Posts Tagged ‘Mike Zarin’
Where is the Love?
The City That Abandoned Funky House
Bye bye. The city’s funky house music days are done. For a city that is too busy partying, it sure does know how to kill a scene. Namely, funky house music, the sub-genre of house music. For those that missed funky house music’s obituary and its home-going service in this city, please, read on.
Our beloved funky house music transitioned to the heavens. The music that once captured devoted hearts and lifelong fans in this city may be gone but its memories will never be forgotten.
Funky house music was the life of the party. However, its sound was no one-man show but a contemporary that was influenced by the unexpected. Its friends; boogie, disco, funk and R n B all contributed to its song. Vocals, television theme shows and rap lyrics performed its message. Funky’s love for electronic synthesizers, heavy samples and soulful bass lines defined its character and established its charisma.
Birthed on Chicago’s North Side during the decade of excess, funky house was one of house music’s many children-ghetto house, juke house and acid house-to birth during the cities electronica renaissance. The noughties secured funky house music’s global popularity thanks, in part, to the westward expansion of Chicago’s house music DJs and America’s rave culture. Funky hosue music continued its reign throughout the close of the twentieth century and into the early twenty-first century until it retreated into fragmented territories.
Funky house music lived; edgy, energetically, vibrantly and full of life. It paid no relevance to playing it safe or ever slowing down. Its heartbeat pumped at 125 to 130 beats per minute. Its pulse marched to the beat of its own drum loops of build-ups and breaks downs that resembled a kick-ass rollercoaster ride of drama. This rollercoaster ride of drama is what kept many of players out dancing all night and playing its song till the wee hours of the morning light. Much can be said for its demise however, one fact is certain, funky house music was loved. Its sound is survived by parent house music and siblings, soulful house, and deep house.
The funeral service schedule:
Cory Benoit & William Caldwell 9 pm
Silk Wolf 10 pm
Mike Zarin 11 pm
Charles Feelgood 12 am
Cory Benoit & William Caldwell 2am till close
The Funeral Service
Can you hear the music? When the single frame door with a putrid black paint job opened, an upbeat melody with pronounced four counts announced its presence. The merry melody escaped captivity. It blew outdoors where it froze in below freezing temperatures on the coldest night of the year of the snake.
Up the stairs, “Please Stand By,” pass the lovely money collector, “Hi!!!”, pass the ID checker, “Yes, I’m older than 21” and around the corner…..
Startled!?! The scene appeared to be a funeral that no one bothered to attend. What happened? Invites were distributed. Social media websites visibly promoted the event. Yet, the faces of family expected to show played ghost. The majority of the few faces, present, appeared frighteningly unfamiliar. Had funky house music a mistress with relatives no one knew? Damn funeral surprises. Not surprisingly, the few supporters in attendance were scattered across the room. Only a handful bothered to dance. A quick head count revealed only twenty bodies on the dance floor. Throughout the room, the empty pockets of space outnumbered the guests.
The stage was set. Literally. The sound system had moved from the catacomb in the room’s rear to center stage, in the front of the room, sitting in a coffin on a table. The change of set-up occurred to accommodate two 18 speaker bottoms and a fog machine. The fog machine sprayed the room as a faint whiff of carcinogens roamed by. Shining underneath one of the two disco balls, the position of the coffin proved noteworthy. Funky house music seemed to nod with approval. Additional space onstage meant greater crowd intimacy and allowed the crowd greater voyeurism.
DJ Mike Zarin, dressed in vintage 4Deep garb, rocked the casket of equipment energetically with a funky house tribute not heard from him since his early 4Deep days playing at Connect parties. How appropriate, Tranzlife’s “Heart Attack” played soundtrack to the grief- stricken fiasco. At least two supporters tried to make the best of the situation, responding with handclaps and out of this world dance moves.
The hour hand ticked ever so closer to midnight. The bug that buzzes with excitement dropped dead. Without hype and little fanfare, the event’s guest headliner appeared onstage wearing a suave black leather jacket that would later come off to reveal two sleeves of tribal tats. The man appeared armed and dangerous.
The guest DJ, from southern California, bio reads like a champion of funky proportions. The “Time To Get Ill” mixtape producer is responsible for putting funky house music on the map in the east coast cities of Baltimore and Washington D.C. alongside then partner DJ Scott Henry during house music’s heyday in the 1990’s. His production and remix credits include a who’s who list in the electronic dance world that spans decades and garnered hundreds of fans.
