A Night at the Discotheque: Claptone and Felix Da Housecat [07.02.15]

July 10, 2015 -

Milli Encarnacion

It was a wall-to-wall frenzy full of Fourth of July-weekend revelers, and we huddled into every corner of the dance floor as we embraced the celebratory days ahead. Verboten's weekly Zeitgeist showcase gained momentum earlier than usual. By midnight, with Claptone delivering the soundtrack in his signature ebb-and-flow of deep house, the Control Room of Verboten was weaving into an ocean of shakers, shimmy-ers, and shufflers, and we dove straight into the golden-beaked maestro's addictive beats for the next two-and-a-half hours.

A mirrored ball spilled a million shining dots onto every beaming face that evening. Claptone's set was summer-perfect set, smooth like molasses slivering over a bass drum, and as perfect enough for a weekend pool party as it was for a midnight galavant. I was elated to be witnessing the artist at work for a second time, the first being in May on Mysteryland's main stage. Claptone has a true knack for mixing funk- and disco-centric samples into classic house hits. During a pleasantly drifting, laid-back set, he slid into fitting throngs of bassline every so often, likening him to musicians in the realm of Shiba San. Keeping that in mind, the most memorable moment of the night was when he began his remix of Rüfüs's  "Sundream": as a frequenter of Verboten, I've grown accustomed to hearing hypnotically heavy sounds swarm between the club's walls – so to move with my peers, singing along and grooving in unison to a mellow dance number (one with a relaxed indie sensibility, I might add) was a pleasant change. To say the least, I felt... moved. I looked over that ocean of focused eyes and ears, thinking briefly of how far the EDM community has come since house music first made its way into mainstream airwaves in late-2000s. Here we all were, all 500-or-so of us, grooving like maniacs to a softened beat with an undertone of introspection. Who would've thought?

Toward the tail end of his set, Claptone crept into the singles that gave him the well-deserved recognition he's earned, including his remix of Gregory Porter's "Liquid Spirit" and his own piano-heavy "Wrong." Before we knew it, it was time for some disco.

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Then we went back in time. While a number of fans praised Claptone for playing a rightfully chilled-out set, Verboten reversed a couple dozen years during the latter half of the night: Felix Da Housecat took to the DJ booth for the "late night disco set" that the club had promised. The Chicago house pioneer is now in his third decade of providing dance music to the masses, and it shows: in between tracks from his latest album, Narrative of Thee Blast Illusion (out today), he mashed old-school hip-hop snippets, R&B, and pop vocals into a style of house reminiscent of the late '80s. Piano samples made their way around, as did slithering synths and dreamy melodies. It was the furthest thing from today's definition of electronic, yet still eclectic enough for even the youngest patrons in the crowd to enjoy. To us modern house fans, Felix's set was a magnificent lesson on the birthplace of the genre we've eternally betrothed our musical hearts to. Listen to this live set from early 2015 if you're unfamiliar with his style. This DJ icon has maintained a loyal fanbase for nearly thirty years, and I'm happy to say I've joined them.
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Claptone's Soundcloud and Facebook.
Felix Da Housecat's website and Soundcloud.

Photo credit: BBC

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