BOSTON MAYOR : SOMETHING TO HIDE

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^ nothing to hide here. So why the “OneBoston” fakery ? Read the story and see

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Thanks to the Boston Globe’s Wesley Lowery, who scooped the story, we now know who “OneBoston” was and where its mysterious, last-week-of-the-race $ 480,000 ad buy came from. The AFT did it. As in American Federation of Teachers.”

My purpose is not to retell Lowery’s story, which you can read in the link below this paragraph. My intention, rather, is to confront the hiding of it. By steering their $ 480,000 into the Boston Mayor race via a New Jersey PAC, in which state disclosure of donors is not required, the AFT kept hidden what it felt it needed to hide. The same was true of the Boston Teachers’ Union, which didn’t issue an endorsement of Marty Walsh until the morning of election day, too late for news media to make the voting public aware.

Link to Wesley Lowery’s scoop : http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/12/28/american-federation-teachers-revealed-funder-behind-mysterious-pro-walsh-pac-during-mayoral-campaign/g58NRCxjp3OMZLtoBQE0yN/story.html

Why the hiding ? Clearly these teachers’ unions felt that if their active involvement in a Boston mayor’s race were known , Boston’s 57,000 public school parents — and surely others — would not like it. These unions know that there’s scant public support for their agenda. Yet they were willing to hide in the shadows for the sake of electing as Mayor a man who sits on a charter school board — which teachers’ unions profess to hate — but who is known to be a friend of unions and a go-slow collaborator who would likely not shake too many peaches off the peachtrees, in preference to a committed “school transformer” who actually sends his kids to a public school and who wanted much better than the status quo.

All year long the teachers unions have demonstrated their unwillingness to accord any school reform measures but their own. For them it has been “our way or the highway.” Thus the hiding; because school parents, curriculum developers, and Massachusetts’s state government have other ideas about how to improve schools than the teachers unions do and have more than sufficient public support to override the inflexibility of the teachers’ unions; and these unions know it, and thus the subterfuge, to evade the spotlight.

It was pitiable example to set for the students whose citizenship learning we entrust to teachers. Don’t discuss, insist. Don’t make your moves known, deceive. Don’t confront unpleasant truths, send anonymous poison letters. (Privatization of schools, corporate intruders, child of privilege, “working families,” etc.)

Bad enough when political campaigns do it. Despicable when done by people to whom we entrust the education of our children.

To circle the wagons around their own agenda, teachers’ organizations were ready to see a Mayor elected whose prospects are incremental at best, a mayor who is too deecnt a guy and too collaborative to force the hard decisions, instead of pursuing real reform by a Mayor candidate who understood that the future will not be like the past and who had solid ideas — and the intelligent fortitude and talented support group — on how to get his city there. To circle the wagons and do it under the table, like a worker trying to avoid paying taxes. I call it dishonorable.

John Connolly, the loser in this ambush, told Lowery “as a candidate I’ve moved past the race. As a BPS parent, I am really angry.”

There was a time when teachers were reformers; embraced experiment; proposed new curricula and new school arrangements. Most teachers still understand very clearly that it is NOT about THEM, it’s about educating children. Unfortunately, the teachers’ organization that invaded the Mayor’s race unannounded “because they are fighting for working families,” no less, failed to get that message. For these groups, it was indeed all about them.

