Have you ever been to a wedding with an awesome cover band? Maybe the band managed to get the balance between old hits and new, country and rock, old time rock’n’roll and radio pop? But no matter what the band played, you did not want to stop dancing?
That’s how my friends and I felt at the Ali B show put on at the Electric Owl earlier this month. His set was full of danceable greats that would appeal to vinyl fans, which happened to describe my crew of girlfriends and guyfriends gathering at the Owl to celebrate a birthday and engagement.
I mean who doesn’t love a little “Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash mixed into Stevie Wonder’s “For Once in My Life”? Or what about K-Os’ “Crabbuckit” smoothly melded into Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack”. These highly danceable retro vs. new beats were hallmarks of Ali B’s set. He was dance-focused throughout the night and knew when to pair classics with new school. For example: dancing at stage front with some of my Davie Street peeps singing our lungs out to Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “New York, New York” followed by “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys.
The crowd age ranged from about 21 to 40, so Ali B took a few chances on balancing classic and new. The highlight of the night for me was the lack of dubstep remixes in his set. (Author disclosure: I generally despise dubstep.) The show was organized by Vancouver night scene and electronic music champions Nordic Trax.
Growing up in London, England, Ali B was always into music. He used to pack around cassette tapes with him, bugging people like school bus drivers to play his favourites. Later, as a DJ for legendary Kiss FM, alongside British warehouse DJ Norman Jay, Ali learned the values of keeping an open mind and vinyl box when it came to playing the crowd. Ali B now holds court at London’s Fabric as well as The Paradise.
It’s refreshing to see a DJ play not only the newest hottest trends (I’m looking at you electro and dubstep), but also some of the hits. The ones you can sing along too and maybe even after a few too many drinks partner dance with your crush of the evening. Somehow, I’d like to think that everyone busting a rug around me February 3 grew up dancing to Stevie Wonder and Johnny Cash in their parents’ living room. And how happy we were to be sipping Bronco Bamojitos surrounded by friends and fine tunes.
For a feel of what DJ Ali B’s show sounded like, check out this mix.