Six months ago, Michele Miruski got a call from Danny Linden, longtime organizer of Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend’s official closing dance party.
“He asked me if I was interested in ‘coming home’ and playing for the party,” Miruski says.
Miruski was at one time one of the most prominent DJs in Washington. She was the Saturday night resident DJ at Tracks and later Velvet Nation, but in 2002, she moved away to be closer to her parents in Oklahoma City. “For many people, she was Tracks,” Linden says. “For those of us who were in D.C. during the ’90s, Michele is synonymous with club dance music.”
Miruski was the obvious choice, then, for the rebranded closing party, now called Revival. “I think we ran our course with Reaction,” he says of the party’s former name. “Revival often is thought of in this [churchy] kind of way, of people with their hands praising. It’s a Sunday night, and for us, it’s kind of like going back to church. And I think that you’re going to see and feel that revival-like spirit.”
Miruski will help partygoers get in the spirit by spinning a set of house classics. She almost couldn’t believe her ears when Linden proposed this on the phone. “He said he wanted me to play to my strengths, to play stuff that worked well for me back when I was at Tracks and at Nation during the ’90s. That just sounded like a dream gig to me. And I’ve been bouncing off the walls with excitement ever since.”
“It’s when house, at least for me, peaked, that period of time,” Linden adds. He conceived of the entire evening as a revival of that era and of house music in general — deep and sultry soul house in particular. And few DJs epitomize or carry on that style’s legacy more than Quentin Harris, who will take to the decks after Miruski.
“I have been feverishly preparing for this,” Harris says, adding with a laugh, “I feel like I’m in school and I’m having an exam.” This is Harris’s third time playing the party. “I’m very honored and glad and humbled and pleased that I was asked back for a third time,” he says. “I don’t [often] get a chance to play and really go all the places I want to go musically. The [MAL] crowd is always very receptive to what I do, and it’s a rarity that I get that.”
So where might Miruski and Harris take the crowd at Revival? What songs will they play? To a certain extent, they don’t know themselves. They would also prefer, understandably, to leave some things open to surprise. “I don’t want to give too much away,” Miruski says, “but my opening song will pay homage to Martin Luther King, Jr. And naturally, I couldn’t play a night like this without throwing in some River Ocean featuring India, ‘Love & Happiness.’ The rest will be a surprise.”
Harris relishes the opportunity accorded by Revival to spin for several hours, as opposed to a shorter, hour-long set on a bill with a handful of DJs. The added time allows Harris to mix together tracks of varying tempo, tone, and genre in a progression often referred to as a metaphorical journey, but one he compares to having a conversation. “I love playing around with tempo. When you have a conversation with somebody, you don’t speak in the same cadence or tempo. I feel like it’s a conversation that I’m having communicated through the music.”
That musical conversation will touch on his sharp remix and production work, particularly with soulful deep house. But he will also mix it up by including some of the hard-to-classify soul/jazz/electronic tracks resulting from the multi-instrumentalist’s long-gestating collaboration with singer Ultra Nate. Originally called Super Black Bass, the duo released a self-titled full-length debut as Black Stereo Faith last year. In a couple of weeks they will start rehearsing for a forthcoming mini-tour with a backing band and veteran club vocalists including Inaya Day, former gay porn star Colton Ford, and Jason Walker. Harris assures the tour will include stops in D.C. and Baltimore.
Nate, of course, is a known quantity to MAL partygoers, having DJ’ed the last two closing parties. “She was nervous, like I had been,” Harris says, recalling a phone conversation with Nate before her debut in 2016. “I told her, ‘Trust me, you’re going to love it. They’re going to love you.’ I said, ‘Just do what you do and amp it up a little bit.’ When the party was over, she was on my phone, she couldn’t stop talking about what a great time she had, what records that she played that she couldn’t play [elsewhere].” Although she may not be spinning this year, Harris teases that Nate may make a cameo as his guest at Revival.
Meanwhile, Miruski will bring a special guest of her own — and the night will mark a special occasion, beyond her momentous return to DJ’ing and D.C. “I have the most wonderful, caring, kind, and beautiful partner,” she says, “and our eight-year anniversary is that night — at midnight.” Her partner was also present the last time Miruski played in D.C., at the Tracks Reunion party at Town in 2013.
That reunion was the kind of party that doesn’t happen all the time, a special event to honor fading memories that also managed to spark new ones. Linden aims for something similar to occur on Sunday — especially for people of a certain age.
“Anyone and everyone who hasn’t been out in a long time, and says that they don’t do it the way they used to. Well, why don’t they?” he says, winding up his pitch. “They have no excuse, because we have Michele and Quentin on the same bill. And it would be a crime to sit at home on a Sunday night, on a three-day weekend, and miss this.”
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