Late last month, DJ Sandra Collins stumbled through Nashville during her national tour. A superstar in dance music circles since the mid-'90s, Collins has earned a reputation for raw energy and tenacitycrucial traits for a woman working in a genre heavily dominated by men. Named Dance Star's 2003 DJ of the Year, she's still a force, and her Nashville appearance was cause for excitement for "rave moms" like myself and for younger kids just getting their first taste of late, late nights and loud throbbing beats.
Co-presented by local promoter Leon Jackson's Ultimo Productions and New Orleans-based Disco Donnie, the event was held in the Pub of Love Ballroomformerly the drug-laden after-hours club known as Katatonic. By 11:30 p.m., the smoky, cinderblock room was thumping with heavy bass, but only half-full. Currently in mid-renovation, it had a feel of industrial minimalism and evoked the vibe of a classic warehouse ravehow early '90s! The bill read "18-to-enter," but doe-eyed teens and Katatonic regulars had already claimed home bases around the perimeter of the stage. Earlier, Jackson had said that he hoped to attract an "older, sophisticated crowd in their mid-20s," but except for a few leather-faced loners, my friends and I were the obvious eldersvirtual senior citizens in our late 20s.
From the get-go, rumors circulated that Sandra was often a no-show, and people mused that something would go awry. The older folks in the audiencei.e., ussipped meager Dixie cup cocktails, sidestepped the influx of exuberant ravers and discussed Nashville's lack of a "true dance club." The younger attendees couldn't have been more excited. Many of them had traveled long distances for the show, and they quickly found their niche and got serious about dancing. They were dressed in the standard uniform of simple T-shirts and baggy pants, with some sporting bright candy-raver accessories and naughty Catholic schoolgirl miniskirts.
In the bathroom, a petite girl with bouncy pigtails and hugely dilated pupils discussed her recent "sweet 16" party through an uncontrollably clenched jaw. The line for the toilets inched along as the bathroom walls echoed a whirlwind of giddy conversation: "Can I use your lip gloss?" "Where are you from?" "Hand me some toilet paper." "Are you rolling yet?" By the time I reached the one clean stall, I'd wrapped up my lecture about safer sex and had finished doling out chewing gum.
Well past 1:30 a.m., there was still no sign of Sandra. Supposedly, she'd be appearing at any moment, though it was just as entertaining to watch breakdancers like Adam McCaleb and check the moves of the costumed cuties. Opening DJs Joey Modus, Spoon, Delta 1 and the tag-team of Dustin Michaels and Justin Matthews had created plenty of momentum and infectious energy. All Sandra had to do was step up and spin some records. But when her moment had finally arrived, some uh, "technical difficulties" killed her set. You could feel the energy pour out of the room as the crowd began to thin out, looking for somewhere else to get their bliss on. Word came that the party would continue at nearby club Kiss, but by then my crew was ready to move to a cushier spot with actual seating and stiffer drinks.
I might have been disappointed, but at least I'd seen Collins spin before. I felt much worse for the kids who'd driven in from Ktown and beyond for a big night of clubbing, and the local crews who worked hard to put on the show. The jury is still out on whether the problems really stemmed from equipment failure, or if Sandra's temper just got the best of her. Regardless, some very unsatisfied customers requested refunds for the $20 tickets.
These upcoming events are sure to set things right: EMC brings funky San Fran DJ Jonene to The End on Friday, April 16; "On and On: The Twentieth Anniversary of House Music Tour," featuring the legendary Jesse Saunders and Chip E, comes to Exit/In on Saturday, April 17; and DJ Dara gives Nashville a night of big drum-n-bass at Blue Sky Court on Saturday, April 24. For more info, see www.scenetennessee.com.
By Amy Waddell
E-mail Amy about clubs and happenings at awaddellnashvillescene.com.