When you hear the same 15 songs play in a seemingly endless loop on local radio stations and club mixes, the city’s more innovative DJs offer a welcome departure from the norm. Equal parts pied pipers, puppeteers and professors, these musical mixologists blend the new, the old, and the obscure not only in their selection of sounds, but also in the venues where they work their magic.
It’s just past 11pm on a Saturday night, and me and the girls are headed out for some much needed Soulvation provided by DJ Nabani at P’Cheen in Old Fourth Ward. I caught
a sample of Nabani’s flavor a few weeks ago on Jodine’s Corner, so when I heard he’d be spinning so close to home, I had to go check him out in person.
P’cheen’s sultry décor and eclectic menu imparts the aura of an international bistro; while the mostly homogenous crowd (read: intown gentrifiers) lends the laid-back vibe of a neighborhood pub. Many of the chattering patrons clustered around the bar seem almost oblivious to the aural tapestry of soul, funk, and rare grooves unfolding in the background. But more than a few – including yours truly – get caught up in DJ Nabani’s web. Heads nod, hips sway back and forth, and fingers snap. The whole vibe is the epitome of casual chill – pretention doesn’t stand a chance in this atmosphere. The sista who just danced her way across the room stops to chat and echoes my appreciation of the sounds. “Nabani? That’s my DJ”, she says as if she had a bill of sale for him tucked in her back pocket. Another guy who overhears our conversation nods to affirm his loyalty as well.
An attempt to order from the late night menu proves slightly disappointing – only a few of the items are available. The bartender explains, “We shut the kitchen down early. Nobody was ordering.” Apparently, the music here is enough to feed the masses.
An hour later, my crew heads to the Chicago Sound Factory, where resident DJ Marky G has turned over the turntables to DJs Michael Alan and Calvin Morgan for the night. The duo is known for whipping house heads into rhythm-induced frenzies at Sweat – an event that had long-time residency at Apache Café but now occurs at varying intown venues. They’re proof that loyal music lovers will follow a good DJ anywhere.
If you blink, you might miss the sliver of a building located at 138 Edgewood. Nothing about the exterior of the Chicago Sound Factory – especially not the shingle outside advertising Fast Tax Prep services – hints at the happenings within.
After climbing the aging staircase and entering the dark, loft-like space, one of my cohorts turns to me and asks doubtfully, “Is this somebody’s apartment?” The no-frills interior adds another layer of meaning to the term house party. The main room is a long, narrow stretch of wood floor surrounded by exposed brick walls and crowned by a single window overlooking the city. Two smaller, adjoining rooms house a few gently worn chairs for those needing a break from the action. But it’s all good. Because the folks here didn’t come for the ambiance and they didn’t come to sit down. They came for the music. And they came to dance. Twists, turns, and holy-ghost gyrations are the fitting responses to the non-stop flow of percussive rhythms being dished out from the DJ booth. Onlookers, well-lubricated by trips to the open bar, urge the dervishes on with soul claps and shouts of “Work it out, now” until well after 3 am when the house lights come up, and the last of the nightcrawlers spill out onto the street.
As we leave, I find myself humming, “I want to thank you heavenly father…” for the DJs laboring in the dark and saving lives all around the city of Atlantis.
P’cheen International Bistro and Pub
701-5 Highland Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30312
Chicago Sound Factory
138 Edgewood Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30303