Checked out the new Saturday night at Una Mas that started up a few weeks ago. Schoolyard Sessions features the sounds of DJs Serious , Kola and Fase spinning mainly hiphop and complementary sounds. Last week the basement was full of heads getting down to a fast-paced mix of underground hiphop and the cream of the mainstream. I was a bit surprised to see a laptop next to the decks. It turned out to be a Final Scratch set-up. Generally, underground hiphop hasn't been particularly enamoured of new DJ technology, but the vinyl interface of Final Scratch seems to appeal to these guys. Purists might want to know that in some cases the computer files actually sounded better than the vinyl.
It was a pretty good party, reminiscent in many ways of Una Mas's glory days back when it first came on the scene. There was a good balance between heads and people who just want to dance.
Seen and Heard
Blackmarket Records has been putting a lot of energy into throwing big parties lately, bringing in techno icon Jeff Mills a few weeks back. Last Friday at Roxy Blu they followed up with house legend Larry Heard and well-regarded French DJ/producer DJ Gregory alongside a who's who of local talent. When I got there, it was pretty obvious that the tobacco promotions company formerly known as Goldclub had put up some dough for a DJ booth with plasma screens at the south end of the club. Frankly, the video monitors were a bit of a waste and made the club too bright, but moving the DJ booth was a nice touch. It made the whole club seem bigger and improved the traffic flow.
Gregory was easily the better technician of the two headliners, and he played many of his own tracks. However, his sound is distinctly European and a lot more pumping than the material soulful house DJs from North America would normally drop on a Roxy Blu crowd.
Heard dropped the tempo a notch when he came on, going into the deep end of Chicago house. At points you can tell he's more of a DJ than producer, juxtaposing tracks that most DJs would never attempt and occasionally fumbling a mix. Having said that, he tells an interesting story through his set, bouncing from slow romantic tunes to frantic and spastic acid and techno. Very soulful, and not generic in the least.
Thursday's Hard & Soul brought Teddy Douglas to Hush/Underbar for a night of soulful gospel-inflected house. The Baltimore-based DJ/producer is best known for his work as part of the Basement Boys, whose style closely reflects how he DJs. Starting off his set with Shaun Escoffery's Days Like This, he stretched it out by bouncing between different remixes until he figured the crowd had had enough of singing along. The first hour of his set consisted mainly of the past couple of years' big tunes, but once he got comfortable he started dropping more new and unproven tracks.
There was a good-sized crowd, and plenty of hollering and stomping going on. Looking forward to the next Hard & Soul.