Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cocktail Corner: The Mod Club Edition

The Mod Club night is a Canadian institution. It has been filling up dance floors from coast to coast for more than a decade. Major cities like Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Montreal have all had a night running, using the same banner, at one point. Some nights have a wider view of the Mod spectrum while some are more purist. Take Mod Club Ottawa for instance, it has been hosting several hundred dancing kids, every Sunday, at the Babylon night club for more than 10 years now. You have to applaud DJ Gaz for that.

I've been very fortunate to have inherited the Mod Club night in Montreal and I've worked very hard at being a good steward of the brand. Our little weekly night is celebrating its first year in its current location. The Bar de Courcelle is a friendly neighbourhood watering hole that ended up being the perfect spot to spread musical joy at 45 revolutions per minute. At first, I was a bit skeptical that it was going to work because it didn't have a proper dance floor. It's more of a pub than a club. I love being proved wrong.

Nothing is more satisfying, as a DJ, then seeing people spring up from their seats and start dancing between tables or at the bar. It has a basement party type of atmosphere. Picture the home party scene in Quadrophenia.

I owe the success of the night to a long line of passionate guest DJs and the nicest staff and management I ever had the pleasure to work with. Aside from being friendly and professional, they do know their cocktails! Trust me, I'm speaking from experience. So I decided to dedicate this third installment of the Cocktail Corner to them.

Here are some of the staff's favorite intoxicants. Some of these are classics that have stood the test of time, while others are a "modern" concoction. They all have one thing in common. They're an attack on your taste buds!

Meet Arnaud, a true master mixologist. He blends flavours and alcohol with as much ease and expertise as the best Mod DJ mixes the tunes for the dance floor. I have the pleasure of being his guinea pig and every week I gladly volunteer to test out new recipes. Here are some that made the cut.

First and foremost, I'm very proud to officially introduce you to a collaboration between Arnaud and I  that was specifically created for the Mod Club. Here's a new twist on the classic Tiki staple, the Mai Tai. I present to you the Mod Tai. Can you think of something more refreshing on a hot summer night after spending an hour doing the Boogaloo and dancing the Watusi?

Mod Thai

1 oz Bicardi Oakheart Spiced Rum
3/4 oz Cachaça Leblon
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Orgeat syrup
2 drops of cardamon bitters
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
A dash of fresh orange juice

Pour all ingredients in a shaker. 

Shake. Strain. 

Serve with ice in a high ball with orange wheel, cherry and umbrella. You'll thank me later.

The Garden Groove is the ideal refreshment to accompany a good dose of sweet Funk on the Bar de Courcelle terrace.

Garden Groove

1/2 oz Galliano
1/2 oz Chartreuse
1 3/4 oz Zubrowka (Bison Grass Vodka)
1/2 oz Orgeat syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Pour all ingredients in a shaker.

Shake. Strain.

Serve over ice with lemon wheel. Make sure to leave the scooter at home.

If you enjoy varying tastes, from sweet to sour, but also like different textures then the Pisco Sour is for you.

Pisco Sour

2 oz Pisco
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 oz lime juice
1 egg white
6 drops of Angostura bitters

Pour the egg white at the bottom of the shaker. Add the Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup and dry shake (no ice). Add ice, shake again. Use fine strainer and poor into martini glass. 

Add 6 drops of bitters and swirl with a toothpick.

Enjoy while listening to some gritty RnB.

Next up is Guylain, the friendliest barman you'll ever meet. If smiles could be bottled, you would find an once in every one of his drinks. His style of bartending contrasts with Arnaud's. He's more of a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of guy. This is his own creation.

The Summer Stroll

1 1/2 oz Dark Rum
1/2 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz lime juice
1/2 oz cane syrup
4 basil leafs
1 large strawberry
1 slice of orange
1 slice of lime
2 cucumber slices
Splash of 7up

Put a few ice cubes in a highball. Add cucumber, strawberry, basil leafs, orange and lime. Squeeze lime and muddle. 

Add Rum, Triple Sec, cane syrup. Fill with ice, add soda and top off with a splash of 7up. Garnish with cucumber slice.

A Parka Avenue Cocktail Corner wouldn't be one without a classic drink. And it doesn't get more classic than a Manhattan.


1 3/4 oz Marker's Mark Bourbon
1/4 oz Red Vermouth
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Fill Old Fashion glass with ice. Add 2 dashes of bitters.

Add bourbon and vermouth.

Garnish with 2 cherries. Simple enough for ya?

If this doesn't put your taste buds in overdrive like Pavlov's dog then I don't know what will. If you're ever in Montreal, then by all means hit me up and I'll make sure you'll get the VIP treatment. To keep abreast of all the Mod Club activities, just follow the link to the Facebook page here.

