Temple Movement ambassador’s musical concoction.  Everything But The Girl’s “Missing” surfing over house music’s mellifluous waves  to Rufus & Chaka Khan’s “Any Love” jockeying over a Quentin Harris’ “My Joy” galloping drum loop to the newly minted, “Sometimes” (Timmy Regisford Mix) scared hard-core dancers off the floor and away to the bar, bathrooms and even outdoors.   The former Shelter DJ mixed the music with the vigor of NYC’s Shelter lead Timmy Regisford and his former protégé Quentin Harris that proved at times welcomed and at others times a big fail.  By 1:30 am tired bodies aimlessly disappeared as another round of soul searchers entered the establishment.  The night that took off to a dizzying start of disastrous sound difficulties ended with a many of happy feet dancing.

Of course, Sugar Groove will find its footing after a few tweaks and adjustments (and a new mixer) at its new home.  In the meantime, whispers can only hope that it will not take long.

Words & Photography by AJ Dance

MR. V 10.08.12

August 11, 2012


Sugar Groove

Welcome to the Sugar Groove Factory, the place where sugar grooves fall from tall dark chocolate speakers like gumdrops spewing from vending machines gone mad. The Sugar Groove Factory is where deep-fried house music is played, where spontaneous bubblegum remixes are concocted, and where both are sweetened to orectic the ear buds. C’mon folks, give the SGF one try and you’ll be hooked like a sugar addict. Here, the dance floor is covered with powdered sugar. Why? Not only does the granular substance help your feet glide across the floor, but its flavor makes the dancer’s dance moves sweeter. So why are some people clueless to the Sugar Groove’s sweet concoctions? Perhaps, the reason is because it’s the newest offering from the mastermind whiz of the jester hatter, DJ Swift.

On a candy-coated night in the Old Fourth Ward’s sweet-tooth district of battered in shake-n-bake bars and cooked in butter and grease restaurants, the pop-up Sugar Groove Factory plopped right next door to a delectable tiny eatery known for its killer six dollar plate specials and knock em’ dead cocktails. Although Sugar Groove wasn’t merely concerned with yielding edible small plates to hungry diners as much with providing groovy sugar-coated ear-candy music for the hungry to dance to dance to.

Outdoors the factory’s walls rattled with “rat-a-tat -tats” from the frequent knocks of deep bass lines. Was this going to be a dubstep soiree? Yeah, right. Indoors, Atlanta’s, DJ 1derful had the bass cued on full throttle to an empty room. Where were the party people? Perhaps, applying fard to their faces. The night was still young and DJ 1derful assumed opening music gestures. The jovial DJ played sugary coated sounds that bounced off glazed covered walls and oozed with ooey-gooey melted goodness as chocolate-peanutty beats banged under frosted covered vocals. He also, played like no one was watching-partly because no one was there to watch-by singing the lyrics and pumping his fists into the air. It was during the mixologist’s final number, when he dropped a surprise golden goody from a tasty Jill Scott remix called “My Love.”

Up next, DJ BE delivered a bag full of deep-fried afro house nuggets that made mouths moan, “Uhmm, yummy” and made for some happy tummies. The Diversified Sounds creator’s golden goodie was a deep-fried crepe overstuffed with plump strawberries and topped with drizzled melted chocolate from French producer Yass with, I Go Deep assisted by gospel-esque vocals from LT Brown.

Like Willy Wonka standing at the gates of the Chocolate Factory, minus the cane, the candy man DJ Swift appeared onstage behind three laptops, (yes, there were more laptops onstage than CD players) two CDJs and one mixer, adorning his signature multi-colored jester headwear and black-rimmed spectacles. The zany Sugar Groove founder possessed seven golden goodies which would unlock the inner workings of the Sugar Groove Factory. (One golden goody will be used for the reader of this blog (you) to answer the trivia question found in this post.) Recall that DJ 1derful, who opened the party, played one golden goody. Then DJ BE followed with the party’s second golden goody. The third golden goodie belonged to the whimsical DJ Swift which unlocked the door to a treasure trove of sweet treats from the late Rick James, “Ghetto Life” (FTL Mix) to the sweet sounds of UK’s Nathan Adams & Zepherin Saint, Circles.” The transition of the fourth golden goody occurred during the lollipop Lil Louis classic, “Club Lonely” with Joi Cardwell singing swirling sweet melodies. Golden goody number four sent the factory’s oven temperatures soaring to 475 degrees Celsius’s as the party people leaped in the air, performed triple spins and yelled at the top of their lungs. It was time to break out the sweat rags as sweat rolled down their brows. The party people were baking hot.

The night’s special headliner, party man, Mr. V from NYC who comically pulls off titles like,”Da Bump,” “Put Your Drink Down,” and In Da Club (Shake $h*! Up)(although, his tunes of late has had a more serious overtone than the all night party anthems) had been at the Sugar Groove Factory for some time; chilling, drinking, hanging outdoors on the smoker’s heavenly patio, and indoors adjusting, tweaking and fine-tuning the sound system for the night’s tasty delicacies. The Sole Channel co-owner, having been on the DJ stage for some time, was ready to start his own Pop-Rock explosions. What the people had yet to realize and weren’t prepared for was where they would be led. But first up, in order to partake of the festivities the party people had to swear on one piece of very important advice-to not give away the Sugar Groove’s secret formula. BEWARE of the many DJ’s in the house (nine of them at last count), compared to the actual number of party people in attendance, who were all eager and hungry to get their hands on Sugar Groove’s secret formula.

