RETURN TO NEW YORK featuring ARTHUR BAKER with ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE , KENNY GLASGOW , the AD/D and CAPTAIN Z at Mod Club (722 College), Friday (February 25). $15 advance. www.addevents.com Rating: NNNNN
Dance music pioneer Arthur Baker's Return To New York is a tribute to the glory days of NYC clubbing, that period in the 80s when it seemed like anything could happen, when punk, hiphop, house, disco and new wave weren't that far apart. However, he could have called the eclectic genre-bending party Return To Anywhere But New York. It's been mainly based in London, with dates in Barcelona, Paris, Miami and now Toronto, but so far there are no plans to bring it to the city that inspired it.
"I'd love to do it in New York, but there just aren't any good venues to do it at right now," says Baker from his London home.
He recalls how the whole thing got started. "A few years ago I was writing an article for Fader Magazine about the New York scene. 'Maybe it's time to return to New York' was the last line, and I liked the sound of it. I wanted to do something more inclusive, like an old-school New York party. I felt people were becoming receptive to this kind of mix of music, but at the time there weren't many nights where you could hear it."
Baker is partially responsible for the birth of hiphop through his production work with Africa Baambataa, including the seminal Planet Rock. He was also a key player in moving New Order towards the new wave dance rock sound that they became known for, which if you've been following dance music lately you'll know is suddenly very hip again.
He was also heavily involved in the history of house as a remixer and label owner, and spent much of the 80s producing and remixing most of the major players in the music industry, including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and many more. With a resume as lengthy as his, it's no wonder he chuckles when asked if there are many productions he regrets.
"I'm not that proud of some of the remixes - after a while you start going for the money, whoever will offer the most. There were definitely a few years when I was doing it mainly for the money, which continued until I wasn't getting offered the big-money remixes anymore."
Before you think that the event is just an attempt to revive Baker's glory days, it should be pointed out that it offers a pretty even mix of the hot-right-now and the suddenly-hot-again.
Many of the rotating resident DJs are musicians from legendary bands, including New Order's Peter Hook, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and Depeche Mode's Andy Fletcher. Often Baker will hire veteran house DJs to play sets in the vein of the 80s NYC scene. The other guests are usually younger performers and DJs associated with the electro-rock scene like Princess Superstar, T. Raumschmiere, Junior Sanchez and Peaches (who he set up with her first London gig at one of his restaurants, the Elbow Room).
You'll also hear a fair number of mash-ups, since Baker was a very early supporter of the 2 Many DJs crew as well. Just don't expect much hiphop. That's one of the few things Baker hasn't reclaimed.