The Boston Teachers Union (BTU) had an opportunity, early in the race, to embrace the candidacy of John Connolly, which had made education the number one issue, and to discuss with him how to best reshape the public schools to be beneficial to the future economy and society. That would have been a superb exercise in reform that the voting public would surely have welcomed. Instead, the BTU chose to retrench, to demonize Connolly, to support a man they didn’t want to support, and to do so by last-minute ambush. But I do not blame the BTU as profoundly as I do the AFT. The BTU’s resistance to reforms not advocated by it was well publicized even if their election-morning endorsement wasn’t. The AFT chose to hide behind the curtain, like Polonius, and to lob a $ 480,000 bomb into the arena. It shouldn’t be surprised if it now finds itself poignarded by a host of Boston School Parents who have other ideas about school reform and who resent being ambushed by refuseniks.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Reporter’s note l all of this confirms my appraisal that it was Marty Walsh’s weakness, electorally, that allowed him to b e the recipient of so many allies and to win . The groups and politicians who lent Marty their support applied the “city Council presidency” rule : always vote for the weakest. That’s fine when used for a rather powerless Council Presidency. Not so fine when misapplied to an office as powerful as mayor. By applying the “vote the weakest” principle to Walsh, the groups and politicians who backed him basically wanted to retain power in their own hands — a kind of back-door Recall. The last thing these groups and politicians wanted was a strong Mayor who didn’t need them at every turn in the policy road. Walsh can still break free and grab the power that Boston ‘s charter accords the Mayor; but to do he will have to betray and push aside many of his supporters. (It can be done. See the papacy of Pope Stephen V, 885-891 AD, for an example of how to do it.) I see nothing in Walsh’s a career or temperament that supports this outcome. I;m not even sure that Walsh wants it.   — MF

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE HOBBIT – PART 2 : THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG ( 3 stars )

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^ Ian Mckellen, Orlando Bloom, and Richard Armitage do their do in Part 2 of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” Trilogy

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Is Peter Jackson a man obsessed with trilogies and inequities ? Out of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, he fairly spun three sweeping epics–one per book. Now circling back to Tolkien’s seminal “The Hobbit,” he’s gone and protracted that single volume into a three-part movie miniseries. As a chronological preamble to the LOTR films, there’s something inherently anticlimactic about backstory served up after such heft, but Jackson, and his team of writers, including “Pacific Rim” director Guillermo del Toro and Jackson’s wife, Fran Walsh, seem to have a grand scheme for nuanced mayhem. It slowly took root in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and now, in “The Desolation of Smaug,” the drudgery of plot masonry firmly in place, the scripters have loosened the strings and opened up the throttle. Jackson, behind the camera and at the cutting-board, seems more assured and free with hand. The result, bolstered by some enthralling thrills and timely whimsy, is a strong step up from “An Unexpected Journey.”

“Smaug” wisely doesn’t start where “An Unexpected Journey” ends, nor does it incessantly rehash what went on in chapter one. We begin even before that, in a rain-soaked town square as a cloaked Thorin (Richard Armitage, the most human-featured of the dwarf posse in “An Unexpected Journey”) slips into a tavern playfully named, The Prancing Pony. Inside, there are no other dwarves, just a battery of disfigured men (Middle-earth’s finest!) who hungrily eye Thorin as if he were the featured performer at an adult nightclub. Something foul is clearly afoot, but before a blade can be drawn, the gaunt and game Gandalf (Ian McKellen, who’s been Jackson’s backbone through eight films and counting) pulls up a seat and the edgy atmosphere quells. In the brief respite, the grey-bearded wizard briskly informs the dwarf that he is now the de facto king of the dislocated dwarf kingdom and that the forces of evil have put out a contract on his head.

Flashing forward to the quest at hand, the cadre of stout dwarves, with the furry-footed hobbit of title (Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins) in tow for his stealth capabilities, still needs to get to the Lonely Mountain to reclaim their subterranean kingdom from the usurper dragon, Smaug, who killed off nearly the entire race and captured its endless bounty of hand-forged riches. Right off the bat, the dwarves encounter an ambiguous were-bear known as Beorn (Mikael Persbrandt) in human form; after which they’re assailed by giant spiders before being imprisoned by wood elves. All this goes on while they’re being hunted by a pack of orcs–and they haven’t even reached the floating shanty town (Lake-town) at the foot of the mountain.

Each bend reveals a similar moral conundrum. Beorum despises dwarves because they’re greedy, but hates orcs more because they enslaved and killed most of his kind. Then there’s the elven king (a cynically foppish Lee Pace), interested in throwing in with the dwarves for a share of the loot. When they reject the offer, he incarcerates them; and later, as the rise of the evil sorcerer Sauron and his orc forces becomes evident, he decides the best policy for his kin is to close the gates and sit out the looming bloodbath. The most inert character, however, is the Master of Lake-town (Stephen Fry) who, like the pampered oligarchy in “The Hunger Games,” feeds himself glutinously while the commoners under his magistracy starve on suet.