Swiftly and suddenly, Mr. V opened door number one thanks to golden goodie number four. The crowd was rushed off on a magical boat ride over red Kool-Aid waters. “PLEASE, people don’t drink the waters or you might intake too much sugar, pass out and be sucked into the waters only to disappear forever.” The water’s sugar formula had yet to be tested on humans. The dressed in all black,I Can Sing singer via auto-tune, DJed while the SGF’s party people danced to Rufus and Chaka Kahn’s, “Any Love” in awestruck against the backdrop of a majestic red waterfall. In plain sight, these otherworldly little people, known as the Candy Dancers, who worked in the Sugar Groove’s candy fields picked peppermint candies off tree branches and danced around in celebration. The Candy Dancers wore white loafers or platform shoes underneath brown bell-bottoms, underneath un-tucked silk-shirts with open butterfly collars while sporting giant afros singing the lyrics to GQ’s, “Disco Nights.” Mr. V the producer/songwriter/rapper/DJ had the party people acting like ADHD school children playing disco music from the likes of Carl Bean’s original gay anthem (eat your heart out Lady Gaga), “I Was Born This Way,” Diana Ross,’ “Love Hangover” (Instrumental), and MFSB’s, “Love Is The Message.” Then the boat traveled underneath a bridge that transformed into a tunnel where the vessel came to a maddening stop. Without missing a beat as the early 1970’s British funk band, Cymande’s, “Bra” instrumental midsection played, golden goodie number five opened the next door. Right before the eyes of the party people laid an immense room filled with shiny music equipment. The party people danced off the boat and danced straight onto the D Train. That’s right, Mr. V revved up D Train’s 1981 classic, “You’re The One For Me” as the party crossed into the threshold of the decadent 1980’s. The D Train toured the majestic studio where the Sugar Groove music was concocted, cooked and served. “PLEASE, people keep all arms and hands in the train. Do not reach out of the windows to touch the equipment because the equipment might spontaneously combust taking you with it.” The music gear was safe proof and had a fingerprint scanner fit to scan and accept only the impressions of DJ Swift and the otherworldly Candy Dancers. The music equipment came to life and moved and grooved to 1987’s Ralphi Rosario Presents Xaviera Gold’s, You Used To Hold Me.” Once again, the otherworldly Candy Dancers appeared dusting off and polishing the music equipment while singing the lyrics to a drum splattering remix of, “Once In A Lifetime” from the 1980’s New Wave band Talking Heads. This time the Candy Dancers wore Jheri curls that dripped activator onto Member’s Only jackets on top of ripped acid-washed jeans accompanied by sneakers with red swoosh signs. As the train left the room, Mr. V segued into the 1988 hip-house anthem from the Jungle Brothers, “I’ll House You.” The train sped faster and its engine pumped harder four-count thumps. Off it traveled into the world of 1990’s house music. Up next, V ignited the British group Coldcut featuring the blue-eyed soul legend, Lisa Standfield on, “People Hold On” (Blaze New Jersey Jazz Vocal Mix). Lisa wasn’t singing “People Hold On” for nothing as the train came to an abrupt stop forcing the dancers to erk and jerk, back and forth. The party people were all about Boris Dlugosch Presents BOOOM and Inaya Day’s, Keep Pushin from 1996 that greeted them at door number three. The party people pushed off the D Train and into some kind of snazzy television/video editing room, filled with seven large flat screen monitors displaying the various on goings of the SGF. Three monitors sat side-by-side on one row while above them on the second row sat three additional monitors. One other larger monitor sat off to the right of the room all by its lonesome. “PLEASE people, don’t touch the video equipment as it might shrink you into digital sound waves and shoot you to a satellite in outer space.” In the 1990’s heyday of house music the beats banged harder and the vibe was accurately portrayed on this sugar-filled journey. Suddenly, Mr. V whipped out Masters at Work Presents People Underground’s, “My Love” the night’s sweetest serenade that sent everyone into sugar-induced comas. Those otherworldly Candy Dancers appeared and sang Michael Watford’s 1994 soulful wails that became the night’s unparalleled anthem. A dubbed vocal version of, “Work” played as those otherworldly Candy Dancers dressed in long T-shirts, brightly colored baggy denim overalls over brown boots, sported slanted high-top fades and dookie braids, danced about and cleaned the video equipment. After the coma-induced party people awoke and danced out of the video editing room, golden goody number seven opened door number four. The party people had danced straight into the arms of the twenty-first century’s current climate and into a scene straight form the jungles of Africa. Before their eyes, golden lions danced with golden giraffes that danced with golden hippopotamuses and up above their heads flew golden geese that laid golden eggs. “PLEASE, people do not touch or pet the golden animals because they will swallow you alive.” Those otherworldly Candy Dancers draped in white loin cloths danced in circles around a fire to Afefe Iku’s, Dakountdown.” A deep house nugget of New Zealand’s pop hit band, Gotye featuring Kimbra’s, “Somebody That I Used To Know” kept the party people on their feet. Rounding out the afro experience was an a cappella rap of First Choice’s classic, “Let No Man Put Asunder” that played over an Fela tribute afro-beat filled with horns screaming over percolating percussions.

Wheww. The hip hop sounds of A Tribe Called Quest and R&B soul outfit Lucy Pearl welcomed the party people back to the Sugar Groove Factory’s main room where their lively adventured had started. All had returned safe and sound. The attendance numbers even proved positive as a few hitchhikers were picked up during the journey. This party rocked consistent moist baked anthems and not cookie cutter copycats; so it was understandable that the party people were worn out with tummy aches from all those sticky-sweet treats. Maybe too much sugar can be a bad thing. Is that possible?

Congratulations, you made it to the end of the journey without spilling Sugar Groove’s secret formula. Now answer this. Can you name the special guest rapper that appeared on the golden goodie number one Jill Scott, “My Love” remix? The first individual to correctly answer the question and respond with the correct answer on FB will win a golden goodie courtesy of AJ Dance. Good luck.

Words & Photography by AJ Dance