Nasa's Phuture blasts off
The bar and dance floor at Nasa's Sunday-night monthly Phuture Phunk party was so packed with smiling partiers going all out, you'd have thought it was a big Saturday-night event. Breaks, the sound of the night, is one of those genres you either love or just don't get. To be honest, I'm one of the latter, but I'm impressed by the enthusiasm of breaks fanatics.
To the uninitiated, the easiest way to describe the sound is to cite the Chemical Brothers: take big funk and rock breakbeat loops, speed them up and put some acid synth lines over top. That basic formula is surprisingly effective in this context, and regardless of whether critics are impressed, the T.O. breaks scene is extremely dedicated and close-knit. Although they're often hidden in the backroom of bigger events, the energy these partiers exude on the dance floor can dwarf the enthusiasm displayed in the main room at large parties.
The crowd at Red Square's Thursday-night party featuring Chicago's Boo Williams was surprisingly sparse when we first arrived, but local legends Peter and Tyrone were rocking the decks so there was plenty of quality soulful house to bob our heads to while the late-night crowd started to trickle in.I talked to manager (and male model) Peter Argue about the difficulty of running a club in the entertainment district.
Recently, up-and-coming house promoters Solma ended their run as the Saturday-night event at Red Square. Argue explains that while he liked what they were doing, they had to be replaced by a night featuring the clubland standards of top 40, mainstream hiphop and R&B. That's the only music that can draw in the 600 people needed to fill the club on a weekend (and pay the enormous rent on the venue).
The problem isn't necessarily that there aren't enough househeads in Toronto but that they're reluctant to descend into the club district and are also cautious about supporting promoters who aren't already established in the scene.
So bringing in someone like Boo Williams and putting up lots of posters doesn't necessarily bring in the crowds.
Thursday night also found me down the street at Club Havana, a smallish two-floor venue, for a new weekly called Soulmeka. Sort of a franchise of the long-running Montreal night by the same name, Soulmeka brings soul and funk together with soulful house as well as a dash of hiphop. Residents are Poundhouse's Hali and Rod G rocking the house tracks, along with DJ Fase providing the hiphop and funk.
The room's decor suits the night: lots of exposed wood and dark, earthy tones, nothing overtly modern. Unfortunately, while the opening night the week before was well attended, last week's event was pretty dead. Time will tell if they'll be able to get the deeper side of the scene down to clubland.