RENEWING OUR PRIDE… We had wandered so long in the dark, we thought we were lost forever. We kept stumbling on promising new dance compilations, ones we hoped would help us see the lights, get us moving back to the dance floor. And then we listened to them. Several times even, and then again, to give them fair shimmy-shakes. But no. Next! Have we become too jaded, too lost, too old to enjoy today’s tastes? Well, say what you will. And after wearing out the few compilations that had actually moved us in the past half-year and more (keep reading), we started saying the same.
Maybe we should move on and take up crochet, we found ourselves thinking. And then: Hold up, hold up, and put that needle back on the record! From the most unexpected place, here comes the boost to get us through Pride and at least the start of gay fun in the summer sun, too: Out.Anthems 2 (Ultra Records). Aside from the shot of a shirtless male torso on the cover, and an openly gay DJ at the controls, last year’s inaugural set wasn’t really any gayer than any other release from America’s leading dance label. The assembled tracks didn’t feature gay-specific lyrics, or come from identifiably gay artists. Not much to see here.
What a difference a year makes. The cover again shows a shirtless man, although this time he’s pictured down to his upper thighs, showing prominent bulge in skimpy square-cut trunks. Also, DJ Ricardo! is back, and better than ever. But the main reason this compilation this time is so notable: there’s a mostly unobtrusive host added to the mix. Yes, a host, ”gay pimp daddy” Johnny McGovern. And yes, we said mostly unobtrusive. McGovern has been inconsistently funny in other venues, but he’s a riot here, commenting on and guiding us through the songs in a way that shouldn’t work, but does. It helps that he only interrupts the flow three times, including once by welcoming ”a big black lady to start screaming about Pride” (a decent remake of Aretha Franklin‘s ”A Deeper Love”), and then later, he orders twinks to bed, to let the harder after-hours set begin.
This time out, Ricardo! features some of the hottest, most durable tracks around, whether they have been around for months already (”Elektro”, ”The World Is Mine”) or are cued up to be summertime dance hits. The latter includes ”Yeah Yeah” by Bodyrox featuring Luciana. This track’s drip-drip D. Ramirez instrumental remix has actually been around for a year now, but the full vocal version is only starting to impact in America. Let’s hope it continues; Luciana’s feminine hip-hop-styled swagger is something to behold, again and again….
EXCLAIM HIS NAME… If the first Out.Anthems was as successful as Ultra claims it was, why have we not heard more from DJ Ricardo!? ”Promoters are afraid to bring in up-and-coming DJs with different sounds,” Ricardo! says in an Out.Anthems 2 press note, explaining why he, a DJ who’s ”all about mixing it up,” hasn’t gotten regular gigs. ”They fear they will lose their core audience.” Well, now that he’s shown himself twice capable of merging eclectic selections into smooth sets, the second time even better than the first, hopefully promoters will take a chance on Ricardo! Now if he’d just drop that annoying exclamation point….
MUMBO CHUMBO… Another compilation that took us by surprise: Let’s Go Chumbo! from Tom ”Superchumbo” Stephan. Star 69 Records released Stephan’s two-disc set months ago, but if you haven’t already heard it, it’ll take you into summer — and it just might do that even if you have heard it, it’s that good. The one-time Cherry DJ, based in London, mostly plays straight gigs. But the openly gay DJ is increasingly playing gay events, including a headlining gig at Euro Disney’s first-ever Gay Days party in late June and then a July gig at New York’s new gay Saturday night party, Work@Stereo. Live or on record, Stephan merges tribal house, which still dominates gay clubland, with tech and electro house, all the rage everywhere else, in a way that’s unlike other attempts you may have heard (hello, Victor Calderone). It gets a bit too noisy here and there, in the style of Stephan’s debut artist album, 2005′s Wowie Zowie, which was less-than-impressive — filled with half-baked concepts and clanging, banging noise. But when he’s good, he’s really, really great. There’s his Light and Shade Dub of the Pet Shop Boys‘ ”Minimal,” where Neil Tennant’s vocals and Chris Lowe’s keyboard riffs occasionally bring light to Stephan’s captivating reverberating bass line. And there’s Stephan’s own track with Katherine Ellis, ”Dog,” a track destined for greater play on the dance floor. ”I’ve seen you sniffing around…wagging and licking,” Ellis says, commanding the listener to ”be my dog, baby.” To which you can only reply, ”ruff ruff”….
