Junior Vasquez’s set at the Roxy proved to be a bumpy ride, while Peter
Rauhofer’s Madonnathon teased with samples — and falls into the Gap.
by Matt Kalkhoff

“Let me take you on a trip...Just a simple journey...A journey full of sound and beats. One that will lead you down...way down...to the underground.”

As any DJ worth his or her weight in vinyl will tell you, the key to a successful set of music is the journey. Determined by the selection of records chosen and the order in which they are played, these carefully orchestrated trips are designed to lead revelers down any number of paths to various destinations.

It may be just a simple journey, as the above lyrics to Celeda’s “The Underground” (Star 69 Records) suggest, or it might be a more advanced excursion full of complex twists and turns that only the most sophisticated listener might fully appreciate. Simple or complex, sublime or mundane, it’s all about the journey.

Junior Vasquez and the MTA

Speaking of dance floor journeys, there was a time not so long ago when Junior Vasquez reigned supreme as the master of his domain. While he has already deservedly taken his place in the history books as one of the most talented and influential DJ-producers of his time, things just ain’t the same since Twilo closed back in 2000.

There were generally three distinct sets of music during one of Junior’s after-hours parties. He’d usually begin with a few hours of relentless and often harsh instrumental tracks (i.e., noise; “pots-n-pans”). Mid-morning, he’d segue into an experimental mélange of contemporary anthems and works- in-progress, before eventually rewarding his diehard fans who lasted into the afternoon by unleashing an exquisite medley of classics — diva, Motown and otherwise.

Now fast forward to Junior’s “Green” party at Roxy on Sunday of Columbus Day Weekend. Singer Vivian Green may have been a no-show, but RKM carried the theme beautifully by transforming the vapid venue with their trademark trippy installation of neon decorations.

While enjoying a late afternoon cocktail with a friend and reflecting on the music thus far, we somehow managed to work the subway into the conversation and found it to be the perfect metaphor to describe Junior’s illustrious career.

Although Junior’s journeys at Twilo, Arena and Sound Factory were always interesting and full of surprises, they were fairly steady: One could generally gauge when each of the three above-referenced sets would be played. Think of hopping on the 1/9 train at South Ferry, switching to the 2/3 express at Chambers, crossing the platform at 42nd for the local, and getting off, fully satisfied, at 50th Street. Sure, there may have been a slight delay along the way, and the trains might have been a little overcrowded and rowdy at times, but for the most part, it was a reliable ride.

Post-Twilo Junior, however, seems to prefer taking more complicated routes full of detours and diversions — kind of like finding out the South Ferry station is closed due to construction, so you walk to Rector to catch the 1/9 train. On board pan-handlers singing for pocket change annoy passengers. Then you wait for what seems like forever at Chambers for the 2/3 express, before finally hitting a pleasant stride as you make your way north. But then you get held just before 42nd Street due to a sick passenger and/or police investigation. Eventually you make it a few more stops without incident before the whole frustrating cycle starts all over again.

That’s not to say I didn’t have fun. But as one astute (and entirely sober) friend pointed out, Junior’s music and style is still incredibly interesting — just perhaps not quite as enjoyable as in the past.

Peter Rauhofer, Britney and the Gap

As if I weren’t already going to end up spending enough time in the confines of the Roxy this past holiday weekend (total hours logged: 12), I just couldn’t resist checking out Peter’s Madonnathon on Saturday night.

I did enjoy hearing his exclusive new mixes of “Nobody Knows Me” (loved it!); “Nothing Fails” (unremarkable; deserves another listen); and Britney’s new single featuring Madonna, “The Music Against Me” (also undecided), as well as past goodies like “Impressive Instant,” “Nothing Really Matters,” “Where’s the Party,” and one of my all-time favorites, “Secret” (Junior’s version, no less — but why in heaven’s name would Peter punctuate this most tasty tune with a snippet of Kermit the Frog’s “It’s Not Easy Being Green?” Hmmm...).

I could have, however, done without Raphaella’s re-enactment of Madonna’s Gap commercial (complete with unidentified Missy Elliott look-alike). While Peter’s “Into the Hollywood Groove” musical fusion sounded great, there’s just something rather unsettling about a supposedly world-class NYC nightclub essentially pitching moderately priced casual clothing. Where were the corduroy handouts?

And that fleeting “Bedtime Story” teaser certainly left me wanting more. But at least Peter supplanted it (one of my all-time favorite songs) with his lovely remix of Annie Lenox’s “1,000 Beautiful Things,” which quickly eased my disappointment. It was also great to unexpectedly run into friends, like the effervescent “Nurse” Christine from Philly who is always good for a few laughs, not to mention introductions to handsome men like DJ Hector Fonseca. Yum!

DJ DeMarko sails the Hudson

One of New York’s most underexposed DJs, DeMarko isn’t used to people actually dancing during his vigorous, uplifting sets — at least not legally. You can catch this great talent weekly on Friday nights at g bar,
but since g (inexplicably, like so many others) doesn’t hold one of those elusive cabaret licenses, you’ll have to stand still no matter how exhilarating the music might be. So I was quite delighted to learn that DeMarko would be spinning one of the summer’s final Sea Teas in late September.

Out on the open seas, it seems that many of those ridiculous rules just melt away. Not only were we able to dance freely, but we were also treated to an incredibly erotic striptease by one of gay porn’s “biggest” stars, Matthew Rush. What started out as a relatively innocuous g-string-clad spectacle culminated with a fully aroused and fully accessible salute to Lady Liberty as the Queen of Hearts trudged back down the Hudson River to Pier 40. Now that’s entertainment!

But getting back to DeMarko, any chance someone can offer this recent Eclipse Atlanta and Q Texas cover boy a prime gig here in the city with an appropriately licensed dance floor? We deserve it!

Club updates

Crobar’s moved its opening (yet again) back to November 21. Still no word on what nights) will be gay, how Victor Calderone will fit in (Saturday nights, please!), or who else might join the coveted roster.

Will Junior succeed in convincing Roxy’s owner to bring him on full time for a weekly Sunday morning after-hours party, if that’s still even what he wants anymore? He’s only confirmed for Halloween and New Year’s Eve parties so far. If the weekly Roxy gig happens, will John Blair and Peter Rauhofer
stick around? Stay tuned for further updates.

Until next time — Be Smart. Be Safe. Be Yourself.

© 2003 Matt Kalkhoff

These articles appeared in NY Blade on October 17, 2003