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Monday, October 8, 2012

Body & SOUL Is the Best Party Ever

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 3:30 AM

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

Body & SOUL


Oct.10, 2012

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.

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

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.)

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

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.

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

At one point, I remember closing my eyes. Sheets of sound bathing my senses, my body almost completely worked over. The RLA was screaming, the midrange and highs so loud that they bled over into distortion. Was it Loleatta Holloway's "Love Sensation" or some obscenely obscure house track? I can't say, it was one moment, but Joe Claussell was on either way. The tail of his white headband was swinging back and forth as he created entirely new flows and directions in the music. My ears singed and my senses overloaded -- he pushed the volume so loud that it seemed we might all lose consciousness. Holloway screaming through the speakers, rushing up towards another climax, "Tiiiime wooont taaake my love a---waaaaaaay" The sheer power of it all is indescribable, but then he did the impossible! He cut the sound out from maximum, ear-shredding volume to a mere whisper. So filled with passion, he fell to the floor. Screams from the dancefloor, you could see people slumped over like they'd just been punched in the gut. Looking up at the booth, Joe's head peeked out just so, only his eyes visible. As he picked himself up, so too did the volume rise, swirling around like a growing cloud of smoke, the song contorted up before slamming us back down into a long rhythmic interlude -- some fresh air for a breath before it got even more intense.

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

There's a long passage of time that I have a hard time remembering, two -- maybe three -- hours where it seemed as though the fabric of time and space had been ripped apart. Where were we? Where was I? Talking with some people afterwards, nobody seemed to know. All that mattered was the totality of it all, we were lost in a sea of sound, hit over the head with an essential message that seemed so comforting in our society's current obsession with status and material wealth. All that remains is a haze of vaguely remembered melodies and rhythms: Reese & Santonios "Rock to the Beat," Prince's "Erotic City," Stevie Wonder's "As," and even Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" -- a song I hate, but which in context was entirely appropriate. Moments in triplet, moments in psych-rock, moments in the absolute deepest pockets of house (I wish I could share some titles with you, but I'm out of my league).

Four a.m. and the lights were on, but we were all still dancing. Now well into the third bardo, the intensity had passed, and the party had shifted toward its eventual end. If metaphors are any use, the landing was less a smooth glide than a slow bounce. We'd hit the runway and then lift up, then touch baseline again. Back up and then down, before gliding into the morning with the uplifting message of Chaka Khan's "I Know You, I Live You."

Good doesn't describe it, platonic ideal gets closer. This is what it should be, and I'm glad that I was there to hear it. My only complaint is that it should have lasted longer, and while I understand they booked another party the next day, I think I speak for everyone when I say that I wish it had gone until the posted 5 a.m. cutoff. But that's a minor complaint given just how good it was.


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