Last but not least, I invite you to press play on the latest Parka Avenue Podcast on Mixcloud while leisurely sipping one of these divine elixirs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Profiles Of The Best 60s / Mod DJs in North America: Special Edition - Soulelujah

The highlight of my year as a DJ has to be when I'm invited to join the stellar cast of wax spinners at Boston's weekly Soul night. To say that the night is successful is an understatement. 

It now boast two rooms packed with sweaty dancers but it has also been named the city's best dance night. Some of the accolades should be directed to my man Sean Quinn. He works tirelessly at making sure that it stays that way.

Your name / DJ
Sean Quinn aka Claude Money, Spiritual Adviser for Soulelujah

Patrick Foisy, Sean Quinn and Ty Jesso
Somerville, MA, USA
How would you describe your musical style?
Medium Rare. Nothing too deep, but I'm not afraid of hits either. I got a soft spot for the funky ladies and girl groups. Jeanne & The Darlings - Soul Girl gets a lot of play, so does Barbara Acklin - Am I The Same Girl. I really love anything that hits hard as well. Current heavy rotation would include, Sir Guy - Funky Virginia, Lou Courtney - Hot Butter 'N All, Dyke and The Blazers - Funky Bull, shit like that. But I love playing things like Jackie Wilson - Higher and Higher, or Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrell doing Ain't No Mountain High Enough too.

What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?
Irene Reid - Dirty Old Man. Just a great example of a hard hitting cut. It's got everything I love in a 45. We put it out with Deano Sounds and Cultures of Soul last year. Again, not a rare record by any means but I play it every time I DJ.

Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.
Eh, that's super tough. I don't really work that way. I keep lists of records I would love to have like anyone else, but I don't really think about it that often. Honestly there is no "must have" record for me. There are always things that become "MUST HAVE" that fade over time. Maybe there's a record you wanted forever and when you finally get it, it doesn't really fit into your set. There isn't a whole lot of value in that for me.
I remember keeping a cut on my wants list for 2 years, casually keeping an eye out for Landscape by the Mohawks. It's an awesome organ groover that sounds like Serge Gainsbourg is smoking cigarettes on a stool in the studio, waiting to jump in at any moment. I looked for that record for two years and then one day flipped over a re-issue of The Champ that I had owned forever. There it was, staring me in the face, Landscape. I was stoked to be sure, but also wondered how much mental energy I had wasted looking for a "must have" that was already sitting in my crates. Maybe that just makes me kind of stupid, but I figure I have the records I'm supposed to have. My collection is continually expanding, but nothing is missing.

Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.
Soulelujah every Saturday night at The Middle East and ZuZu in Central Square, Cambridge, MA USA. We've been running the night for over ten years now, since 2003, and things seem to be going well. We run two separate rooms every Saturday and have an incredible team over there that help us pull off a great party every single week. A lot of Soul nights around the country are monthly. I'm incredibly proud of our team and our ability to pull off two rooms with a separate DJ in each room EVERY WEEK. That's basically 104 shows a year. The Soulelujah crew includes myself (Claude Money), Ty Jesso, E. Dorsey, The Brobots, John Funke and PJ Gray. 

Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?
Absolutely not, it's just my preference. I download MP3's like everyone else. If I am out at a night where DJs are using Serato and they start playing Syl Johnson, am I supposed to give them the old stink eye because of the format? Fuuuuuuck that. My personal preference is for 45s, and for Soulelujah it is without question the aesthetic that we all adhere too. First of all, the Soulelujah DJs all have incredible taste and selection, and secondly format does force you to make specific choices. In my earlier example I mentioned a typical club DJ working in some Syl Johnson and how awesome that can be. On the other hand, if I found myself at a vintage soul night and the DJs were using Serato, I do believe that would have an impact on the vibe of the night. One of the amazing things about digital music is that you can find just about anything without trying very hard. That may seem great at first but your set will suffer for it. In my personal experience, working with 45s forces you to make more interesting pathways to get to your dance floor destination. You have to be more conscious of building a particular vibe just so you can work in that new 45 you got that is so damn good, but doesn't really fit in easily anywhere. The vinyl based DJ will find a way to make it work where the digital based DJ may not even consider it.
On a side note regarding format. I believe in good vibes, transference of energy and shit like that. Every record in my box went to quite a few parties before I ever got my hands on it. It soaked up a whole mess of good vibes along the way. When that little party animal gets to scream its face off on the turntable for a room full of sweaty dancers? There is a difference.
What is your favorite place to buy records?
My all time hands down favorite way to buy records is from old friends or new friends over conversation and sharing of knowledge. When that isn't the way it's going down I hit up In Your Ear on Commonwealth Ave in Boston.
As I mentioned in my last post, you won't find many DJs I respect and admire like this guy. He's certainly one of the reasons why Soulelujah is such a hit.
Your name / DJ
Ty Jesso

Providence, RI
How would you describe your musical style?
I DJ mostly 60s, 70s, Soul, RnB, Mod, Garage, Freakbeat and Boogaloo.
What is your “go to” track? The one you will likely never get tired of spinning?
Preston Epps Trio - Say Yeah (Polo) or Mack Rice - Baby I'm Coming Home (Lu-Pine)

