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”

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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”

GIANT STEPS and TINY TICKS : ROBERT DIETZ @ BIJOU BOSTON 05.03.13

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On Friday night, at Bijou in Boston, Frankfurt, Germany’s Robert Dietz dropped a set much stronger than a perusal of his top ten tracks at Beatport would have predicted. In the studio, his work ranges all over the lot, from the powerful depths of “Stamina” and the cracked up craziness of his remix of Nic Fanciulli’s “Limmo” to the droll, dry merengue beat of “Bingo Wings” and “Heavy Mental” and the pounding bass swerves of “Pandemic.” In the studio, there’s no one sound to telegraph the maker’s identity to the listener; but at Bijou, all this diversity collapsed into one huge pouch of rhythm. Dietz simply flooded the bottom frequencies with rhythm and reverb, and everything in his sound that didn’t get inundated floated on top like minnows riding a whale’s hump..

Using a Traktor program and cueing on two 12-inch Traktor vinyl discs, Dietz didn’t need to run more than two channels. Beat and rhythm told his entire story, and it was a big one: giant steps booting across the soundscape like Doc Martens shoeing bandy shins; a rhythm swooning and humming, strutting and rumbling deliciously and, almost magically, parading the same gross prance with barely a minute of self-repetition. Not until late in his set did Dietz lose grip. For about ten minutes his moves lacked face — felt like auto-pilot. But then a fresh riff took hold, in the same bottom register that had served him so well, and with a scrim of orcherstral uppers hovering, all was right with the world. Dietz’s giant beat strode potently home.

Rarely these past several years has this writer seen a major DJ drop such a simple, basic sound so dominantly. Or at least that was the impression that Dietz skillfully parlayed. In fact, his seemingly simple rhythm was diligently steered, this way and that, by judicious application of upper register fidgeting. Pianissimo modulated most of his high notes; but their screaming, fizzing, pinching, tweeting, and piffling colored his beat like a coat of many hues. A subtle coat, to be sure; but there it was, guiding almost unnoticeably Dietz’s hulk-hunk-heavy rhythm and assuring that the dancers — on a floor never more than half full — would give it up to Dietz’s well-helmed bigness. Which they did.

“Stamina” it was, even when that track was not on the drop.

Local master DJ Wil Trahan provided an opening set of thick rhythm, plush and melodic bottom fugues — tracks superbly selected that cried out to be sung — by one’s entire body and then some. Trahan’s set prepared almost perfectly for Dietz’s even plusher sound. Will somebody please give Trahan a major headliner set ? He has long proved himself more than worthy.

— Deedee Freedberg / Here and Sphere

THE END FOR POLITICAL SOUTH BOSTON ?

Yesterday’s First Suffolk senate District election almost certainly spells the end for South Boston’s political primacy. In that election, Dorchester State representative Linda Dorcena-Forry defeated South Boston state Rep Nick Collins.

The vote was certainly close. Dorcena-Forry won 10,214 votes; Collins received 9,836. That’s a margin of 378 votes out of 20,000 cast. A third candidate — business-gal Maureen Dahill, also from South Boston; more on that later — drew about 1500 additional votes.

^^ Maureen Dahill : did she take Southie votes away from Collins or female votes away from Dorcena-Forry ? Whichever, her presence in the race divided the Southie vote and the result is…what it is.

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The big news, of course, is that Dorcena-Forry is of Haitian ancestry. A woman of color, not from Southie; not even close, will now represent South Boston in the Massachusetts state Senate.

Never mind that Dorcena-Forry is married to Bill Forry, son of Ed Forry, the voice of Dorchester’s venerable local newspaper. She is still a woman of color, a person whose 30 years ago — even 15 years ago — could never have managed even a second place finish, much less victory, in a race to choose South Boston’s senator.

Not all of that is due to racial identity politics. Much has to do with the decreasing size of South Boston’s population relative to its abutting neighborhoods and to huge population change in those abutting communities. Thirty years ago, the Dorchester Wards within the First Suffolk District — most of 13, sone of 15, all of 16 and 17 — were strongly Irish American throughout, as is “Southie.” Today those Dorchester wards host many Asians, Cape Verdeans, and Black people of both American and Caribbean ancestries. Thirty plus years ago Dorchester sent Gerry Morrissey, Brian Donnelly, John Finnegan, Jim Brett, and Paul White to the legislature; Paul Murphy to the State Senate; Jim Byrne to the City Council (and later, Maureen Feeney); and a whole host of McDonough’s to a variety of lesser offices, not to mention Leahys, Mullens, Kellys, O’Shea’s, a Lynch, and more who ran and lost. Today only State Rep. Marty Walsh and City Councillor Frank Baker remain.

Frank Baker >>> .

Still, though Dorchester names have changed, its huge size as a neighborhood — more than 100,000 people — has assured that Dorchester continues to matter a lot, maybe even to matter more than ever.

Not so South Boston. First, at 25,000 to 27,000 people it’s smaller than either a state Rep or City Council district. Second, the communities abutting it, other than Dorchester, are radically different not only in population but in income and outlook. To Southie’s west, across Fort Point channel, lies the “new Boston” of high tech workers, trendy boutiques, fancy nightclubs, $ 100-a-plate restaurants, and trade show living. North of the piers that guard Southie’s topside lies an even trendier, splashier area, the Seaport District. These parts of the “new Boston’ could not possibly be more different from the old “Southie” of inly-working blue collar, union workers, the culture of men-only taverns, Park League sports, and — most of all — city workers, MBTA workers, and every other sort of government employee, all of them Southie-born and Southie-loyal.

