Groove Line

Tue. November 30, 2004 12:00 AM
by DJ Plez

Jem and Blue Merle
Taking a needed break from the constant bass beat of dance music, I got some much needed exposure to a couple of real live bands recently. I had the good fortune to check out Jem in concert at Martyrs (over on Lincoln Avene) on the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week and what a pleasant treat it was. Jem’s definitely a rising star on the music scene with some of her songs being played on the TV show The O.C. and her new album, Finally Woken (ATO Records), charting quite well. The Welsh songtress’ captivating voice was in fine form and her band was tight, making for a most satisfying pre-turkey day experience for the sold-out crowd.

While I expected a good show from Jem, the real joy for me that night was the opening band, Blue Merle (pictured right). This quartet from Nashville was stunningly good with guitarist Lucas Reynolds providing passionate and emotion-filled vocals. The uniqueness of this band’s colorful sound – a very fresh approach to the rock/pop genre with hints of bluegrass flavoring – stems in part from inclusion of a mandolin, played by Beau Stapleton, and a rock solid rhythm section (Jason Oettel on bass and William Ellis on drums). I don’t ever pretend to be a rock critic, but my excitement for Blue Merle can’t be contained as I think this is a group worthy of serious attention from those looking for seriously good music. Check out a sampling of their music at and be on the lookout for their debut album Burning In The Sun (Island/ Def Jam Records) in early 2005. Trust me on these guys, I wouldn’t steer you wrong.

L-Tryptophan Reigns, But DJs Prevail
Interestingly, while the bars and clubs along Halsted Street did good business throughout Thanksgiving week and the weekend and were plenty busy, by most accounts it wasn’t nearly as crazy as in past years. The weather I’m sure played a part and others have speculated that the economy’s continued unevenness is putting a damper on things as well. There are also rumors that L-tryptophan levels were elevated in this year’s U.S. turkey inventory, leading to unprecedented levels of napping and DVD watching.

That said, the corner of Ontario and Franklin was hopping as the holiday season got off to its start. Paul Oakenfold (November 23) and Deep Dish (November 26) packed them in at Sound-Bar, delivering on the promised hype that always surrounds these superstar DJs. Then the Ahhh-Men!! Manhunt/ Party @ Y on Sunday night was well attended with Los Angeles’ DJ Kio Kio (interview) providing a kick-ass soundtrack for the boyz and girlz in attendance. He definitely proved to folks why he was named Out Magazine’s DJ of the Year. And yes, he is as good looking in person as he is in his publicity photos. And finally over at Crobar, Chicago favorite Roland Belmares helped end the holiday weekend on an energetic note. L-tryptophan be damned!

Added Vocals?
Defected Records is coming out in early 2005 with a vocal version of “Strings of Life” by Soul Central, the incredible remake of the Detroit techno classic produced by Derrick May as Rhythim is Rhythim back in 1989. Before you ask, “So what?” you should know that there were never any vocals originally penned for this song, which has been described as dance music’s “Stairway To Heaven” equivalent? The snippet of the vocal edit on the Defected Records web site is very promising. While I’m sure the debate will rage on as to whether this track should have been tampered with in such a way, the high quality of what they have produced with Jocelyn Brown belting out lyrics is undeniable in my book. This is triumphal piece of music that will get massive play by me and many other DJs the world over.

Another Sunday Option
For those who prefer their Sunday dance grooves more Chicago and less circuit party or hip-hop, there’s a new place just for you. The folks at Music 101 who bring you Boom Boom Room on Mondays are now presenting a Sunday weekly party called Pleasure Trip at a club called Wet down in the Loop at 209 West Lake Street. The rotating resident DJs – Diz, Heather, and Mr. Frique – are among the royalty of the Chicago house music scene and should help in creating an incredibly unique clubbing experience for Chicago’s house-heads.

Forward Calendar
The holiday season is made for dancing. After attending your various obligations - holiday work parties and private house party affairs hosted by friends who don’t supply an adequate amount of shrimp cocktail – check out these big-time events.
- Derrick Carter, Kaskade, Mark Almaria and DJ Dan at Metro/Smart Bar for an all-building extravaganza on Friday December 3rd. Wow!!!
- Abel, Lydia Prim, Tracy Young, and Tony Moran @ Crobar on successive Sundays starting December 5th. Double WOW!!!
- Susan Morabito at Hydrate for her monthly appearance on December 10th. She’s a personal favorite so she gets a triple WOW!!!