KNAPP’S ”SOAKIN WET” REPRISE… Just last weekend, many D.C. dance denizens got soaking wet playing in the rain and the thundershowers in New York. The occasion was the 5th annual Soakin Wet party at the Chelsea Piers, thrown as ever by current D.C. resident Don Turner and featuring music early on from D.C.’s own DJ Rob Harris. But David Knapp is the event’s original DJ, and yet again this year he closed out the event and captured it on CD. His Party Groove: Soakin Wet Volume 2, to be released by Centaur Records next Tuesday, includes more hot-off-the-Billboard Club Play chart tracks than any other I’ve seen in a while. And just like the original set, released last year, Soakin Wet 2 is the perfect soundtrack for a clear, sunny summer day, even if it’s only in your mind.
Knapp is a master of combining in equal, appealing measures heavy tribal beats with happy vocal melodies. Unfortunately, this new set is not quite as rapturous as the first. New tracks from Georgie Porgie, Vernessa Mitchell, GTS featuring Norman Jean & Luci M may have recently hit the top of the Billboard chart, or at least come awfully close. But they don’t promise to have the longevity of those from Debby Holiday, The Transatlantins or Jakhey B on last year’s Soakin Wet compilation. That set was just about the best dance compilation released in all of 2004. As good as it is — and it is a consistently good compilation, with no weak spots — Soakin Wet 2 isn’t positioned to earn that distinction in 2005….
PEACE AND LOVE IN SEPTEMBER… And you thought you had an active summer: September is shaping up to be a major month for dance music. Let’s jump to the fourth weekend of the month. There you’ll find two competing events, depending on whether you want to go west or stay home, whether you want to love or fight war. The Washington Monument grounds will be the site Saturday, September 24, of Operation Ceasefire, a coalition of musicians opposing the war in Iraq and lead by D.C.’s own chilled electronica act Thievery Corporation. After a morning rally and a march through downtown, the coalition will hold a free, 10-hour concert where Thievery will perform alongside feminist dance-punk trio Le Tigre, among others. For more information, visit www.opceasefire.org.
Even if you count yourself among the antiwar set, love might win out that very same weekend, as long as you could get yourself to the love capital, San Francisco. That’s where the famous Love Parade — first birthed in Berlin in 1989 – will take place. One look at the DJ lineup for San Francisco’s second Love Parade and Love Weekend festivities and it’s clear to see why organizers expect crowd figures approaching six figures: Paul van Dyk, Carl Cox, The Crystal Method, Mark Farina and openly gay DJ Dan are just some of the headliners. Though no specifically gay events have been announced yet, there is some overlap between organizers of the Parade and those of San Francisco’s Pride festivities. And the event, to say nothing of the locale, can’t help but be gay-friendly. It’s billed as a ”no spectators” event, where partygoers are encouraged to dress outrageously and dance alongside the parade floats — atop which the DJs will spin — for the entire route down Market Street to the city’s Civic Center. Visit www.loveparadesf.org for more information….
TIESTO TAKES CENTER STAGE AT MCI… He’s not scheduled to appear at the Love Parade, but Tiesto, perpetually ranked as the ”World’s Number One DJ,” will put on an event nearly as large – and nearly all by himself. And you don’t even have to go very far from home to see it, as the Madonna figure among DJs is following in the Cabbalah Proselytizer’s footsteps to the MCI Center. He’ll appear there Friday, October 21, in an unprecedented DJ-led event, part of the Dutchman’s effort to become a mainstream star in the states. It’s just one of only five stops of this fall’s Tiesto In Concert Tour in the U.S. and feature a half-million-dollar, audio-visual set from the same designers of Madonna’s Drowned World Tour. Tiesto has enlisted more than 30 performers to support him, from singers to aerial acts to ”flying Geishas,” and they’ll come out in two acts during the ”sensory-driving, four-hour production.” As always, he’ll spin a crowd-pleasing, happy and dramatic set. Tickets go on sale Aug. 29 at www.tiestoinconcert.com and Ticketmaster, with prices expected to start at around $40….
BETWEEN ROCK AND A HARD BEAT… Last week we told you about new work from The Cure and Depeche Mode. And we made passing reference to a compilation that those two bands would appear on, but we neglected to provide further details about Future Retro, which Warner Bros. plans to issue Sept. 27. Future Retro is a remix compilation of many early electro and post-punk classics, nearly all drawn from bands part of the ’80s British pop invasion, from Echo & The Bunnymen to Yaz to New Order, as well as Erasure, Morrissey and Alphaville (and, of course, The Cure and Depeche Mode). And there’s hope that the remixes won’t be predictable or trite: the label recruited a motley crew of peer-revered but popularly little known remixers — at least stateside — from Way Out West to Richard X to Infusion….
