SOLID GARAGE CLASSICS with UNCLE FUNKE and DISTINCT MINDS INC at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), Friday (October 12). $10. firstname.lastname@example.org. Rating: NNNNN
Everyone around the table is feeling a bit tired. It's Sunday night, and the three Groove Institute DJs are recovering from the after-hours party they DJed the night before.
It was a small, intimate and sweaty warehouse party -- the kind of thing you won't see flyers for but that's been the unofficial backbone of Toronto's dance scene since the early 90s.
"It's kind of ironic that we did an after-hours last night," says Yogi, who ends up speaking for the team much of the time while the others finish his thoughts. "That was something that was very memorable and inspired us in our approach. The after-hours scene was what brought us together. It was about this sense of discovering something."
"When you're in a small place, it's tight -- like last night, people were clapping and stuff. You don't see it much in a club," adds Mark Ward.
The Groove Institute have been DJing together since the mid-90s, although they all started spinning before that. The residents and promoters of the Solid Garage parties, as well as of Elevation, they've become fixtures in the soulful house scene over the past few years.
Yogi has also been producing dance music with his brother, d'pac, since 1993. Their earliest fans were Chez Damier (co-owner with Ron Trent of Prescription Records) and Detroit techno legend Kevin Saunderson, both of whom ended up releasing their first records. Since then, they've recorded as the Soul Immigrants for Dino and Terry's Crash Records, Germany's Prog City, Italy's Suntune, i records out of New Jersey and, recently, Nick Holder's DNH label.
"When we started out, there was a transition happening in Toronto. There was a lack of vocals being played in the major clubs. The sound was going toward progressive house -- and that's not what we grew up with. We grew up with a variety of music, and we listen to everything," says Yogi.
"They used to play everything together, but it's segregated now, and the scene has splintered," says Ward.
"Everyone's interpretation of the garage sound is different," adds Yogi. "It doesn't have to be house oriented -- it can be disco or funk."
The next Solid Garage party is a special classics edition and gives the team a chance to stir up some memories for the old-school heads while putting the current club sounds in a historical perspective for newer fans. This time they've chosen to turn the spotlight back on themselves.
"People in Toronto tend to be observers. You have to tell them to have fun," Yogi says. "I want to see people -- even before they get in the door -- going into the party ready to have a good time."