Just a few months ago, Nashville came out in force for the Planet of the Drums tour, which brought Dieselboy, AK 1200 and other drum and bass heavyweights to town. If anything, this event proved that hungry electronic and dance music (EDM) fans will stay out late on a Thursday night, regardless of work, school or other Friday a.m. responsibilities. So when I heard that the genre-blending electronic duo Ming + FS would be at the Mercy Lounge last week, I expected the same kind of turnout. Actually, I expected something even better: Mercy Lounge is plusher than Exit/In, where Planet of the Drums took place, and even if the stage is smaller, it's ideal for watching talented turntablists like Ming + FS work the wax.
The duo's politically charged music deftly flows between dexterous, MC-driven hip-hop, jazzy breaks, downtempo beats and danceable drum and bass. Their stop in Nashville should have enticed B-boys, DJs and purveyors of underground hip-hop to reprazent, along with the Ultimo and Audity Central regulars who usually step up to "support the scene." But it didn't. At 10:30 last Thursday night, the club was hardly full; the opening act, a very young, self-proclaimed "really white" hip-hop crew Fluent Dialects, were plodding along onstage. As one listener put it, "This is like a high school talent show," and it was hard not to wince as the identically dressed, novice crew rapped the words, "I'm really, really white." People passed the time making Gong Show and American Idol jokes until they finally cleared the stage.
The crowd temporarily swelled for Karsh Kale, the second act on the bill, whose music draws on Bollywood and other cultural exports from India, his family's country of origin. By midnight, however, it was clear that the crowd would never reach its potential. While Ming + FS did their tag-team thing with gusto, accompanied by Cincinnati-based MC Napoleon Solo, they couldn't recharge the flagging energy in the room. There was no tangible, electric vibe: the venue didn't throb, the crowd didn't bounce and even stalwart fans dropped out before the show was over. "I've looked at my watch too many times tonight," one said. When a party or a show really peaks, time becomes inconsequential. Last Thursday night, the minutes and hours crept along with less vitality than a late-night infomercial.
I'd heard about the Ming + FS show only a week prior, but fortunately, word is already out about the next big-name DJ at Mercy Loungethe incredible LTJ Bukem, who'll be there on Oct. 7. With proper promotion (compliments of Ultimo Productions) and a stronger, more consistent bill, this show should be everything that Ming + FS was not.
Todd Roman of Tribe and Joe Brown, formerly of The Connection, are also stepping up to fill a huge void in the city's dance music scene. These two, backed by Dave Taylor and Keith Blades of Tribe, are finishing up construction and design of Playa spacious and opulent nightclub set to open soon next to Tribe. Even the unfinished interior of Play is awe-inspiring. A 30-plus-foot bar lines one side of the well-stocked show room, which includes a private lounge with two-way mirrors. Jordan Kennedy from Alabama will serve as the emcee/hostess. The dance club side of Play is designed to give patrons the "multiple experiences" of a big-city club. The ample dance floor will be flanked by two 25-foot-long bars, and like Tribe, there will be a raised level with booths and seating. The DJ booth will sit high above the crowd, and a top-notch lighting and sound system are being installed. Roman is most excited about the "color kinetic" lights, which create endless combinations of color and pulse to the music.
Though Play will be a gay club, Roman strives for it to echo the inclusive attitude and open-minded, mixed crowd of the gay mega-clubs that can be found in other cities. "We want everyone to feel welcome here," he says. "The name truly says what it means: this is a place to play." The club will be open on Wednesdays and Fridays through Sunday. Once Play gets up and running, Roman and Brown hope to use Tuesdays and Thursdays for touring dance music artists, DJs and blowout events. Expect Play to open quietly in mid-September.