Friday, 28 August 2015

Earth Disco

My first impression upon entering Bloom Nightclub, in Nelson British Columbia, is that I've just stepped into a state of the art earth disco. Considering that it's several hours from a major population center like Vancouver or Calgary, and is situated way out in the mountains, there really is nothing like it.  

Located in the basement of one of the city's historic buildings, it's a space contained within natural stone walls that were hidden for decades but are now beautifully exposed. Massive antique timbers holding up the ceiling have been revitalized and are proudly showcased as part of the decor, a gorgeous living wall of plants literally breathes life into the room, and the art Nouveau aesthetic combined with warm lighting is both comforting and sensual. 

At 10 pm the doors open and people enter. They've been waiting to get in. I see them at the bar ordering drinks, getting comfortable, so I play slow jams at a lower volume for them. It doesn't take long for a small group of dance floor pioneers to appear. We make eye contact and I nod my head. I want them to know how much they are appreciated, for it is their willingness to put themselves out there on an empty floor that will soon draw others in. Watching how they respond to different melodies, genres, and bass lines also helps me select tracks that will be the foundation for the vibe we're creating. 

Within half an hour, things are happening. The club gets louder and my dedicated crew of rural dance freaks have arrived, getting down to a mix of disco, hip hop, and funk. I play a Casual Connection rework of a Mary Jane Girls track which bumps out of the speakers alongside Grand Wizard Theodore and a Jungle Brothers mash up. The dance floor swells. There's that familiar pressure in the air when the slow jams become faster, but you're still in the 105-110 beats per minute range. The energy builds, the music and the dancing getting more intense, until the party reaches the turning point where the whole room is ready to blow up. At the end of a Badboe track it happens.

Time to go off! 

Steve, Pamela, & Jon Horvath
Photo by Mark Randell

In tribute to our fallen soul brother, Jon Horvath, I cut into the beginning bars of his classic track, Funk for Peace. The crowd goes wild. They're jumping around, clapping their hands, screaming and shouting and singing along, smiling wide. Some know it's a Fort Knox Five song, others just know it sounds really good. By playing the music, it feels like a portal has just opened for Jon's spirit to enter the room. DJ Hoola Hoop gets on the mic to pay respects to this funky character who traveled the world spreading infectious party music that was positive and conscious. Jon loved this town as much as the party people in it loved him. He played Nelson often and his shows were always sold out to a crowd who usually left an FK5 night feeling better than they did when they arrived. When I play "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life," I'm not concerned that the song has been played thousands of times in clubs all over the world because, tonight, the song is a thank you to him. 

A few tracks more and then my first set ends. I step away from the decks, passing the turntables to Mich Duvernet, the creative director and architect of Shambhala Music Festival's Living Room stage. He takes the party into the realm of deep house and I move to the dance floor to get the people's vantage. 

Bloom's layout is exceptionally conducive to dancing. The main floor is sunken and demarcated by tiny lights, while two additional wings provide space for people who need a little more elbow room without being the center of attention. With all the people dancing beneath a massive overhead LED display which provides motion and alternating color on the ceiling, one gets the feeling that the entire room is alive and grooving. 
Bloom's designers have created a comfortable environment to conjure dance floor magic. And they've done such a good job, it seems like nearly everybody in the room wants to take part in it. You pretty much have to. Even the bar is situated so that it is directly connected to the dance space. The energy feels cohesive instead of being cut off, and the layout encourages people to get involved in what's happening rather just than standing around to watch.    


Photo: SugarBear, by Samuel Stevenson
When it's time for my second set, I come on strong with sleazy disco, grimy hip hop, funky house, and booty breaks–a genre blending mix that I describe as wild ass dance music.  My first track is Good Times, by Aquarius Heaven. It's sexy and minimal. The man's voice and music works like a voodoo love spell to pack the floor. People start whooping and grinding, getting out of their heads and into their animal bodies. A woman jumps up on her friend's shoulders to crowd surf. For the next hour and a half it's wild and basic. The songs come effortlessly. The selections are being drawn from the people's feedback and energy. From behind the turntables, I can see that we're all getting high on the music and each other, escaping the world's craziness for a few hours to inhabit a unified space where things simply feel exceptional. Nothing else matters except this good sensation, this funky frenzy where an undulating mass of humans get tribal at the earth disco and undergo some kind of retro/futuristic dance floor healing.