Lisa Shaw 's soft, soulful singing has graced many house recordings over the past decade, but she's most closely associated with the sound of the Naked Music label, appearing on many of its biggest releases.
Her mellow, Sade-esque alternative to the screaming diva influenced scores of deep house producers to tone it down, so it was somewhat surprising that there weren't more local DJs and producers checking out her Friday-night show at Sonic .
Not that it was dead by any means, just that many of the familiar faces from the scene were conspicuously absent, leaving the dance floor to the dancers and partiers rather than the scenesters.
Toronto-born and -raised Shaw's music career mainly developed after she left to live in NYC, so it was a homecoming of sorts, and some of her family members came out in support -- either that or the clientele at Sonic has moved up an age bracket. Live, her voice actually sounds fuller than in recordings, where it's sometimes lost in effects and processing.
Her Naked Music label mate Andy Caldwell DJed between her two sets as well as afterwards, but it was clear that most people were there to see Shaw. Caldwell played well enough, but wasn't nearly as engaging. To be fair, it's easier to have presence on a stage than hidden in a DJ booth. Even so, many of Caldwell's tracks were too sleepy and mellow for that time of night.
On Thursday Octapus held the launch of two new local sister labels: house- and dance-oriented Shines (founded by veteran DJ Gene King ) and Plusgroove (run by Nick Tolentino ), bringing more R&B and soul into the mixture. Both labels were actually founded a year ago, but this was a good excuse to throw a party and unveil them properly.
Of course King and Tolentino were on hand to provide the music, alongside Ray Prasad , Jason Barham and Eminence (aka Martino and Suges ). The crowd at Octapus is already pretty receptive to this kind of deep soulful house, and it was encouraging to see a good turnout of partiers eager to get down to local DJs playing lots of local music.
Robert's Body of work
Just down the street from the party at Octapus, Robert Strauss has been holding a weekly event called Party In My Body , where he throws down a colourful mix of house, disco, reggae, Latin and anything else he thinks he can get away with.
Not a huge crowd out on this particular night, but attendees appeared to be in good spirits, and the tunes were rocking. Since Strauss is enjoying a growing reputation as a producer of note, this is a good spot to hear where he's coming from and what he's inspired by.