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99' Top Picks

 Los Angeles, April 27,1999


Friday Night at the Wyndham - Neil Lewis (1:30 am to 2:00 am): I have always liked the San Francisco Progressive sound and was very eager to hear Neil Lewis. Unfortunately, I instead arrived just in time to hear Jeffrey Sanker give his anti-GHB speech and announce that the party would be closing at 3:00. I have learned that “after parties” are what these weekends are all about (if you really want good music and good dancing), and I didn’t want to get caught in a line for Buc (it was clear to me right from the start that a single after-party venue was not going to hold all of these folks). So I left the Wyndham and headed for the Marquis.

Friday After Hours at Marquis - Buc (3:00 am to 8:00 am): What music and what a party. I have only heard Buc play a handful of times. Each time was very enjoyable and also very different. One thing I had always liked is that Buc plays a lot of music I haven’t heard. Well, in this case, he again played a lot of music I hadn’t heard, and all of it was incredibly fantastic, and artistically integrated into some equally beautiful music I did know. For me, it was a key party, because Buc brought together much of the spirit of the new sounds which I have been constantly hearing over the past year. And he did it in this beautifully orchestrated party. A year ago Michael Fierman was the one who kept teasing me with individual songs that made me think “what is this music and where is he getting it?” Six months ago Susan Morabito was (for me) doing the same thing with some more house-type music, but again with just a few individual songs. Then at the Probe and NYC black parties, Fierman came back full blast, integrating new non-vocal progressive, classic late-night progressive, classic disco and his unique style of sleaze into this phenomenal mix. And at Palm Springs Buc did his own brilliant synthesis (and I think he plays more of a jazzy and house-type progressive than Fierman, but equally gorgeous). In any case, this party was a perfect compliment to what Fierman had done and convinced me more than ever that the new music is here and it works and it’s beautiful. And I keep saying this to everyone, but it is something I first noticed really clearly when I heard David Harness play at Rage, but I also heard it with Fierman and Buc: there is nothing so beautiful as switching back and forth (when it’s done right) between vocal and non-vocal/progressive sets. It has its own special magic, and this party really captured it.

Saturday Poolside at Wyndham - Steve Hatchett (1:30 pm to 5:00 pm): I got there late and sleep-deprived, but quickly perked up to hear Steve playing full force progressive music, forsaking the standard poolside disco-lite, and turning the afternoon into basically an after-after-hours party. I thought the music was great and cutting edge. I know this wasn’t planned, but I actually thought it was especially “cool” music for a very cold day. It warmed me up, it made me dance, and it was almost like a defiantly tribal protest (with that constant drum track) against the darkening skies. I was really sorry it was interrupted by the over-long Erin Hamilton concert. But I took it as a very clear announcement from Steve of where he is going with his music, and I look very much forward to joining him on that journey. We have got to get more Progressive music in LA.

White Party X - Victor Calderone (1:00 am to 2:45 am): I wasn’t there for very long, and I often don’t like the “big party” on a weekend, and Victor (the few times I have heard him play) has just never really done it for me. That’s just not my kind of music, so I really can’t judge. (As one friend described it, that’s up-and-down music, and I like music that goes side-ways). I was glad he played Veronica (who is my “diva” of the moment, with Johnny Vicious being my remixer of the moment), and I would have rather seen her perform than Deborah Cox, who I love, but who is fairly tired right now (Jeffrey should have done better). In any case, I left early because (once again) I didn’t want to have a problem getting into what was sure to be an over-crowded after-party.

Saturday After Hours at Wyndham - Julian Marsh (3:00 am to 8:00 am): This was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise for the weekend. I think I heard Julian play very mainstream once (like at Splash or something in New York), and I like his CD’s, but I didn’t know what to expect from him for an after-party. Also, I though Michael Fierman did a brilliant job at Climax last year and I was sorry he was not returning. But even so, I went in with an open mind. And whoa! Again, I don’t want to criticize Calderone (because that’s not my music), but I didn’t even realize how “not into the music” I had been at the “White Party” until I instantly starting moving into a great rhythmic trance during the first two or three hours of Julian. I didn’t know most of the music, but I thought it was all very pretty, beautifully mixed and great for dancing. And then Julian moved into a very beautiful morning, playing a different sort of morning music than is done at Probe (maybe a little more sleaze or something, I am not sure). Suffice it to say I thought this was another great party. And I am very happy to have another dj on my list of “not-to-miss-when-they’re-in-town.”