Currently, his name is Charles Feelgood, yet a few remembered when he was simply, “Feelgood.” To make the people feel good is what the maestro set out to do. For the two hours that followed, Charles Feelgood would deliver nothing short than a stellar musical eulogy to his soul buddy number one, funky house.
Enter the band Rufus & vocalist Chaka Kahn singing “Any Love” that partied over a bed of sliced disco house that ascended to heavenly heights. A few that recognized the classic showed love with vocal praise. Jamaroquai stopped by. The blue-eyed soul delivered the funk with “All Good In The Hood.” Bay area bred, Oakland, CA fed, DJ Mes provided disco-drenched beats that bumped and wobbled not only the subwoofers, but dancing feet. Rescue’s mega-hit, “Every Freakin’ Day,” that samples 1990’s R n B legends, Jodeci’s, “Every Freakin’ Night” proved too predictable during the tribute. Feelgood’s D.C. buddies, 95 North’s alias, Johnny Corporate stopped by. Their song “Sunday Shoutin,’” that samples Atlanta’s own Brick, “Living From The Mind,” put the church into the house. People shouted and danced. This spectacle would generate the most action the dance floor would see for the rest of the night. Stop! The four-on-the-floor gave way for a slower urban groove as guitar strings plucked over softer drums. The red carpet was rolled out and the velvet rope pulled back for reality television’s latest diva, Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin Me High.” The 1995 Atlanta-brewed jam felt underappreciated and went unnoticed. The dance floor’s census dropped, twelve to five. Feelgood brought his hype men. A man, standing over six feet, stood onstage and played music director with animated arm thrusts leading the crowd to sing Stevie Wonder’s “Do I Do.” The 1982 scorcher, and the party’s “That’s my song,” played at high speeds, minus a house beat, with the song’s original drums and percussions left intact. Certain segments of the song were looped for dramatic effects. The re-edits only miss, Dizzy Gillespie’s arousing trumpet solo. Again disco, George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” (Instrumental), constructed the groove to funky house beats. Orchestra strings and blaring trumpets dotted the landscape of funky house’s grandmother the late, disco. Fragmented vocals sliced in syncopated sound bites created a heated disco chant. Basically, Diana Ross’ vocals sung “Burnin” over and over and over again. Next Feelgood dropped the music to allow the vocals to play. This is a DJ’s non-verbal cue for the audience to sing along. The late Whitney Houston sung. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody/With Somebody Who Loves Me.” The dispersing crowd showed no love. More or less they seemed clueless. The late icon, MJ’s chops were chopped on “Rock With You.” The song was a floor burner equipped with hard core analog thumps that played proud and loud but Mike’s vocals abruptly disappeared without any reason. Teddy Pendergrass “Get Up, Get Down” uplifted the party. The late legend sang, “Do You Want To Party?”
Over walked a drunken female. “C’mon dance,” she slurred. By the end of Feelgood’s set her ass would smack the wooden dance floor. Oops. Yes, everyone would see it. And sorry, no one would care to help her up.
By two am, the handful of scattered few danced around like there was no problem or care in the world. Actually, everyone felt good and drunk. One person took being intoxicated too far; a woman dressed in a black blouse with black lace trimmings and blue denim had her head smashed down on the table asleep. Sign of the times: funky house music was dead, at least in this city.
Somewhere in the arms of time, the motto: for the love of funky house music, died. As one pallbearer stated, “We tried.” In the city too busy complaining, “Where is the funky house music and I feel like some funky house music tonight,” all one can do is to try. Sadly, in the end trying was not enough. The music sub-genre that once carried, through life’s joys and pains, on its back a family of loved supporters, dancers and DJs bothered not to show face or support. Guess they bothered not to read the writing on the wall.
Words and photography by AJ Dance
In the air there was a movement brewing called the Great Divide. The Great Divide could be seen in the distance on the horizon. An obvious choice would soon have to be made. However, the choice would not be made now but at a later time. Why make a decision today when the decision can be made tomorrow? No verbiage could offer a satisfactory explanation of how the Great Divide had plagued the mind like the media obsessed with an upcoming presidential election. Was it a matter of political parties? There was the left. There was the right. Was it a matter of colors? The blue left and the red right. Was the choice a matter of seating arrangements? Left side seats or right side seats? Obviously, no. The choice had more to do with the purview of club land and music tastes than any political party, their color or seating arrangement. The decision narrowed down to hear in the left room the more soul/hip-hop sounds from the first time appearance of a musician or to stay in the right room and listen to the more soulful/deep house sounds from a mainstay DJ. Over the course of weeks the final grain of sand dropped in the hour glass of time. Which door would be opened? Uhmmm.
