BY: AMY HABEN
It was a bone chilling March evening at Warsaw in Greenpoint for Jonathan Toubin’s 10th Anniversary Soul Clap party. A friend bought me a ticket for the March 3rd event and as I shivered in line, I didn’t know what to expect during the performance besides a $500 dance competition. Little did I know, I would be witnessing some of the greatest soul legends of the 20th Century.
Archie Bell, best known for his legendary hit, “Tighten Up,” graced us with his presence. I don’t know a single DJ that doesn’t own this 45 in their collection.
Archie brought out his wife to demonstrate the moves that accompany the 1968 song. The amusing explanation being: to mimic you’re turning on the engine of a car with one hand and lift up your hip by an invisible string with the other. Longtime fan, David Johansen, even joined him onstage for a duet of, “There’s Gonna Be A Showdown.”
Baby Washington, the early ’60s hit-maker from South Carolina also graced us with her presence. This R&B singer grew up in Harlem, NY. She joined her first group named, The Hearts at the ripe age of 16 in 1956. Baby was also a member of the Janetts. Her first solo recording was 1957’s, “Everyday.” For the packed crowd at Warsaw she sang, “That’s How Heartaches Are Made,” “I Got A Feeling,” “Let Love Go By,” and my favorite, “Nobody Cares.”
Maxine Brown played her number, “Oh No, Not My Baby,” which originally hit #24 in the pop charts of 1964. The South Carolina native began her career by singing with NYC based singing groups, The Angelairs and the Royaltones as a teen. “All In My Mind,” and “One Step At A Time,” were additional treats of her set.
Joe Bataan and his Orchestra warmed up the crowd with a more salsa influenced soundtrack. The dance contest contestants were plucked from the audience during their set. His set included: “Special Girl,” “Subway Joe,” “Too Much Lovin’,” “Gypsy Woman,” and “It’s A Good Feeling,” among others.
The $500 winner of the contest went to a woman named Lydia Walker, from San Francisco, who outshined the other six dancers with her smooth moves. Lydia was quoted in the Village Voice http://www.villagevoice.com as saying, “I thought, ‘It’s not going to happen today, there’s going to be some young Broadway dancer who will, like, do the splits or whatever.”
Cool kids Laura Leigh, Sophie Thunder-Murphy, and Josh Styles, among others, judged the dancers.
When I thought my mind couldn’t be blown anymore, ’50s bopper, Young Jessie hit the stage with songs, “Mary Lou,” “You Were Meant For Me,””Brown Eyes,” “Hit, Git, and Split,”and “I Smell A Rat.” The eldest of the group at age 80, he came and delivered.
I have to say that my favorite of the night was New Orleans songstress, Irma Thomas. Her voice sent tingles down my spine. It was touching and powerful to hear her. She was accompanied by superstar record producer and songwriter, Jon Batiste, on keys. Irma has known Jon from when he was a little boy in Louisiana, yet lost contact and hadn’t realized his success until she saw him at a party a few years ago.
She introduced her song, “Time Is On My Side,” by saying you probably know this song from that other band (insert sarcastic eye roll here). She went on to say time was on her side but obviously not Mick’s. Commenting on his droopy features. After throwing a dump truck full of shade at The Rolling Stones, Irma went on to introduce another one of her songs as being featured on the TV show, Black Mirror. While trying to get her microphone back in its stand, she made a blue comment, “You know what they say if it doesn’t fit….”
Irma?! Heavens to Betsey, stop dirtying up our pure minds!
Irma swooned the packed house with, “Breakaway,” “Ruler Of My Heart,” “With Someone Would Care,” Hittin On Nothin,” and Anyone Who Knows What Love Is,” as well.
Nick Waterhouse and his band made all the singers sound fantastic throughout the night. His bass saxophonist is my spirit animal in her gold jumpsuit, turban, and vintage ’70s glasses. She was worshipped by the crowd.
Mr. New York, David Johansen came out looking healthy and happy. He sang his song, “Funky But Chic,” and NY Dolls hits: “Personality Crisis,” and “Looking For A Kiss.” His pretty, blue-haired wife Mara joined the other back-up singers for a song. With Nick Waterhouse’s band behind him, I have never heard David sound better live.
King Khan, Ural Thomas, and Nick Waterhouse also played Warsaw that night but lucky for me they played Baby’s All Right the next night, where I got a front row view.
Ural Thomas rocked the house with his booming voice and groovy dance hits. He still had the moves himself and even got his flirt on with a sweet girl from the front row. It was a pleasure to watch him perform and I will make sure to go when he comes to town again. Apparently, he hadn’t played in New York City in seven years before the Soul Clap anniversary.
King Khan, the campy, revivalist and soul wonder put on a blistering performance. With go-go dancers in sequins by his side, he screamed and jerked to the delight of the crowd.
King Khan brought out a girl to speak up for those at Standing Rock. She was dressed in Native American warpaint and had a feather in her hair. A woman next to me started yelling that he was a racist, although I truly don’t believe that was his intention.
This unbelievable night was brought to us by an amazing DJ who also happens to be my friend and neighbor, Mr. Jonathan Toubin. His passion for music and love of these performers made this event possible.
Congratulations to Jonathan on his ten years running the best NYC soul party and dance contest, Soul Clap! As we all know, it’s not easy to keep a night popular for long as a DJ in this metropolis which is constantly changing.