We gulped the last bit of drink and from across the road took the view in.
A Large ice blue neon sign hung high above the entrance and read SCALA. Bouncers huddled around below conducting the large and growing queue.
A couple of small separate rap cyphers were running parallel to each other. Promoters swaggered around the rappers placing flyers into the hands of those waiting and witnessing. A guy with his hoody up followed behind them trying to sell last minute tickets..
I dug into my pockets searching and found some tickets that read ‘Spin Doctor 250th Anniversary with Jazzy Jeff’.
My friend put the camera back in it’s pouch and gave me an approving nod. We crossed the road towards the queue and into the warm noise it was emanating.
We climbed the stone staircase and the volume of the music climbed with us. People were sat on the steps and were stood by the walls. They laughed, talked and peered down from their vantage points attempting to recognise their friends from the ascending crowd. I held the metal railing it was trembling gently from the big bassline of the song that was playing. It was a familiar vibration but not entirely distinguishable. A door higher up somewhere opened and a melody originally recorded by the American funk band ‘Funkadelic’ flooded our hearing. A joyous roar ran down the staircase in a sort of domino effect.
Heads bounced to the snares of the Prince Paul production. The chorus was coming and together everyone sang ‘It’s just me myself and I’.
…I recognised that it was Mr Thing on stage. I had seen him perform at other ‘Doctor’s Orders’ events, he was a DJ I held in high regard and never felt uncertain recommending. He was playing a Funk-heavy set and the seamless transitions he blended between the records felt as confident as the tracks themselves. Leaning over the balcony I could see the dance floor filling up. Hips were swinging, knees were shaking and fingers were pointing at the man on the decks. We looked around- the balcony seemed more of a place where couples hung out. After listening to a few more tracks we drank our Red Stripes, took some photos and descended to the smoking area…
Emerging red eyed and dry mouthed we decided to refuel on drink. At the bar we discussed whether or not DJ Babu would play. Weeks before we had noticed flyers that read his name under Dj Jazzy Jeff’s but in the more recently printed flyers his name seemed to be absent. It was a shame we thought that for whatever reason he would not contribute to what was quickly becoming a memorable event. Someone more clued up than us overheard us talking and told us he had seen DJ Babu hours before the event in the surrounding area. A good sign we thought.
The speakers silenced for a second and the anxiety and anticipation of the crowd could be felt… then the host shouted ‘DJ Babu’!
Minutes that felt more like seconds filled with precise scratches and vinyl cuts pierced through the speaker and his set began.
He eased through a few records from his group Dilated Peoples, separating them with short raw and percussion-laden snippets of his individual releases.. Instrumentals and lesser-recognised but very complete efforts. We staggered through the crowd with our camera on and what was left of our senses as navigation, absorbed by the atmosphere.
Time continued to pass without the feeling it often leaves and the night appeared young. We had explored the floor, danced with and talked to strangers, found places to take photos from and people to take photos with.
Unaware of what was impending we stared out at the smoke that crept from machines on the stage. It sifted through and over the unconcerned dancing audience. Laser beam like lights began to streak across the dance floor painting the eager faces in large stripes of emerald green and dreamy purple. The stage lights dimmed and the audience chanted his name.
It was dark now and a single spotlight shone over the decks. Amidst the smoke a silhouette approached slowly moving towards the light. The crowd noise heightened. The silhouette was closer and larger until it was clear…Dj Jazzy Jeff was on the stage. A collective gasp and then a roar. A blinding white light flashed across the entire floor illuminating the star-struck faces, exposing the gaping mouths, the widened eyes and antennae-like arms that dangled upwards in the smoky air.
….He performed a few songs with the MC he had brought. The rapper did well to increase the momentum considering how energetic and demanding all the previous sets had been.
The music played and eventually the MC who’s time had ended on the stage exited to grateful whistles and shouts from the joyous crowd.
DJ Jazzy Jeff continued to play, a set diverse and unpredictable but methodical. Gritty golden era New York Boom-bap joints like Mobb Deep’s ‘Shook ones’ were seamlessly followed by hypnotising neo-soul records reminiscent of tracks from his own solo release ‘The Magnificent’.
Into the depths of the night the crowd relentlessly danced and listened as the legendary Dj Jazzy Jeff guided them.