My night with a Detroit electronic freestyler and a German DJ.
The night was about as varied as the music itself. However, the two music maestros from two different music worlds actually shared more in common with slight nuance. Both of the aficionado’s music influences can be traced back to that Motor City soul. From Motown to Detroit Techno both melody makers marked the night with registered selections. There was the piping hot soul/hip-hop exploding from techno wonder Jeremy Ellis in the right room named Space2 and from the room to the left in the restaurant, Lars Behrenroth belting out deep house served over a hot plate of tech beats. This was some serious ear culinary to serve in a place known for its tasty expressions as well as eclectic music palettes.
“This is why I need to wear a hat; so I can hide,” observed one female dancer wearing a multicolored head scarf studying the mayhem about to take place. Overall, the majority aged 30 and over crowd provided that much needed safety net on the dance floor but there was the usual mischief of activity. Three twenty something blondes baring semi-bare flesh gyrated up and down trying so hard to display some type of faux lesbo threesome that the group lost footing and stumbled halfway to the ground spilling libation onto the floor. One misguided female thought the event was, “Dancing With The Stars” as she paraded around the floor, dancing with every guy in the room as if she was the Queen of the Night.
Following the visual view of a low-rise denim wearer with a budging feature next door into the dance space of Space2 revealed some hint of guilty pleasure. In the room next to the restaurant, testosterone plaid long sleeves hid tee shirts as the curvaceous in cocktail dresses stood hypnotized by a stage of electronic gadgetry. Not only were the usual suspects of two turntables, two CDJs and one large mixer present but also a long black rectangular box with huge squares made to look for punching; the Akai MPC.
Self-titled, “Freestyle Electronica” Jermey “Aryo” Ellis had the entire room under a spell of tempting soul/hip-hop/broken beat that had all mouths dropping to the floor with drool. Something a brew was cooking as the red-haired bobbed maestro wrapped in a winter green scarf crooned, “Hey Baby” with that blue-eyed soul that made panties wet. What was this? A pin could have been heard dropping in the crowd. What an eerie silence. Not one body danced. Not one soul moved. Every eye budged out from the sockets with that vertigo visage stricken right before some terminal illness. You would have thought the president had walked into the room and offered every guest free healthcare. This dazzling display was surreal. How could anyone command such musical mind control?
The scene back in the restaurant was of the opposite kind. Bodies writhed in fluid rhythms spelled for a “Dance by Different Music.” Fancy footwork came out of the closet to warm up the concrete floor. As the night progressed from evening eatery to late night dance club, long wooden rectangular tables were shoved alongside an exposed brick wall to make way for the party people rushing to dance.
4Deep alumni warmed up the floor with an onslaught of hors d’oeuvres. The latest addition, Kevin Latham opened with Berlin born Georg Levin’s, “Late Discovery” and the hit maker Louie Vega’s Root Mix of “I Love The Night” by French producer Rocco and the legendary vocals of C. Robert Walker as original member Kevin Nowell drenched the party with soulful caviar from vocalist LT Brown to Zakes Bantwini’s, “Wasting My Time” (Dan Ghenacia Mix). Following in the funky but soulful footsteps, founding member DJ Carroll A.K.A DJC delivered a forgotten jam, “Don’t Give It Up” (Lawnchair General Mix) by DJ Hal featuring Jay Thomas on vocals and the much needed inspiring lyricism and power house vocals from Inaya Day with DJ Boris Duglosh presents BOOOM’s, “Keep Pushin” a 1990’s classic dub that had the audience reaching for the top.