HOT TIME IN SUMMERTIME… Star 69 Records, run by Peter Rauhofer, has just released a new New York Club Anthems Volume 2, as mixed by another newcomer on the circuit, Hector Fonseca. But it’s not very auspicious: there’s really nothing impressive here about either the selections or the mixing. The first edition was unmixed — and better. So just stick to Let’s Go Chumbo! or Rauhofer’s most recent compilation, I Love Miami. The third in this series, I Love Montreal, is due soon after summer officially starts. But Miami, better than the year-old I Love New York, continues to offer dancing delight a half-year after release….
Charmed city… At least two gay club tours traveling around the country will stop at Baltimore’s Hippo nightclub. First up: DJ Seth Gold‘s Black Out Tour, which will knock the lights out Saturday, June 2, with nothing but glow-in-the-dark visors and glow sticks to light the dancefloor. (What, is it 1995 all over again? Rave on.) Actually, Gold, 26, is angling for club chickens — 30-and-under, according to his website — not old cock-a-doodle roosters. His aim is to build on his previous college-themed parties and his less-club, more pop-centric sets. But in the dark, no one will know your age. It’ll be our secret.
Then, two weeks later, on Saturday, June 16, during Baltimore’s Pride festivities, comes DJ David Knapp to the Hippo, as part of Centaur Records’ Global Groove Tour. The happy, diva-delirious veteran DJ Knapp likes to keep things simple, light and poppy — and he focuses on playing tracks that are or will soon be chart-toppers on the Billboard Club Play chart. On the surface, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that — it’s better to be more familiar than not with the music that’s playing in a club. But don’t bother buying Knapp’s Global Groove: Live set, released to promote the tour. Knapp’s annual Global Groove sets have become the standard-bearer for gay compilations, providing the most accessible, most diverse collection of tunes. But this year he’s more singularly focused than ever on shouting d-list divas. Where are the quieter singers? The rockers? The underground tribal tracks? And where are the hits you want to hear over and over again? S Blush‘s ”It’s My Life” sounds like an also-ran dance hit from a decade ago that you’re still tired of. And the second track is from a decade ago — a particularly bland cover of Whitney Houston’s ”It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.” The saccharine remake of the Dixie Chicks‘ ”Not Ready to Make Nice” obliterates the meaning — as well as the justified meanness — of the original. To paraphrase the chicks, Knapp, you’re making us mad as hell, going round and round and round….
VIRGIN’S GANG BANG… Yet another event happening in Baltimore is the annual Virgin Festival. This year’s edition has been bumped up a month and expanded to two full days to make it a true summer festival. The Police, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Beastie Boys — this year, as last, the headliners don’t really appeal to us. But even more than last, much of the rest of the lineup does. Oh, not so much the second day, Sunday, August 5, although it does include Dubfire and Sharam of Deep Dish, spinning together, among other highlights. But with Sasha & Digweed — yes, together again, at least for this — and Sander Van Doorn and Felix da Housecat, Saturday, August 4, is the day to go if you can only go to one. That is, if you can only go to one: If they release one-day tickets, they’ll go on sale May 19. For now, only two-day tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com. And we didn’t even mention Saturday’s inclusion of gay house legend Danny Tenaglia or our particular favorite, the dance-rockers LCD Soundsystem. If you can pony up $175, then off to Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course you go….
Babylon and on… Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the tour Artic Babylon will stop May 25 at Club Hot, with spins from rising star Roland Belmares. While Manny Lehman, Brett Henrichsen and Chad Jack are all rotating with Belmares on the Artic Babylon tour, Tony Moran ranks above all of them as the real star of the tour. He continues to improve and excel as a DJ, having put together an exceedingly accomplished set nearly two months ago at New York’s Black Party, no mean feat.
But not all is beat-sweetness and light for Moran at the moment. Moran just lost his partner of seven years, New York businessman and philanthropist Beau Clarke. Clarke, 61, died May 1 in London of causes that are still under police investigation, according to an EDGE Publications report. Moran is sticking to the DJ gigs on his schedule, though he has just postponed his first DJ compilation in three years. Easily one of this year’s most anticipated compilations, The Event was originally due out by now from Tommy Boy. It will drop at the end of summer. Our condolences Moran: We’ll be waiting, and ready to dance to The Event just as soon as you are….