In the funnest (and freest) part of the film, the dwarves flee the elven holding block in oaken kegs and shoot whitewater rapids through a gauntlet of orcs. They’re aided by pair of elves, one reluctant (Orlando Bloom’s Legolas) and one smitten with one of the dwarves (a full lipped Evangeline Lilly looking eerily like Liv Tyler from the LOTR series), who effortlessly dance over branch and boulder while piercing orc eyes with arrows as if it were a breathing reflex. There’s also a bit of “Three Stooges” zaniness too : one dwarf, wedged in his barrel, becomes an inadvertent projectile and ultimately transforms into a bladed (and blinded) whirling dervish of death.

It helps too that there’s more than just transmogrified hobgoblins to contend with. Smaug, when arisen, is a sight to behold and a Chatty Cathy (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) to boot. His diatribe about greed and destiny to an invisible Bilbo, employing the notorious ring of power, might be the most riveting sequence in the film.

There’s also some great tells. Bilbo can’t bring himself to tell Gandalf about the ring because he’s beholden to it, and the dwarves, it turns out, do have gold lust in their veins ; but the biggest revelation of all is that the desolation attributed to Smaug, isn’t really the aftermath of fire breathing raids but economic despair brought on by hoarding.

The evolution of “The Hobbit” series, while less smooth than the LOTR, boasts stunning hyper HD technology and 3D viewing options. Team Jackson has added some new facets (and groan-worthy lines) to the yarn to make it go the nine-hour distance. The upswing is there, but to know for sure, we’ll have to wait another year — and three more hours — to find out if the pot of gold is truly there to be had.
— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies

MARK KNIGHT : DJ JAZZ (May 17, 2007)

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Mark Knight

We’ve become accustomed to thinking of jazz as delicate sounds played by iconic wise men (and women) in museum-like settings. But during its salad days, jazz was played as dance music in dance clubs. In that spirit, British DJ Mark Knight, perhaps the most talked-about new name in house production, played a three-hour set at Underbar last Thursday whose spectacular improvisations emphasized both the rhythm of his music and the ecstasy of dancing to it.

Having opened his set by wandering playfully through many types of rhythm and several genres of sound, Knight settled on a deep, syncopated, hard tribal groove. He worked the rhythm and goofed with it. Over and over he took his groove into sonic send-ups full of metalism, trumpet solos, and keyboard doodles that, after being elevated sky high, were brought back to the groove with a ferocity that made the dancers scream — and dance even harder. Knight’s trumpet send-ups could sound brittle, like a Clark Terry solo; more often he played saxophone sounds (electronic, perhaps sampled) that recalled the gorgeousness of Grover Washington or even the painful divertimenti of Von Freeman. In a classic jazz setting, such solos feel like private musings on which you’re eavesdropping. In Knight’s house set, where the groove was loud, thick, and blues-like, the solos felt like blatant sex, bad-ass — what house heads call “Let the beats control your soul.”

Knight lives in Maidstone, Kent, and he’s a working-class kid — his parents, he says, were authentic cockney — who thinks of his tracks as “a get-out-of-jail card, something so irresistible that whenever a DJ gets in trouble in a set he can just cue up my track and all’s well.” His Underbar set proved he has the keys to free people from every sort of imprisonment.

— Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

Read more: http://thephoenix.com/boston/music/40267-dj-jazz/#ixzz2VeZhQZln

TWO-THEMED DANCE MUSIC : GUTI @ BIJOU 05.26.13

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On Sunday night, Boston dance music fans had an opportunity to see Argentina’s Guti drop a set in prime time. At Bijou, the rapidly rising DJ — whose full name is Jose Maria Gutierrez Hernandez — delivered a set unlike any other that this writer has seen, one with bottom beats and overriding detail so separated — and so individually spotlighted — that his two hours amounted to two entirely separate sets sharing the same time slot and space. There was realism in that: after all, two people dancing on the same dance floor are, in fact, two separate lives confronting in the same space and time. Guti’s Argentina has, for over 100 years, owned a dance, the tango, in which hot drama arises from the friction of two separate lives acting in the same space and time. Only fitting, was it, that Guti gave his Bijou fans a 21st century version of tango drama, a dance very different in its passions but much the same in its two wills willfully dancing.