”D” STANDS FOR ”SLUT”… Enough with all those preening and posing girly-girl dance divas who sing slutty songs you can tell they don’t really mean. Avenue D sings and raps about being sluts — and they leave no wiggle room, so to speak, for you not to believe it. Peter Rauhofer teased us with a barely-there remix of the song on his Live@Roxy4compilation earlier this year. Now his Star 69 label has finally released Debbie D. and Daphne D.’s single ”Do I Look Like A Slut?”
But the label teases us again with seven other barely-there remixes of the song. At least the slowed-down and dirty five-minute electro original is here, in which the girls joke about being good girls who only wear skimpy clothing because they have a threadbare stylist. Only a couple of the remixes incorporate all the ribald lyrics, and only Rauhofer’s Sizequeen Remix sticks in your craw, thanks to a short, memorable synth line and his playing with the phrase ”sucks dick.” But DJ James Andersen creates the remix most primed for today’s tribal-tipped gay clubland.
There is a problem with Andersen’s ”James Thinks You’re A Slut Mix” though. He strips the original’s chatter about a male friend who called the girls sluts, leaving only the girls’ verbal retort: ”Honey, don’t worry, he’s just a fag anyway.” While Rauhofer deletes that line altogether in both his remixes, Anderson draws your attention to it by immediately following the utterance with an ominous, beat-less bridge. Hearing that on the dance floor will likely jar some listeners, unaware that more gay-positive straight girls than Avenue D would be hard to find. Many Washingtonians first encountered them, for example, when they performed at the WEDRock same-sex marriage benefit concert last fall. The girls were half-dressed (less as the night wore on) as brides for a same-sex wedding, even throwing a bouquet out to the audience after their ”ceremony.”
Later this fall Star 69 will release a souped-up version of the duo’s self-released debut Bootleg, a set that includes ”The Sex That I Need,” a typically vulgar, minimalist, beat-driven song that features an explicitly gay rap from Cazwell. Other songs feature gay-positive, or at least gay-friendly, lyrics as well….
DEPECHE CURE… Two other ’80s-originating bands remixed on Warner’s Future Retro compilation are set to release new material soon. Pitchfork Media reports that The Cure will start recording a new set this fall, which they hope to release before lead singer Robert Smith‘s birthday next April. And Depeche Mode will celebrate its 25th year together by releasing Playing the Angel in October. They will also tour in support of the album, and the band’s Web site says the band is due in D.C. sometime between October and December, with a firm date to be announced shortly.
The Web site also reveals other good news: The first single, ”Precious,” is said to be ”quintessential Mode, all cyber pulse and glorious chorus.” Lead singer Dave Gahan co-wrote only three songs, letting Martin Gore assume his usual role as songwriter on the other nine. And, best yet, the new set is apparently quicker-paced than the previous two Mode albums….
LUKE FAIR’S NEO-DISCO DELIGHTS… If by chance you’re looking to hear great music this weekend and you’re willing to branch out, even going to the extreme of attending a predominantly straight event where you have to be told how to dress (to impress, of course) — I said it was extreme — then get yourself to Club Andalu Saturday, Aug. 13. Luke Fair will spin his irresistible blend of disco-flared house music at this underground house haven located underneath Sesto Senso at 1214 18th Street NW. Visit www.sesto.com for more information.
One of the most promising DJs on the scene and a protÃ©gÃ© of D.C.’s Deep Dish, the Toronto-based Fair recently released his second compilation, the winsome OS_0.3. After tapping Fair to open for his DJ gigs earlier this year — and after Sasha had done the same before him — John Digweed enlisted him to mix the third set in his own Bedrock Label”s Original Series compilation. Fair prefers to spin music that makes you smile while you dance. He plays full-fledged disco, though not what even a die-hard disco fan would recognize. This is new disco, or neo-disco, which only sounds old. And because it’s largely devoid of vocals, it”s positioned to never get old. These are some of the strongest, most intensely melodic instrumental dance tracks you’ll find. Halfway through, the ass-shaking party rock of Moonbootica‘s ”Bulldog Beats” segues to several delightful disco tracks featuring giddy strings, floating keys, pulsating bass and all-around improvisational jam-band funk. Fair is likely to play even house songs you know — though it’s likely they’ll be twisted in a way you’ll barely recognize them — when he spins at Andalu, a hipster’s club known for inviting musicians to perform live along to the music….