Sunday Tea - Monty Q (afternoon): Actually, this was yet another unexpected surprise. I had never heard Monty play. I got there late, but I thought he was outstanding, and I really liked the way he (like Steve the day before) made clear that progressive music is not just for the wee hours of the night. There was a very nice interweaving of some classic t-dance music with some new hot music. Unfortunately, just as I was really enjoying the party, it was rudely interrupted for what seemed like a good hour of lead-up to the “Wet” advertisement/disaster. Jeffrey makes a mint off this weekend and should give us some real entertainment. I suspect he didn’t have to pay a cent for the “Wet” ad, and he got what he paid for. What a stupid distraction. If you are going to take a lot of my money in this fashion, please, Jeffrey, don’t be so obvious about it.

Sunday Closing Party - Buc (9:00 pm - Midnight). Buc was so great on Friday, and I can hear Manny almost any weekend, so I was tremendously happy when I heard on Saturday (from Buc himself) that he would be hosting a second Closing party back at the Marquis. What I could not figure out is why the party had no promotion whatsoever (except for a little business card-sized flyer which was handed out after the T-Dance to announce both parties, which could both be attended after paying one admission). I thought to myself, this is crazy, as it can only have the effect which it did in fact ultimately have: unknowing boys unlucky enough to venture to the Marquis (not realizing that the main party with all the “hot” guys would be at the Wyndham) would arrive, immediately realize their mistake, head to the Wyndham, wait in that ever-growing line, where they would tell others-in-waiting that the Marquis party was dead, ensuring the collapse of the Marquis party and building a desperate frenzy to get into the Wyndham. Indeed, for the first hour and a half of Buc’s party, I would say 90% of the people did just that. It was awful. But Buc really hung in there, as did a sturdy handful of us, and amazingly (given the complete lack of support) by around 11:30, the party was really starting to get going. Buc was picking up the music from that mellow jazzy progressive sound into a more energetic one, and the party was just ready to break out. And at just that point, they pulled the plug. Either Jeffrey, the Circuit’s biggest party promoter, just really “fucked up.” Or it was a just a good old fashioned “set up” (with the primary goal probably not so much to undermine Buc as to make Manny’s party -- and Jeffrey is very tied in to Manny -- the “party of the weekend” and turn Manny into the “latest Circuit superstar” and all of the rest of the crap I read in the local gay rags that pretend to be magazines). I don’t want to put down Manny. He may well have played a great party (Frank Sinatra was very talented, but the fan “riots” that helped catapult him to “superstardom” were fully staged by crafty promoters). In any case, I found the whole thing very demoralizing and just a terrible way to end the weekend.

Sunday Closing Party - Manny Lehman (12:30 am - 1:30 am): All revved up with no place to go, I did nonetheless venture to the Wyndham. En route, we encountered frustrated boys heading to the Marquis (who had to be told it had been shut down; they were so unhappy). And at the Wyndham we encountered an unbelievable line of people who were all talking about going to CC, Amnesia or a neighborhood bar. I asked someone whether announcements had been made earlier directing people to the Marquis, and they said no. Maybe I just asked the wrong person. In any event, I decided I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer and drove back to Los Angeles.