In tasngo, the clash is of anger, of dislike, of sexual heat that forces itself through mutual rejection, power plays, sex as pain, humiliation, surrender. Nothing this dark happened in Guti’s Bijou set, but much the same plunge was implied — risked, even — yet gently avoided in his very dissimilar two waves. First came a big, alpha-male’s boot stomp, next an interlude of high-note bird’s calls followed by the boot stomp returning. This was the set’s pattern; the boot stomp had its minutes, only to give way to equal minutes of flutter, lullaby, whistling, twisty noises: seduction in a soprano octave.

His music amounted to two themes having an extened conversation, a give and take that, late in set, moved toward resolution as Guti mixed the two themes together in complicated angles — in each of which the two conversators worked their way around each other, as if to gain advantage. Yet no advantage was to be had; each theme in his \music maintained its tone, its movement, its initiative, and if, in his mix, the focal point between them tilted in one direction. Guti brought it back again to the other direction only to end up in the middle as stomp and flutter circled one another like side by side whirl-a-gigs of sound. Such too, was the tango.

Guti has, in the past four years especially — he has DJ’d for far longer than this — produced tracks, or re-mixed the work of other producers. His prolific body of work has attracted devotees almost everywhere that dance music is enjoyed. Many sound dream-like in their delicacy and whimsy : “Hope,” Ray Foxx’s “The Trumpeter,” “I’m feeling Interglactic,” Wols’s “Bushmans Oversized Vibe,” for example, and his remix of Livio & Roby’s “We Are.” Eqully many do a bounce, from squeaky squiggly to boot stomp: his remix of Davide Squillace’s “The Other Side of hiustler,” “option One,’ and “Bususki,” and “Non Adepto.’

This list by no means exhausted the sequence of excerpts from tracks, both his own and remixes, that he input to his Bijou workout. Using a PC program this writer hasn’t seen before, one that enabled him to pick and hunt from one track to another and punch it allo into a scant two channels of mix, Guti squashed and jiggled the knobs on the Pc mixboard. He cranked more two, three,m even four at once, pushing and pricking the sound into conversational cant. There was buffonery in his mix and boasting too; zig zags and finger pointing. All of it pressured the dancers to move not just legs and hips but also hands, head, elbows, knees. Body talk took on advanced meaning — but not so advanced that a pair of classic tango dancers wouldn’t have understood every surge, sag, lean, pucker, wink, and prance in Guti’s battle of two wills willing upon each other.

It was a set not to be missed, as sublime and imaginative as any that this writer has seen in many, many years.

Opening for Guti was DJ D-Lux, whose residency at Re:Set Wednesdays (in Cambridge) has made her a local, Boston star of deep house grooving,. In front of Guti she played exactly what she is best at : two hours of rolling rhythm in murmur tones, a succulent flavor evoking the sweaty sentiments that deep house lives by. D-Lux’s set could easily have headlined almost any dance music club in the Boston area — at least at those few clubs hereabouts that are willing to embrace the deep house sound in its fullest evocation.

—- Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

BASIC FUNK : POPOF @ RISE CLUB 05.18.13

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The RISE dance floor wasn’t completely packed, but those who were present for Popof’s two-hour set dove full-body onto every beat of his strut and rumble, shrug and ramble. based in Paris, Popof, whose real name is Alexandre Paounov, has been making beat funk for almost 20 years; and at RISE his well constructed progressions exhibited every characteristic of a sound crafted, refined, and imagined over a long period of time. Using only two channels and wielding a sound as simple as it gets — yet never boring or cliche, Popof laid down the very essence of funk: a beat persistent, purposeful, low-noted but upbeat in texture.

Funk is the rhythm of hard work, of chants in work-gang songs. It’s the sound of stomp and oomph, of John Henry driving that steel that the song in his name praises him doing. It’s also the sound of take-your-time, work that progresses coolly — intellectual funk, lets’ call it. Popof’s funk beats offered both : beats with bodily heft and mental cool; work music for the technology generation.