After the far too short 4Deep reunion it was time to hear the night’s main course. The “Walk A Mile” label release owner Lars Behrenroth sporting a brown Deeper Shades of House tee, approached the DJ booth’s music hardware with that expertise reserved for top chefs. The volume decreased on the funky house to make way for afro-house. From the crisp sound system came an address of deep beats that engaged the environment. Fingers snapped, feet danced and screams penetrated the air. The set was off to a delicacy start. Over the course of three hours, Lars transitioned flawlessly between bold flavors of afro-beat, freshly prepared melodic vocals, bitter deep-tech and rich old-school tech house. Eddie Grant’s “Time Warp” sautéed perfectly with Musaria’s, “Moment” featuring Memphis vocalist/songwriter Saturna who by the way was in the house and pleasantly surprised to hear her voice simmering through the makeshift club. Just when Lars couldn’t experiment any further with deep eclectic flavors, out from the kitchen came a sexy chocolate dessert; a profound house instrumental of “Between The Sheets” by The Isley Brothers that steadily built into a climatic taste explosion that closed out the night around 3:30 am.
At last the Great Divide had been conquered with more time being spent in the Deeper Shades hospitality than on the stage of Mr. Freestyle Electronica. Despite clandestine efforts, the majority probably were more involved in experiencing the Detroit native’s rarity than feasting on the German producer’s treats. Overall, the night went down with success, besides the running back and forth between rooms to dance, stand in awe, dance and stand in awe. There was so much music to behold in so little time. Here’s to next time keeping all the festivities in one room, under one roof instead of having to face a two-headed dilemma. Unlike the current political landscape, let the music UNITE and not DIVIDE.
Cover and first photographs of Lars Behrenroth by Andre Lozano/All additional photography by Chris Marley
ALL GREAT THINGS COME TO AN END
“He keeps on blessing me/Blessing Me”
These were the lyrics to the party’s opener played by Lars Behrenroth at Connect’s final party. Connect a monthly party held every first Thursday night that for six years had been instrumental in bringing house music back to the city’s forefront during the nitelife’s, “drought years.” Maybe not so much as bringing house music back as it did to keep house music alive during those “drought years.” Had it not been for Connect, the fervent sounds of deep/jackin’/house music would have indefinitely died for it were these parties that kept the torch burning bright for dance enthusiast. Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end.
Six years earlier Connect started out as a small monthly bringing funky house DJs from around the country mainly the mid-west and southeast states to play at its parties. The barely 25 years of age founders, Mike Zarin and DJC were known as the underdogs in the underground house music scene. Many local house music elders questioned their motives as to why the two would start house music parties during the city’s anti-nitelife stance and a hard hitting house music recession. However, over the years these critics were silenced as Connect’s parties thrived. During this time Connect tried to find its signature music sound mainly focusing on the Chicago/west coast jack sound of choppy beats and tech effects played over repeated samples. Interestingly, two years later Connect drowned in the deep waters of deep house music that became synonymous within the city. From there Connect transformed into a wreaking force, bringing in top-tier international talent and throwing amazing underground house parties. People flocked to the Thursday night monthlies in support to see their international favorites. Connect was ablaze until the great recession.
It was then when Connect had to scale back on out of town/international talent. The cost of airfare, lodging expenses and DJ fees became too much. So when the international talent left, the amazing parties stopped and with it went the crowd. Connect became a bygone-the party easily swept underneath the rug and easily forgotten. Its fate doomed.
One wouldn’t suspect this to be a closing party the way German bred/Los Angeles transplant Lars Behrenroth tore up the motherboards. His head rolled around in circles as he spun the mixer’s knobs to control the groove. His upper torso bounced up and down and rocked from side to side when he was really feeling the groove. At times between mixing songs his hands flew straight in the air as if he were at a futbol game cheering the winning team. This was the power of house music.
Lars sprinkled a few Connect favorites into the mix. There was Romanthony’s dubby, “Let Me Show You Love” that had yours truly singing along and the late 1990’s Chicago classic from Voices of Life, “The Word Is Love (Just Say The Word)” the Silk’s Anthem of Life Mix. Lars laid the afro-house vibe thickly on the crowd before transitioning back to house mode before closing out the momentous night. After a heartwarming goodbye from founder Mike Zarin, Lars took to the microphone to announce the last song, a jazzy house number about love and thanks. Then a female’s beautiful soprano voice resounded throughout the room. It was the voice of Denice Williams singing the R’n’B 80’s soul hit, “Free.” Yes, the time had come to say thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon Connect and to set Connect free.
Photography by Luis V fo DEG
Photograph one by Maria P Sanders/All other photographaphs by Luis V for DEG
Photography by Luis V for DEG
Photography by John Crooms
Photography by John Crooms
Photography by 4Deep Archives