Thirty years ago the inly work of Southie people advantaged South Boston. Successful Southie people did not usually move out to the suburbs. They moved east, from “D street” to G Street to M, N, and P Streets,” all within Southie itself.

Southie” had its own merchant and political aristocracy, and why not ? A “Southie” kid could run for State Rep, then move up to the State Senate — in a District that 30 years ago included only South Boston and three smallish and politically powerless abutting wards — and then, maybe, to Congress.

It worked for

John McCormack ^^^, who became House Speaker; for Louise Day Hicks after him; it also worked for

^^^ Joe Moakley after her; and for Stephen Lynch after Moakley. Or one could become Attorney General : Eddie McCormack. Or one could go to the state senate and stay there becoming powerful. That strategy worked for John E. Powers, then for Bill Bulger, and for Jack Hart, whose resignation to join a downtown law firm — significant, that ! –occasioned yesterday’s election.

Or a kid could become a city councillor, as did John E Kerrigan, and much more recently, the “neighborhood schools” spokmesman,

Jimmy Kelly >> 

who represented Southie for 20 years, and was then followed by Bill Lineahn (of whom more later). Or a Southie councillor could become Mayor, as did

Ray Flynn ^^^; or the ambitious Southie kid might rise to  District Court clerk, as did two Flahertys, Mike and Jim. Or a Judge — too many to name, but especially including the father of neighborhood schools leader, City Councillor, and Congresswoman Louise Day Hicks.

Or one might organize, dominate, and admit folks or deny participation in the South Boston St Patrick’s day Parade, like “Wacko” Hurley

or become a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church : Richard Cushing !

“Southie” was indeed THAT important a place. It would be difficult to think of any other community in Massachusetts, of less than 30,000 people, with such a record of political advancement. Certainly there has been no other in the past 100 years.

Yet the power of “Southie’ has been on the decline for at least two decades. A redistricting of the state senate in the late 1970s linked “Southie” to downtown, Beacon Hill, and Back Bay; a later redistricting took out Back Bay but added Ward 15 of Dorchester, even as the “Dorchester Senate District”‘ moved south into Norfolk County. Then came the latest redistricting, in which the map makers simply gave up trying to accommodate two Irish-identified Boston Districts, one based in Southie and one in Dorchester.

Meanwhile, the Southie-based City Council District, which lumped the “new Boston’ South End neighborhood in with South Boston, was becoming ever less easy for the South Boston incumbent councillor to win. First drawn, in 1981, the district was Southie-easy: for the South End of that decade was still a neighborhood disorganized, with housing much  neglected,  and significantly inhabited by people of color not yet locked in to local politics; and also  by rooming house denizens. Yet by 2010 all that had changed. The South End was (and is) trendy, well-heeled, and very aware of itself; and in 2011 a South End and Chinatown City Council candidate, Suzanne Lee, fell less than 100 votes short of unseating 

^^^ Southie’s Bill Linehan. She plans to run again, in a 2nd District only slightly redrawn in Linehan’s favor, and seems the favorite.

Suzanne Lee : 

South Boston unrepresented on the City Council ? Sure seems like it.
And now comes the First Suffolk senate election leaving “Southie’ wothout its State Senator — its host at the St Patrick’s Day breakfast !

And Southie too has been changing. Inly Southie has had to make room for young trendies, condo dwellers, trendy boutique and restaurants and the new era of Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Instagram. No more Dot-So-cha Reunions; now dances with DJs playing house music. No more Irish taverns for men only; now gals photographing themselves looking at their iphone faces. There are even openly gay people living in Southie today !

That, and less politics. A kid growing up Southie today cannot simply aspire to the political ladder, to public employment as a power career, to life in the ward heels of the Boston Democratic party. A kid growing up Southie today probably wants more to write a book, like Kevin Weeks, Nick McDonald, and many more have profitably done, or act in a movie about “Southie” or at least have one’s bar filmed in one — thank you “Good Will Hunting” —  a Southie that no longer exists — than to become a Congressman. After all, who wants to be the next

Stephen Lynch ^^^^, beaten in his attempt to become a US Senator by a guy from Malden ? F’chrissakes, Malden ? Malden. It’s almost enough to make a Southie guy move to f’ing Hollywood. Or open up a trendy bistro serving leafy tapas till 10 PM and a baseball-hatted DJ after that. No shit !

It really is a time for looking back to Southie’s heyday, as did Patrick J. Loftus, pictured below — he was once a ;political power in the neighborhood and city — and whose book “That old Gang of Mine” can serve quite well as a requiem for what once was.

Does anybody still sing “Wild Colonial Boy” in South Boston ? Or “I was born down on A Street, brought up on B Street, Southie is my home town” ? Nah. More likely they’re singing “Beam me up” and “I want you to take over control.”

As for politics, they have changed too. No longer is it a “contact sport” effort well rewarded with a cushy patronage job “at the city” or “on the T.” today it’s all twitter and texting, Facebook and crowd-funding, and it’s mostly Presidential, not at all local in any way that’ll get your windows broken, a lawn sign ripped down, your land-line phone — who has THOSE any more ? — cut or your car egged the night before E day. It isn’t one Park League baseball team against another. It isn’t about who can “deliver the votes” or stand at the polling place door and “pass the word.” Politics once absolutely mattered to a place like “Southie.” Today its’ just a convo with lip-kiss, high heeled “house girls” in a bistro with big sunshiny windows.

—- Deedee Freedberg / “The Sphere”