Working two CDs and a pc program, Popof strung simgle tracks together like freight-train car couplings, mostly. Quick cuts snapped into place one-two-three. His few overlays did not extend; the connection was made and moved on from. His few voice tool-ins barely nicked the beat. Orchestration ? there was none. This was a set of coolly droll, wry, analytic tone progressions — as long as a work session in a skyscraper office — broken from time to time by squeeze-box knot tangles and stutter-knob wave work — sounds that felt like the breeze and glare of an outdoor smoking break from a long day’s carpel-tunneling.

He played much of his own work and remixes of other DJs stuff — tracks from “Bitchy groove,” “Wash It,” and “Blue dream” to “Sunglasses at Night,” a truly delicious “Coming to Pumping,” and the even more delightful “Alcoolic.” And the tracks that he dropped that were not his own might as well have been; that rigorously did he impose his own voice, gait, and constructioon upon every selection. It was a simple imposition, too, free of digressions, distractions, or differing points of sonic view. Popof’s sparse sound proved that less can indeed be more, as long as you can stroke every hammer, render every detail distinct, dig tidbits of sound out of the tight rope and make them seductive. Sometimes his beat thickened, sometimes it thinned so thin you could hear a counter beat in back of it. From strut to stride he went; from beats that murmured to those that wallowed. The rhythm chunked and chomped. Fades and cuts moved the action down or forward, and always simply — no dancer had any doubt what move he or she was being called to make. Of such instant teamwork is an effective work project brought to bear.

The set sounded far from exhausted when, at about 5.20 AM, the RISE sound system blew up. A few seconds before, this writer noticed Popof pick up his pc and move it about atwo feet back. had water or a soda spilled ? Certainly something major shorted the electricity, because that was the end of a set that had much more left to say.

RISE resident Mike Swells opened, as he often does at RISE, dropping a set of metallic big funk far from his signature house sound but shaped softly , as Swells prefers, almost to a pillow purr. His sound prefaced what Popof proceeded to shave, whittle, and devolve to basic fours.

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—- Deedee Freedberg / “the Sphere”

HE CAN FEEL IT : CHEZ DAMIER @ Re:SeT WEDNESDAY 05.14.13

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Anthony Pearson, who DJs as “Chez Damier,” had a big house moment in 1992, with “Can You Feel It,” and a few less big ones during the next three years. His hit — a soulful celebratory saunter — remains loved and was influential at the time; and his follow-ups — softly pining, as if for lost marvels — often find their way into sentimental DJ sets even now. Still, Chez Damier was, even in his moment, a brief presence. That he was able to be found, so many years later, and booked for Cambridge, MA’s “Re:Set Wednesday” DJ series certainly surprised this writer. Even more surprising, he attracted about 150 fans welcoming him like a hero returned from an epic past.

Damier’s set pleased his fans and then some. Dancers bobbed and contorted themselves, raised their hands, screamed. Local DJs came to see him. Hardly anyone left early. Even at the one A.M. closing time the dance floor squeezed shoulder to shoulder and cheering. And why ? “All going back to the basics,” one knowledgeable observer — himself a DJ — told this writer.

Damier used basic equipment ; two CD players and one mix board. He alternated just a few CDs. He played Brazilian beat first, then a long stretch of saxophone solo and bassline, as bebop as any house tracks this writer has heard; whence he jumped to Gino Soccio’s electro-techno “Dancer,” an iconic 1979 hit; from “Dancer’ back to saxophone solo bebop — this time with a tooled-in diva voice shouting “be real !” followed by some 1970s funk, Brazilian beat again and, lovingly, the soft stomp and roll of “Can You feel It.” Which Damier used as intro to another, even bigger 1992 hit, Jaydee’s “Plastic Dreams,” whose ten-plus minutes of reverb riff Damier improvised upon at length. It was his set’s strongest DJ segment.

The music ragged and shagged. Damier’s mixology often failed him. Overlays forced themselves onto the under. Quick cuts jarred. He squeezed and stuttered the music pretty much one way all set long. His clunky narrowness reminded me of two-chord rockabilly, or of shack-porch blues men from the 1920s and 1930s piling an entire repertoire onto one or two melodies. Perhaps this was the point ?

