Oh what fun I had last night! three glasses of Chardonnay and a champagne drink with raspberry vodka and peach juice at MEET on Gansevort and Washington, with my friend’s Jodi, Jay, Tim and Ed, and I was ready to roll on into Cielo, Manhattan’s DJ driven hot-spot to see LA’s super-hero house Dj David Alvarado and San Fran’s Jay J in the mix at the BPM Magazine sponsored, Thursday night soiree.
Jay J was on point from the minute we walked in until his last tune at 1:30 AM. A lush mix of pretty, soulful deep tech-house vibes was just so much fun to dance to. As he blended track into a track, some with a Latin-tinged sals flavor and others with a sensuality that I hadn’t heard in such a long time, I was reminded of how much I love that West Coast, vibey, San Franciso deep sound. The club wasn’t very crowded (by 1:30 AM most of the bottle tables sat empty), but everyone there seemed to be on or around the dancefloor, most likely because people (like me) were having so much fun. My friend Jodi and I were really kicking it for a while on the dancefloor…getting into the groove and watching everyone else losing themselves in the mix.
I spoke to Jay J about the fact that he’s only spinning CD’s now. He talked about switching over and how it’s much better than having to carry so many crates, especially when you’re traveling all over and you have tighter security at the airports. I agree, but when the CD started skipping on one of his last tracks, I always feel like, for some reason, vinyl is better. I know there is a push toward MP3, and I’m wondering what kind of problems DJs are going to have with that format as well.
This begs the question, how good are clubs about checking their equipment and making sure that the laser in the CD player is clean? It used to be that we could see the tone-arm on the turntable was loose or the needle was bent or worn, but how are DJs supposed to clean CD decks? Does anyone really talk about that? I don’t know? Something I guess I’ll have to go research and write about here.
At 1:30 AM, David Alvarado jumped on the decks, but before his set I got to speak to him a bit about the club scene in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He told me that there is such a divide now in San Francisco, since the dot com crash pulled the rug out from under the city, that many people can’t afford to go out. There is an increasing divide between those who have and those who don’t, and that is really affecting the vibe out there. And, he mentioned that he was really digging LA right now and that was the place he’s feeling at this point.
The last time I saw Alvarado play was in Amsterdam at Chemistry during the annual Amsterdam Dance Event. I was floored by his mastery of deep, melodic and lush instrumental tracks that are steeped in the bridge between techno and house, what we today call tech-house. If you know techno, it’s not all about Happy Hardcore or speed records that can fry your brain. Real techno is minimal and housey but doesn’t have the same kind of warmth of say, a record on a King Street or if you know anything on the now-defunct Strictly Rhythm, Nervous Records or London’s Defected, which are more New York screaming diva, or raw, banging house-driven, anthemic type labels.
But tech-house fuses the minimalism of techno, with its electronic instrumentation and long, winding keyboard sounds with the soul of deep house and Latin house, for example, a Mark Grant or Lil Louis Vega. Producer/DJs like Terry Lee Brown Jr., G-Pal, Timewriter, Tony B., Onionz, and Hipp-E and Halo would fall in the tech-house category.
Once Alvardo hit the decks, his distinct taste in music was clearly apparent as the vibe changed from a fun, happy vibe that JJ created to a more intrinsically moody and serious campaign. This was okay though because both DJs are familiar with each other’s style and you could tell that the crowd was ready for a more serious look at the underground sounds by that time. After four of five drinks, talking to your friends, saying hello to the promoter and getting into the groove, it was really time to get serious.
Alvarado brought the crowd into just that sort of groove…bending their minds to a different slant of sounds that they were just a bit more raw, a bit less polished and a bit more underground. A deeper groove that carried the crowd from a sexy, swingy Latin flavor of Jay J to a deeper, more melodic and grinding atmosphere.
At the end of the day, Alvarado is one of the best DJs you will ever hear play live. Because of the light turnout, it’s my impression that his name doesn’t carry a lot of weight in the New York club scene, but it very well should. Maybe clubbers aren’t ready for a thought-provoking melody of tech-house, I don’t know, but I certainly embrace it because that’s the way my mind works.
So, kudos to BPM for bringing Ian Pooley, Alvarado and Jay J to Cieolo over the past few weeks. I’m digging the vibe and will be back for more. It’s my new favorite spot, even if others consider it passe because it’s DJ-driven and about the music first and the bottle service second.