Last night, BBC Radio 1 DJ Gilles Peterson spun at a free gig at Five here in DC. He was supported by some local DJs, including Sam “The Man” Burns, one of the elder statesmen of DC’s house scene and part of the DJ Hut crew.
I showed up early in Burns’ set, which was a never-ending run of tribal and deep house beats that had a lot of twists but an ever-driving beat. It was fun, and Sam “The Man” was really into it. As the crowd became thicker, the dancing on the main floor became more animated and fun to watch.
But the main event was Gilles Peterson. Anybody who has heard his show on the Beeb knows how creative DJ Gilles is with his mixes. Rather than concentrate solely on beat and bass, he’ll choose lineups on tonal qualities, moods, instruments or simple whimsy. As such, his sets are eclectic and always fresh – markedly different than the typical “bass-rules-the-day” motif you get as most house music events.
Furthermore, DJ Gilles broke landmark artists (such as Jamiroquai) and sounds (such as acid jazz) into the mainstream, well before most other DJs – let alone listeners – knew of their existence. Most house DJs owe a lot of Gilles Peterson and his taste in music.
DJ Gilles lived up to his reputation. Despite some early bugaboos with his microphone and one of the CD decks, he kept the ball rolling with fresh twists on dance favorites, opening with some James Brown that melded into MJ Cole and many other divergent artists – he even threw in some Coltrane, just to be different. While I didn’t stay for his entire set (I have to work, after all, and sleep is an important setup for a good work day), what I heard was excellent, all around.
Bottom line: if you like creative spinning from an influential DJ, do what you can to experience some of DJ Gilles’ work if he stops in your town. Even though last night’s show was free, I would’ve gladly paid money to hear his work.