When someone says that something is refreshing, this could mean (at least) two things. It suggests, obviously, that you have been deprived of it (this definition makes sense, and I think few would question it, unless they don’t know what the word means or what a question is). At the same time, however, there is the implied possibility that this “something” is now made “fresh” again and, perhaps, that it is good for you. Both of these definitions came to my mind during Fortune Sound Club’s Canada Day Long Weekend Party.
When I first came in, Kalibo was already up, playing to a trickling stream of attendees. While there was no crowd in sight just yet, he delivered a subdued and consistent set in tune with what the other DJs would all individually set out to champion: a revamped take on early 90s dance. Kalibo’s material was the kind of foreground sound that doesn’t annoy and the kind of background sound that only rewards. His selection of 90s–themed electronica was a slick presentation of the bold yet intelligent sounds that brought house and ambient together in the first place (the calmer, minimalist sides of The Orb and hints of early club-oriented Kompakt material came to mind). He was perfect for those who had found their seats and were pacing themselves for the long haul. Then, WMN Studies kicked it up a notch, seamlessly carrying the tone over, but bringing more punchy beats and live remixing. He can be accredited for being the first person to give the place a “moving” pulse, as evidenced by more heads turning and more bodies claiming positions on the dance floor (if you wanted to, you could imagine Underworld sneaking in and discreetly pressing buttons, but no one’s forcing you to). His driving beats and low-end throbs were applied sporadically and sparingly. This was, without a doubt, the smart thing to do; having barely reached the evening’s halfway mark, mere suggestions of what is to come manage to compound the anticipation rather than simply cashing it all in prematurely. Ultimately, the guy managed to do just that.
Following the first two sets, Pat Lok took over the controls. Amassing what the two previous DJs had presented, he somehow pushed both styles further, sprinkling in more dance moments and flashy remixes, but also finding more effective moments of singular, minimalist bliss. It was during Pat Lok’s set that I started to consider why 90s dance is so “refreshing.” There is no doubt a component of nostalgia; many generations of late 20-somethings/early 30-somethings may also hear a soundtrack to impressionable childhood experiences with summer breaks, innocent friendships, new places and plenty of sugar. However, there is more to it than that. In a world that has abandoned “plenty,” is easily surpassing “too much” and heading unquestioningly towards “what’s the point?,” I am reminded that less has always been more and- you know what?- will probably continue to be so.
It was around this time that Le Youth took the stage and dove into a full-fledged celebration of what has made his name. Girls flooded the stage and the dance floor came to life as he quickly celebrated nostalgic classics (Salt N Pepa’s “Push It”) and showcased his own tunes (the infinitely-remixed “Dance With Me”). Perhaps the set’s finest moment was the way he played with Corona’s “The Rhythm of the Night,” cutting the thing into pieces to scaffold the emotional pay-off and breaking apart the layers to explore their individual potentials. Though it was a centerpiece, it did not feel elongated or berated; it felt more patient and substantial, and this was the impression brought about repeatedly throughout the evening. Flexible space and a focus on singular ingredients were consistent features of the four artists in the main room. Meanwhile, the crowd was both modest and enthusiastic; when they lost their shit, I didn’t get the impression that it would be super expensive nor easy to replace.
As the pinnacle of the evening, Le Youth seemed to encapsulate the 90s quite well; the clear piano hooks of “Feel Your Love” channeled early 90s dance like Ce Ce Peniston and the reservation/release of Javeon’s vocal performance is reminiscent of what Basement Jaxx is still trying to perfect to this day. The strength of the song for me, like the strongest moments of all of the sets, has to do with giving good ideas the spotlight of center stage, complementing them with clarity, respecting them with patience and providing them with the space to breathe. To round it out, the evening’s DJs all revealed an intuitive mind and an active ear, as evidenced by their understanding of when and how to finally give the listeners what they’d invested in.
At the end of the ephemeral highs, I think even clubbers and concertgoers know full well that less is more. What remains important is how well that “less” is executed. In the case of the evening’s roster, the answer is, quite simply, “quite well.” Some may see Fortune Sound’s embrace of 90s dance for a Canada Day celebration as a desperate grasp at the last available scrap of retro left behind; far from it. If nothing else, the encapsulated summer vibes of 90s dance reflected the dead heat that ended a long, dry June for this northern corner of the west coast. More importantly, for those individuals that remember a world before the internet and this thing I’m typing on, the Long Weekend showcase was both a reprieve for “present” brains and a reminder that there is plenty behind us that we have yet to explore.
Keep up the great work, Fortune.