VAN HELDEN’S COMING CRUNK ROCK… If you haven’t noticed, the guitars are surging in dance music, strumming out the new big thing: dance rock. Next month we’ll see an album from one of dance-rock’s longest-standing proponents, not to mention one of dance music’s best producers. These days, however, Billboard reports Armand Van Helden is calling his disco-flavored but guitar-heavy rock sound — which he formerly called ”cool cheese” — ”crunk rock,” or ”crazy drunk rock.” It’s been five years since his last artist album, and it took Van Helden more than a year to find a label home for the fabulously named Nympho, which apparently many record label executives thought was a sort-of joke. “[It] has the beer-soaked spunk of summer roof-deck parties,” as Billboard described it, and it features his two marvelous hits from last year, ”Hear My Name” and the even better ”My My My,” as well as his new single, ”Into Your Eyes.” That latter track features Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor, sampling an ’80s hit from Taylor’s short-stinted solo turn. Ultra Records will release the album stateside Sept. 6….
THE PRICE IS RIGHT… A more recent — and thus far more-prominent — proponent of dance-rock is Jacques Lu Cont. You have to pay attention to keep track of this prolific producer, since at various times he also goes by his birth name Stuart Price or by the nickname the Thin White Duke. As Lu Cont, he picked up the most recent Grammy for best remix, for his work on No Doubt’s cover of ”It’s My Life.” But as Price, he was the musical director of Madonna‘s Re-Invention Tour. And again as Price he’s been working with Madonna on her next album and its first single. Billboard reported that the album will be called Confessions on a Dancefloor, which certainly sounds promising, and the single is ”Hung Up”….
PRICE PLAYS ROMEO TO JULIET… Stuart Price’s work with Madonna is not due until at least the fall. But a peek into just how the end result may sound will be available soon, when Juliet Richardson‘s Price-produced debut, Random Order, drops. An early listen to the album, which Virgin Records will release on Aug. 30, finds Juliet and Price channeling some of the best, most idiosyncratic female-fronted pop from the ’80s in a way that would make Price’s fellow producer-extraordinaire Linda Perry jealous. We’re talking Joan Jett, Annie Lennox, Siouxsie Sioux, Bjork — and of course, to a minor extent, Madonna. Juliet, who co-wrote the album’s songs, has a smoky, strong voice perfectly suited to Price’s gritty rock, which makes you move. Virgin has just released remixes of her second single, ”Ride the Pain,” after first single ”Avalon” topped the dance charts months ago. For the first time I can remember, it’s not a Thin White Duke Mix that is the most remarkable in the collection of three distinct remixes. Perhaps Price is too preoccupied with work for Madonna right now; his ”Pain” is a little sleepy, and altogether too pain-free. Not so the Low End Dominatrix’s remix. Low End, a relatively new New York production duo, finds pleasure from pain, playing up those two words throughout its mix and surrounding the track in the thick fog from a heavy, dense bass line….
STRANGER SEX… An early press photo of the 25-year-old Juliet, had her with short-cropped, bleach-blonde hair. On her album cover though, she’s sporting short-cropped, spiky black hair as she shoots a sassy, straight-faced look to the camera. Juliet is, in short, different from most dance-pop starlettes who prefer to go by one-name. Two others who hew closer to the dirty-blond, seductive-looking norm are also riding high right now, both with sex-positive songs that are lyrically very similar. Both ”No Strings” by Lola and ”Dance with a Stranger” by Leana are perfect Club Play tracks. Leana, the ”Swedish Diva” — the name of her L.A.-based record label — sings, ”Just one dance with a stranger, I don’t need to know any numbers or names.” And just like that her song has been decreed, no joke, the Official Stockholm Pride Song 2005. She’s performing this weekend at that city’s Pride celebration.
A Parisian-reared New Yorker who aspires to be categorized with Alicia Keys and Joss Stone, Lola seems a more appealing singer, with some grit to her soaring pipes. She certainly outdoes Leana on her first single. ”Baby, let’s have sex, no strings attached,” she sings, a little shyly, then shouting, ”I don’t even know you, and I don’t care/Cause you’ve got what I want, and I want what you’ve got.” Sounds absolutely perfect as one night’s theme at, and after, the club, right? Trouble is she doesn’t quite have the courage of her convictions. The song is intended as a public service for women, who, Lola says in her official biography, are ”culturally robbed of desires and lust.” But she’s too quick to clarify that her song is ”an overtly honest fantasy (thought not an endorsement) about casual relations.” And further, ”It’s not a call to behave promiscuously.” Right. Heaven forbid she should write a song about ”no strings” sex and mean just that….