Mandrill

Fridays tend to be social for me. So yesterday when my housemate Moses asked me if I wanted to go out, I said yes even though I was ready for bed at 11pm. He suggested we check out Madrone Art Bar, which I first heard about from DJ Armand when I was playing records at Mama Knows Best. He came up to me during my set to tell me that he really liked what I was doing and that I should check out Madrone, where he currently spins. “It’ll be good for you” he said, and then he added that “Richard’s got a brand new superstar on his hands”, Richard being Dick Vivian, who came out to support that night. For that to happen during my first real gig was a major accomplishment in my book, so I thanked Armand and told him that I will definitely check out the Art Bar. Fortunately, Madrone is conveniently located on Divisadero and Fell, just walking distance from my house.

So Moses and I walked down Haight, which was surprisingly busy, and up Divis. But when we got to Madrone we realized that there was no way we were going to get in;there were two lines reaching in opposite directions outside of the door. We couldn’t even figure out who was playing inside or what was going on. Unwavering, we decided to walk up more towards The Independent, a phenomenal venue for live acts – I’ve seen RJD2 play there a while back and it was epic. The Wailers were playing and we hung out by the door, listened to the music that leaked from inside The Independent, and watched people walk by for a few minutes. But we were not too interested in entering. We decided to head back home, feeling tired, cold, and sad that we did not find anything worthwhile to check out. We reverse direction and got back on Haight. Serendipitously however, I noticed that the lights were on at Black Pancake Records, one of the record shops on Haight. I peak inside and sure enough i see one of the turntable platters was spinning by the cash register. Manny aka DJ M3, of Green Gorilla Lounge, was getting things ready for the next day’s Lower Haight Art Walk. Strangely enough, I know Manny from the pickup basketball games that I play at Mission Bay during the week, and he also came out to Mama Knows Best last friday. Small world? Maybe.

I knock on the glass and he opens the door for Moses and me. Mind you it was around midnight at this time. We chat it up, talk a little about Koko Cocktails, and then I notice the rows of 12” records against the wall. Apparently they were “cheapies” that are going on sale the next day for a buck a piece during the Art Walk. Not missing an opportunity to scrummage for any gems, I asked Manny if he was cool with me filtering through the piles. Of course he said go for it, so Moses and I started digging.

It was an eclectic collection, with records from all genres and ages; the only common thread was the low price tag. After barely scratching the surface, we put together a bizarre combination of music. There were a few classical pieces, a Dinah Washington album, some off-the-wall stuff that I wouldn’t have picked up if it wasn’t so cheap, and a few Cat Stevens albums for Moses. I decided to check out the rest of the shop and two albums immediately grabbed me.

The first was “Mandrill Is”, the 1972 drop from the funk group Mandrill. Needless to say, the cover art is awesome. Who wouldn’t want to know more about this god-like portrait of this exotic primate next to the moon? You can tell right away that the sound is going to be a mind trip.

Mandrill Is

The second album, which I snatched up immediately and hugged tightly to my chest as though was competing with other customers for the last copy on earth, was “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic. The cover art is this beautiful black woman with long eyelashes and the necessary afro, and she was screaming her lungs off. I bumped into the song, Maggot Brain, a while ago and I knew I had to find the album as soon as possible. It’s one of those songs that will really push you into a deep trance. Go home, turn off the lights, sit on the floor, put your headphones on, and listen to it.

Maggot Brain

In addition, Manny knows about my addiction to predilection for 45s. So of course he put on a song that he knew I would bob my head to without question. While Moses and I were sifting through the LPs, he mentioned that he had a reissue from Kent, a label that only puts out a limited number of pressings. The song that was playing was “All I Want is You” by O.C. Tolbert and I had to get it. If you look at the photo below you’ll notice the hole in the middle is not standard for 45s; the history there is pretty interesting, but I need to read up a little more before writing about it.

All I want is you

Also, A man by the name of Daniel, who turned out to be a DJ in Hawaii and a friend of Manny, walked into the shop. The four of us sparked a brief conversation that lead to the topic of digital DJing. I’m always interested to hear what DJs and record aficionados have to say about the subject. Daniel’s words were, not without some disdain, “sure, you can download as many songs as you want and have 10,000 songs in your library. And you can even download songs while you’re playing so you never have to miss a request. Sure it’s easy, but it’s not the same!” But not lacking in humility, he said that he “does it all” and that if you’re going to DJ you have to be on top of everything, from vinyl to digital to house to funk to raves, especially in a place like Hawaii where the current hip scene can change at a moment’s notice.

What I’ve found out is that a lot of DJs have this mentality about digital Djing. They all agree that you have to have your roots soundly cemented in the foundation, that you should own, buy, and play vinyl records regularly, but that spinning digital music makes life a lot easier. That may be true but, after jumping into the deep end of the analog sound pool, I’m not sure if I can make that switch.

Well it was past midnight, I had a stack of black pancakes from Black Pancakes, and shortly thereafter I was home with Moses and we were watching Jackie Chan’s “Drunken Master”.

Life is good.

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