Because if it’s 1992 that is wanted, one turns first to Kerri Chandler, with whom Damier at that time often collaborated. Indeed, they plied the same piano-led, soft strut and shag. But Chandler wields flawless mixology and a far more diverse bag of mix moves, and he remains a world wide star: no rediscovery needed.

Damier at Re:set sounded like Chandler in 1992, trial and error finding his voice not yet found. His appearance in front of 150 adoring fans, who gave their all to him, reminded this writer of Newport Folk festivals of the mid 1960s, when all those 1920s blues men — long since forgotten and left behind by musical developments which carried off their fans — came back to show a new generation — of very different people — how music was flavored at a time when all to come had not yet be found or tasted.

In life, one so wants to retaste great meals eaten; to redo great doings that should, by all justice, have more than just one pass through one’s life. And so kids hardly old enough to have known Chez Damier in his 1992 moment — and utterly unlike the 1992 audience of, mostly, bourgie Black collegians, Black gays, and Black trannys — came to see that moment in person. To love it not as a social setting, because that they cannot do or, likely, even imagine. To love it, instead, as the music it is: flaws, geegaws, and simplicity, soul and sentiment, without floss or gloss; just the basics.

NOTE: Together Boston, now in its fourth year, co-sponsored this booking. Expect much more of this sort of connoiseur’s event planning from Together Boston’s knowledgeable board of EDM fans and DJs.

— Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”

STOMP AND ROLL, COMPLETE CONTROL : STEVE LAWLER @ BIJOU 05.10.13

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This writer has seen or listened, with greatest interest, to Steve Lawler’s DJ work since year 2001, when the first of his three LIGHTS OUT CDs was released. As a selector of tracks to play, he has no superior and few equals. as a sound shaper and set creator, the same level of mastery. Vidclips of his performances — boomy, strong, luscious and raw — command the full attention of one’s body, soul, and spirit. Yet even by this high standard, the two hour set that Lawler dropped at Bijou on Friday night surpassed expectations. Lawler asserted complete control over every aspect of the music: its pitch, texture, drive and flow; and absolute dominance of every detail in his lavishly detailed sound.

Lawler used a pc program running only two channels. That’s as basic as it gets. He played one simple stomp and roll almost all night long. Late in set he changed his groove, but only itys tone. the gait remained the same. Basic, too, was his format: stomp and roll, break rhythm, return to stomp and roll. This has been the drill for almost all DJs of house and techno have, since Armand Van Helden in the mid-1990s showed them how. These days the format almost guarantees a boring, repetitive set. Only the most imaginative DJs make it work. Lawler’s set had imaginagtion to spare; it had dialogue, drama, surprise, humor. It was psychedelic.

Lawler cued up CDs with a finger swipe — one, two, three, done. He spread complicated orchestral manoeuvers and tweaked them sharp, lush, squeezed, pinched — every tweak mattered. Passages of mid-octave conversation found themsleves interrupted by surprise quick cuts : two bars of drum roll, a laugh, the horn of a fire engine. Pairing reverb bass tones with squawky, thorny noises, he ballooned the effect, squeezed it, lengthened it.

All of this Lawler accomplished without using one recognizable track. Rigorously he adhered to the disco-era DJ code of using tracks no one recognizes but which, once heard, everyone wants to own.

Tastier than anything were his breaks. Into some he inserted a break within the break, like an enigma inside a riddle, exiting the break via shimmy and shake moves back onto his must-have stomp and roll: dancers welcomed the tried and true after being so loftily abstracted into the mystic. Chants of “oooh ! aaah ! whoa !” and “aaah” again gave voice to the dancers’ twirl, step, and joy. Then came the groove tone change, stomp and roll differently dressed, as Lawler dropped his set’s only recognizable reference — the beat of Green Velvet’s “Answering Machine,’ a track that Lawler used humorously on his first LIGHT OUT CD so long, long ago.

Local DJ Scot Cox played an opening set in his own hard-fisted, brawny yet melodic manner, a sound that Cox played with great success at the late Providence dance club Therapy. Cox’s 90 minutes provided a wonderfully sympatico lead into Lawler’s sound — the same tone and stomp as Cox’s, albeit taken by Lawler to another level.

—- Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”