The Tribute to Soul Train event at the Echoplex in Los Angeles last Friday was one for the ages. Quite literally. As a nod to the former hit show put on by the now dearly departed Don Cornelius, this party featured an assorted cast of characters made up of accomplished performers, who were hitting on all cylinders. This being said, the throwback vibe was in full effect! As was evidenced by the vintage hairstyles, fashion, and dance moves, which were going down all night in the historic venue, from wall to wall. Doors opened at 9 and it did not take long to amass a near-capacity crowd.
By the time MONALISA, a DJ and former Soul Train dancer herself finished her set, the club was already in full swing, with Soul Train lines aplenty. As she was tag-teaming a bit and handing the controls back and forth with Emmy award-winning DJ Jedi, the night had already taken more rhythmic turns and Spins than an X-Wing Fighter in a Star Wars premiere. While there were no lightsabers present at the Echoplex last Friday, there were many many stars shining.
One such star was Dj Expo. His fresh cross-fading and scratches continued turning heads, as the night kept heating up steadily…to a fever pitch and even outright boil. Tune after funky tune kept coming, washing over the soul with blessings on blessings! Meanwhile Black Shakespeare lit into the night in earnest with his emotion and panache…becoming a literal Master of Ceremonies! Not exactly sure when it began, but the vibe he helped manifest was almost overwhelming. Black Shakespeare has incredible energy…which at the early part of the show began steadily… Yet as the night commenced, he continued to carry on and ON with a very Soul Train-esque type of momentum.
Continual nods to the show reflected on the screens to the left of the stage, a constant reminder of and tribute to the show also. Wild visions and clips of “The Don” and no we’re not talking about the President here…were a great visual accompaniment to the deeply Groove based and a infectious music. A double effect on the senses. Contrary to some of the current chart music this was a 100% danceable night; start to finish! Something so tangibly based in Groove Theory, that one could feel the bass reverberating throughout their body from head to toe!
Thus, the stage was set, for Headliner; DJ and Founder of the legendary bay area label known as Stones Throw Records. -That which gave us Madlib and J-Dilla, as well as other acts like Dam Funk and Homeboy Sandman. Humbly, he approached the decks, quiet in demeanor, being toasted and brought out by the beautifully gregarious and peace-loving, yet wildly animated Black Shakespeare! As Peanut Butter Wolf took to the stage in LA, he was greeted by a packed house, in a super festive Holiday mood, of people who were ready to dance away the year in an appropriate fashion.
BK PB BLU
T’was just a couple of nights prior to the New Year and the mood was perfect, the mood was right, and righteous at that. As Black Shakespeare eased into the night further and let the evening become what it would; there were moments that flirted with perfection. Golden moments which indeed felt timeless as the groovalicious tunes melded old into new. Of course there were grooves so hypnotic that they transported you back in time. Of course the DJs dropped jams which got huge reactions from the crowd in the blink of an eye. But what cannot be expressed enough is how much this crowd truly LOVED and enjoyed the music. Not to mention the fact that they danced the entire night through from start to finish.
This being said, the elephant in the room here which hasn’t been addressed, is the fact that the actual Soul Train dancers were present in all their collective glory! Both on the screens next to the stage and in the flesh. One must say, they’ve aged extremely well, all of them. So perhaps dance is that Fountain of Youth we’ve all been looking for. For years these dancers have been shake-shaking off all the drama and melting all the stress away. It has obviously worked wonders for some of them.
One such dancer was Marco de Santiago The Unofficial ringleader of the Soul Train dancers. Perhaps this is because he was on the show over a 15-year time span. This being the case, he often acts as a touchstone and conduit between the dancers to date. For the record, there was a fairly equal mix of male and female Soul Train dancers present at the show. Some danced as couples temporarily, while others danced with everyone else…and themselves as well. Naturally, they did so with utter and complete confidence, as anyone would expect. Like many, Peanut Butter Wolf (Chris Manak) was also blown away by the presence of the Soul Train dancers being an integral part of the show! He even brought them up on stage for the end of his set…
Original Soul Train dancers: Marco De Santiago, Sheila Lewis and Tom Evans
That exchange pretty much brought the night to a quite fitting conclusion. Very reluctantly, the crowd made their way through the exit doors and the holiday cheer which was so evident throughout the night oozed back into the streets of LA. With vibes of love, happiness, song and dance, mixed with the pure oneness and unity which was felt simultaneously by everyone in attendance. The Soul Train came, saw and conquered! Special thanks to all who contributed their substantial talents to this fantastic event. The Music which brought everyone out to dance…was indeed the common thread that bonded us all!
By William McCracken