Back 2 Basics is the Saturday-night weekly at Aria, featuring residents Peter and Tyrone, Ali Black and Mark and Steve. After gathering steam over the summer, it's now consistently packed full of partiers looking for their soulful house fix.
Peter and Tyrone, two of the original players in the local house scene, are known internationally for their Camouflage and 83 West labels and loved in Toronto for their smooth, sexy DJ sets. Both are clean, precise mixers -- you'll seldom hear them blow a mix. They also know how to balance well-known vocal songs with new and unfamiliar tracks, the only way to compromise between pleasing the hardcore house heads and the average clubber at the same time.
Their guest last week was another Toronto legend, Phat Albert (aka Albert Assoon), whose history goes back to the Twilight Zone days. His technique is less about slick mixes than song selection and tweaking; he'd rather make quick, sloppy cuts than stretch out long overlays. One of the few local DJs to concentrate on working the EQ crossovers and channel gains, Assoon is closer in many ways to the older, New York style of mixing. His taste runs the gamut from harder tech house and stomping disco to dubby Afro-Latin house, a mix that seemed to please the dancers despite the absence of obvious anthems.
The second annual Roxy Blu Halloween party packed the club's two floors full of costumed clubbers for a night of house and techno spun by well-loved locals and Detroit's Carl Craig.
Techno legend Craig, known more for groundbreaking experiments than dance-floor thumping, started the Detroit Electronic Music Festival two years ago to recognize the talents of Motor City DJs and producers.
Appearing in an Ozzy Osbourne shirt, Craig proceeded to screw with people's expectations, spinning deep Afro-Latin percussion tracks, disco, techno and even dropping Bauhaus's Bela Lugosi's Dead at peak time and pulling it off.
His mixing wasn't particularly tight, but he knows how to work a crowd. That being said, not everyone was feeling it -- many partiers were more intent on socializing and showing off their costumes than on being challenged by a musical icon, so they stuck to the smaller rooms until Craig finished.
For everybody who's complaining about going to the same venues week after week, here's another option.
Home, a new Friday-night soulful house weekly, started up recently at the Savannah Lounge. Savannah had been marketing itself more as an R&B club, but has now branched out into house.
Put together by Phat Black Pussy Kat, the night features local DJs Joe Rizla and Trini, Angel and Cullen, Ali Black and Richard Brooks, plus occasional international guests. The club gets redecorated for the night with large hanging sheets of fabric walling off the lounge area and forcing people onto the dance floor. The thousands of dollars' worth of smart lights go unused in favour of a single spotlight on the disco ball.
Considering it was only the second week, it wasn't badly attended, but there is still a lot of room. Pulse