Last October, there was a story
going around about Mark Trehus, owner of Treehouse Records, selling a rare Wanda Davis 45 for $1,425.00 online. It wasn't an earth-shattering piece of news, but the interesting point was that Davis was from St. Paul and had been part of the sometimes forgotten Twin Cities funk and soul scene. That single, "Save Me," remains one intensely sought after by record geeks and DJ's the world over.
When that story posted, an interesting thing happened: Dale
Burback and Benjamin Mena, two thirds of the three DJ's that make up the
Twin Cities soul club and monthly dance party "Hot Pants Rare Soul & Funk
attested that they had at least one copy of the "Save Me" 45 in their
group, and that they'd never sell it because then they couldn't listen to
it anymore. At its core, this is what Hot Pants is all about, they're
diggers, record collector nerds and soul and funk lovers interested in
one thing: getting people out on the dance floor. With a little luck, Saturday's "Hot Pants Belated Valentines," a slightly more romantic
take on they're regular monthly gig at The Nomad, will do just that.
Sometime in 2012, the Hot Pants team: currently made up of Burback, Mena and Brian Engel (whose also one half of similarly oriented Hipshaker MPLS) will round the corner on five years of dance parties.
Their monthly shows, which have moved around the city but are currently hubbed at the Nomad, are the die-hard soul fan's wet dream. The three take shifts on the turntables, fading records in and out as opposed to really mixing anything and since each member has their own specific tastes, the night varies in tone as it picks up steam. Burback's prone to play male group harmony and sweet soul records, as well as ballads when he can justify them to the audience, while Mena likes late sixties uptempo stuff, crossover and northern soul. Brian Engel is almost exclusively a rare/raw funk guy: these are their roles, and they try to stick to them, they don't share records.
They've even got self imposed rules: no reissues, no bootlegs, no comps, CD's or Serato. They spin soul and funk 45's and nothing else, and when they can get something local in, something from the old Twin Cities scene like, Maurice McKinnies' "Sock-A Poo-Poo 69'" or "Love Me Leave," from the Valdons, or even the slightly more tricky-to-dance-to "Save Me" from Wanda Davis, they'll always do it.
Getting people out of their comfort zones to dance to songs that they may have never heard before can be tough, but Hot Pants have learned how to do it well. Five years in, they can read an audience's energy, and try to keep things positive and fresh, try to keep people excited.
"In order for someone to really get loose and dance to songs they may have never heard before, they need to be open minded," Benjamin Mena says. "Which more often than not, leads to most people being pretty cool right off the bat."
He says that when the party really takes off is when, "they're happy to be there or just excited to hear the songs, because you can build on that vibe until the atmosphere is positively orgasmic. At that very moment, is when I like to drop a Motown monster that just tears the place down. "Aint No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell or "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield. I fuckin' live for that moment man, but you have to build up to it."
When asked to give a preview of some of the tracks people can look forward to for Saturday night, Hot Pants didn't want to give too much away. Dale has an affinity for Willie Tee's "I'm Having So Much Fun," and the local group Dave Brady and the Stars. Engel's set will include the Highlighters Band song "Funky 16 Corners" and Charles Sheffield's "Voodoo Workin," and Mena will play the Mighty Lovers track, "Ain't Gonna Run No More," as well as the aforementioned Mayfield classic "Move On Up," when it gets to that time. The Nomad party starts at 9 pm and goes until bar close. If you aren't yet convinced, you can always opt for a crash course in the kinda tracks you'll be hearing at the clubs you tube channel
Hot Pants Rare Soul & Funk's Belated Valentine's Party. 9 p.m. Saturday, February 18 at Nomad World Pub, 501 Cedar Ave S., Minneapolis. Click here.