Regardless of price, name THE record that is missing from your collection.
Troy Dodds- Real Thing (El Camino)

Bobby Adams & Betti Lou - Dr Truelove (Tra-x)

Ray Medina & the New Latin Breed - Heads Head (Mares)

Where can we see you spin on a regular basis? Tell us about the night or an event you would like to promote.
I spin every second Friday in Providence at my night Soul Power at Dusk and I spin usually 2 Saturdays monthly at our weekly Boston DJ night , Soulelujah at ZuZu & the Middle East Club. Both nights have been going on for over 10 years now so we must be doing something right.

Is vinyl the only acceptable format for playing your style of music?
I spin 99% 45s. A few LP only tracks and 12"s. I do spin repros as long as they have good sound quality.
What is your favorite place to buy records?
WFMU Record Fair in NYC and via private dealers wherever.
I want to thank my two gracious hosts for inviting me once again to spin at one of the best Soul nights on the continent. Mark my words, I'll be back.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mod On The Road: Party in Providence

Some of my friends think that I'm mad when I tell them that I will drive 6 hours to go DJ somewhere. For one, I don't do it for the money. I'm glad when it covers expenses. I'm ecstatic when I have money left to buy a few records.

I do it because I get to hang out with people that are as passionate as I am. And that is worth driving twice the distance. When DJ Ty Jesso invited me to join him at his Soul Power night in Providence, Rhode Island, I didn't hesitate one second. I don't throw the word "mentor" around frivolously but when it comes to Ty, it applies quite adequately. Ty is the type of DJ that "gets it". He doesn't care about rare records or first pressing (even if he has a collection that will put us all to shame). He only cares about what works and what will make people dance and want to PAR-TY!

Before heading out to a full night of doing the Watusi and spinning records, our host brought my wife and I to one of his favorite watering holes. 

As soon as I walked into Ogie's, I was greeted with some classic 60s Soul. Always a good sign. You also have the impression that you're inside a 60s trailer park at night. It's what I call "kitchy done right". 

On the menu, you'll find confort food that you'll find in any respectable trailer park. The mac 'n cheese balls were worth every mile I travelled to put my hands on some. And I have to say, their selection of local beers on tap is another reason why I didn't want to leave.

But we had a gig to DJ. Next stop was Dusk. The perfect venue that has the right amount of vintage feel and equal parts charm. The crowd that came is definitely a notch above your average mix of drunk college kids and pretentious hipsters. The patrons had as much class as the city they live in. The go-go dancers were more spectacle than authentic but they seemed to enjoy themselves and that's good enough for me.

Let's dance!
The brief night's sleep didn't stop me the next morning from getting up early and going through several hundred 45s my mate Ty had set aside for me. I managed to deprive him from a little more than a dozen 7 inch gems. You can hear most of them on the latest Parka Avenue Podcast here.

This unknown scorchin' Soul stomper from the southeast is one exemple that I pulled out of Ty's stash. When I find a dance floor mover and shaker that has sweet lyrics like "Are you a turtle? You bet your sweet ass I am", you know that it's going directly in the DJ box.

This mystery Garage jewel is another one that will get a lot of spins. Not much can be found about The Brotherhood. I find it interesting that the song is credited to Serge Blouin. Mr Blouin came out with several cheesy 45s in my own province of Quebec.

The rest of the day was spent cruising the city, taking in its beautiful architecture with the occasional stop at a vintage shop or record store. We had picked the perfect spring weekend. The sun was shinning and the trees were in full bloom.

After a light lunch at Chez Pascal, a local French bistro, where I devoured some delicious sausages made in-house, we were ready for every Mod's favorite activity, shopping. Our first destination was a second-hand shop called Foreign Affair. The selection was small but the prices were rock bottom. Unfortunately, the friendly owner let us know that her shop might be closing soon.

Next stop was Rocket To Mars. This is the type of place you wish every city had. They have a decent selection of clothes and every knick knack you need to decorate your groovy pad. I left with 2 shirts and I was privy to the "friends of Ty" discount. Could not ask for more.

Our final shopping spot was The Time Capsule. Half of the store is dedicated to comic books but the other half is all about records. You'll find plenty of $1 to 5$ records to dig through. There's a good selection of more common Garage and Soul 45s that you can buy to complete your collection. The rarer stuff is usually put right up on the net. I left with a small stack and the good news is that I still had plenty of money in my pocket.

Ty doing his thing

We had just enough time to sample some more beers from the area and a few stuffies, a local seafood staple,  at the Hot Club before heading to Boston for Soulelujah. We are in store for another night of spinning records and debauchery.

The view from the deck the Hot Club
For a sample of the records I pillaged in Providence, head over to the Parka Avenue Podcast on Mixcloud right now!