Body & SOUL
Better than: I saw a press release this morning that described some Tumblr bass DJ as "deep as fuck and playful as a kitten." The next time someone says something is "deep" to me, I'm just going to nod my head and laugh. You don't even know.
Words are a difficult thing to use when describing extra-human experiences. Nevertheless, I'll do my best to put in writing the otherworldy nature of what transpired on Saturday. It was a special day for me, and, I imagine, a few other house heads from the West Coast that had never been blessed with the unique atmosphere of Body & SOUL. They say you can only experience it for the first time once, and that the first baptism is truly special. Going into it I had my expectations, sure -- I've seen each of these DJs on their own, never all three together -- but I was hardly prepared to have my mind blown so thoroughly.
Good DJing is an artform that seems to sadly be on the decline. Even finding DJs that play appropriate for the time they're booked is something of a rarity; I've found it be the case that everyone is in a hurry, so get to a club early and you'll usually be assaulted by some aspiring producer-turned-DJ banging out the kind of set that ought to be reserved for maybe one or two hours of peak time. Everyone's trying to be a celebrity. It's an attitude -- fake it 'til you make it and play what you would if you were the headliner. This is wrong: without easing into things, how can there be a contrast that makes those heavy-hitting cuts stand out? I've often thought this, and I know there are others who think along similar lines.
While it's a philosophy I personally subscribe to, this potential of dynamics was really brought out by the overall arc of Saturday night, as Francois K., Joaquin "Joe" Claussell, and Danny Krivit took turns selecting records, and playing them in their entirety, that perfectly fit each passing minute. This began right when we got there at 10 p.m., when the three of them treated the 20 or so people in the club to selections of mellow jazz-funk and ambient music at a volume level so low you could easily talk over it. At this stage, it was a social party. People in Body & SOUL T-shirts and loose-fitted clothing hugged one another hello and chatted with smiles beneath flotillas of multi-colored balloons -- old friends reunited in the secular church of the house nation.
It's important, I think, when discussing the party, to emphasize that it really is about the total experience, as opposed to just the DJs. Sure, they were there, but there was no posturing, and from the very beginning they almost melted into the architecture. The focal point wasn't the booth, but instead the physical and mental space in the room, both of which seemed to disperse the message of Body & SOUL to every corner from the bathroom on out. This message is uniformly one of positivity and a kind of universal love that reads corny on paper but is entirely serious in practice. You could not escape it; it was total. The only difference from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. was the intensity with which this idea was expressed, and when it really got going it honestly felt as though reality itself had been peeled away to reveal that universal disco maxim so eloquently expressed by MFSB with "Love is the Message." (Sadly it wasn't played at the party.)
The progression they followed closely mimicked what I've understood to be David Mancuso's appropriation of Timothy Leary's bardo system -- itself an appropriation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, used to describe the parabolic arch of LSD. The first bardo is about entry, creating a comfortable space that allows everyone to gather and feel at ease. Then comes the second bardo, a period of chaos and intense energy i.e. the peak. Finally is the third bardo, re-entry, a gentle landing that guides the party back to the trappings of reality.
The precise instance we reached the second bardo is hard to say, but I think I can loosely point to a track that Danny Krivit played. Volume level raised, a bongo-led disco workout began to coax the bassbins of Mighty's RLA soundsystem toward their true potential. From a group of dancers in front of me I heard, "Oh my god this is it, it's happening." Not a moment later, David Byrne spoke out over the drums, "You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. You may find yourself living in another part of the world." More percussion, screams and whistles from the huge mass of people that had somehow just appeared. "You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife." More screams, anticipation building. "You may ask yourself, well how did I get here?" Tension, so much tension in the air, it felt like an overinflated balloon about to explode. And then it did. The floor dropped out as he leaned into the crossover taking out the bass while boosting the midrange to lead an ecstatic room into the chorus of a song that in any other context might be regarded as too obvious. Not here though, this was it. And with the thundering rhythm of the disco drums beneath it, it was not just "Once in a Lifetime," but something else entirely. It was a rocket that lifted the party into a state of transcendent ecstasy, a direct expression of raw emotion that would only grow stronger as the night wore on.