Moodymann's many moods
Milk have built a rep for themselves over the past decade for exposing cutting-edge DJs to crowds much bigger and more mixed than they'd normally enjoy. Last Saturday's presentation of Moodymann (aka Kenny Dixon Jr. ) at 99 Sudbury was a perfect example. Dixon has made some highly influential and original dance music over the years, but his unique and esoteric approach would normally be a tough sell for promoters.
He's done very little press, photos are nearly impossible to find and his music is much slower and weirder than the stuff that generally fills dance floors. Despite all that, the grimy pitch-black warehouse was full by the time he took control of the sound system, even if most people had no idea what they were in for.
The first clue that this wasn't going to be a normal night were the white sheets draped around the DJ booth, which allowed the audience to see only his silhouette. Long-time fans would likely be aware that this isn't unusual for the publicity- and limelight-shunning Dixon, but many in the room were perplexed. Often during his set he'd get on the mic and talk to the crowd in a low, gravelly drawl that evoked late-night radio DJs of yesteryear.
More than at previous Toronto appearances he was all over the map musically, but this time his set was less moody, even if by most of the crowd's standards it was still way too downbeat. He went on a lot of tangents, from classic disco to deep house to weird slow-mo techno. Dixon's not a terribly technical mixer, but he pulled off whatever he tried. Much of the time, though, he just talked into the mic to segue to the next track.
Those who knew what they were coming for got their fix, and he definitely made a few converts. Still, having said that, it was clear looking around the room that many couldn't figure out why they were hearing BT Express at a warehouse party.
The deep house scene was pretty excited when Garage 416 announced that Joe Claussell would be coming to town again so soon, but some weren't so happy about going back to Boa-Redux, since its move to 360 Adelaide had met with such mixed reviews.
Then the party got moved to 99 Sudbury and the heads got even more excited at the prospect of hearing Claussell in an old-fashioned warehouse. And if that wasn't enough, Claussell's former Body & Soul partner, François Kevorkian , got added to the bill at the last minute and the event was renamed Double Journey after the classic disco dub tune.
This was shaping up to be a heavyweight event, and, sure enough, last Thursday night a big crowd of people stood outside, some grumbling that the cover had gone up to $40 from a pre-midnight $20. Nevertheless, the place was packed and steamy inside. Boa had brought along its sound system and security, which meant a metal detector at the door and a huge sound inside, both of which would turn out to be the event's undoing.
Claussell and Kevorkian were destroying the room, moving effortlessly from joyous, uplifting gospel-infused house to dark and dubby percussion-propelled thumpers. The crowd was in the palm of their hand.
Then, suddenly, the music stopped. The excessive volume and lineup of noisy people outside waiting to get searched sparked noise complaints, and the boys in blue shut the party down just as it was getting going.
As frustrating as this was, I realized at that moment how rarely parties get shut down these days. It wasn't that long ago that it was perfectly normal for an event to get busted, after which everyone would move to the next spot, which might get shut down as well, and so on. At least in this case it didn't seem to interfere with Milk's event on Saturday, which went off smoothly.