Thu, Oct 25
Theo & Ron
About an hour into Ron Trent and Theo Parrish's tag-team DJ set at West, a chance encounter illustrated perfectly what's great and disappointing about the Red Bull Music Academy. Chatting with a random partier upstairs on the patio, I found out he was the legendary Tony Allen, best known as Fela Kuti's drummer, making him one of the key architects of the Afrobeat rhythm. Fifteen minutes later we were both downstairs dancing as Parrish worked his signature EQ sculpting on one of Allen's classic performances with Kuti's band.
It's great that the folks at the Academy helped bring Trent and Parrish together for this event, and really neat that it ended up bringing Allen out to their gig, but bizarre that they would bring a musician of his calibre to town and not manage to get the word out.
They've been bringing in some great talent over the past few weeks, but only the collaborations with established local promoters (Boogie Inc, Mixed Signals, B9 and Milk in this case) seem to be on anyone's radar.
On a similar note, kudos to the Academy people for bringing out extra equipment for the DJs, but it's too bad the club doesn't have a well-maintained sound system. The extra gear didn't even make it into the signal chain, and the sound was horribly off all night. The fill speakers facing the bar and lounge were blaring and distorted, while the ones facing the dance floor were muffled and muddy.
Ghetto-blaster-quality sound aside, both DJs seemed to be having a lot of fun and feeding off each other. It was a good mixture of classic and modern club music, upbeat and soulful. Decent crowd, but it will likely be hard to get them out to another event at West unless the club's willing to do some serious upgrades and/or repairs.
Fri, Oct 26
The Baltimore club sound, said to have started in the early 90s, sounds like a cross between house, hiphop, booty, Miami bass and hip-house. Recently it's become one of the backbones of the typical indie-dance DJ set, fitting in perfectly to connect the various sounds of a generic open-format set, even if few outside of Baltimore had heard it until now.
Scottie B, one of the pioneers, is finally in a position to start reaping the rewards of touring the world and bringing the B-more sound to a very different market than he's played to over the past 15 years. He easily rocked the mixed crowd of hipsters, music nerds and weekend warrior randoms at the Drake, bringing a technical ease to his set that his indie-rock equivalents often struggle to achieve.
He'd often cut the volume for those 60s Motown vocal samples so that the crowd could sing along, which worked more often than you'd think, given Toronto's reputation for restraint.
Sat, Oct 27
The Footprints crew relaunched their monthly jazz-funk throwdown at the El Mocambo, having outgrown their long-time home at the Rivoli. The new space suits them well, although they'll likely be beefing up the sound for their next event, since bass makes the people bounce. They're also expanding the spectrum of music played at Footprints, which is always a good thing.