Friday night at the Bank - Darin Arrowood (10:00 pm to 5:45 am): Darin was the main reason I went to DC. He doesn’t play out here much, and I really like both him and his music, which I always find totally sexy, sultry and danceable. He did not disappoint. The party was supposed to go until 4, and instead he played until close to 6, with a fair number of people still in the club. It was a great party. And he is integrating a lot of the new non-vocal progressive sound into his music, with very good results. Darin has always played a lot of the late-night “progressive” tracks that Michael D. or Steve play, but it was the first time I had heard him really incorporate the new non-vocal records. Buc was with him in the booth and Darin’s “new music” is similar to Buc’s. Once again, it was only Friday night, and as far as I was concerned, I had already gotten my weekend’s worth. Everything else was just icing on the cake.

Saturday afternoon at Club Zei - Buc (4:00 pm to 9:00 am): It was a private birthday party for Moody Mustapha, and as a result had a pretty mixed audience with a lot of hip straight folks. Buc started out playing his mellow jazzy-progressive music and by about 5: 30 (when a lot of the circuit crowd began spilling over from the conclusion of Darryl Strickland’s pump party, which I skipped), the energy picked up and Buc got into another of his great grooves. He kept playing an extra hour or so, even as the crew was sweeping the floors, for a handful of us who couldn’t stop dancing. It was very fun, and the love affair with Buc continued.

Cherry 4 at the Velvet Nation - Susan Morabito (11:00 pm to 4:30 am): I remain a devoted Susan Morabito fan, but this was a disappointment. I am feeling now about Susan the way I felt three months ago about Michael Fierman: that the new music is catching her off guard and she is kind of just digging in her heels. And whereas Michael kind of retreated into his own private space for awhile, in Susan’s case, digging in means just the opposite: silencing any possible criticism by keeping the energy totally amped up for the crystal crowd and just playing the full blast hits of the past 12 months without any meaningful direction. But I stuck by her when locals wrote her off after that LA One party (which I didn’t attend) and I sure do remember how she came back to glory in Las Vegas. And I know how Michael Fierman came roaring back at the Probe Black Party and then in New York (and people I talked to in DC who it was clear really know music all said the same thing - Michael Fierman is a musical genius and he’s back, big time). Susan is smart, competitive and tough, so I suspect that if other people share my sentiments, she will say okay, do her homework, decide the “Car Wash” remix really is getting a bit old (and was never that grand in the first place) and she will respond in full force. I hope I get to be there when she does. But meanwhile…

Détente at The Edge - Phil B (4:30 am to 11:30 am): I left Cherry 4 early (so I can’t comment on Susan’s morning) and went to hear Phil B at the after-party. This was a major surprise of the weekend. I had never heard him play, and it was 7 hours of non-stop gorgeous progressive-trance music. Every song was pretty. And most important, every song felt like a “song.” It wasn’t that endless stream of “unconsciousness,” which can be very danceable and seamless, but undifferentiated (and like I said, I loved Julian Marsh at Palm Springs, but his first few hours were somewhat more of the latter sort). Phil B appears very young, very sweet, very pretty, and I watched how tenderly he handled his records and the crowd. He crafted a really great party with this very gentle, artistic touch. And in the middle of this trance-progressive ecstasy he would throw in something like Erin Hamilton’s The Flame (which I think, along with the Morales mix of the new Mariah Carey, is one of the only really pretty classic disco diva vocals to emerge in the last few months). I am definitely adding Phil B to my list. That was another fabulous party that reminded me that after-parties are what it’s all about.

Sunday Tea on the Potomac - Joe D’Espinosa (noon to 5:00): I was exhausted and had no intention of doing any more dancing at all. But Joe D’Espinosa caught me off guard. He played a wonderful Tea, combining old and new music, avoiding cliches, and turning what started out as kind of a faggy cocktail brunch thing into a roaring T-Dance. To be honest, the night before had made me worried about the future of “disco” in light of the “progressive” invasion. But Joe reminded me that disco does have a future, as long as it is done really smart and really right. I also heard that he played a great party in DC a week or two before, in which he played very “progressively” and to a great response. I watch Joe’s playlists in Opus, and I think he is still exploring different styles for different crowds and venues. I don’t have a clear read on him yet, but I look forward to seeing what direction he goes in. It was a very impressive performance.

Los Angeles, April 27, 1999