Love This Mutha
Fifty-two gospel 45s, Mae West's rock album Way Out West, a stage recording of Cyrano de Bergerac, Richard Simmons's Sweatin' with the Oldies video, and an amateur oil painting of a squirrel. Andrew Yeomanson's vinyl safari on a Tuesday afternoon hasn't yielded an exceptional bounty -- nowhere close to the score one day at his preferred Miami thrift shop when he bought 400 albums for $175, all formerly the property of some Colombian guy named Pepe. Still, Yeomanson is pleased.
The gospel platters include several by Miami soulsters the Spiritual Harmonizers ("Leak in the Building"). Mae West sings a fantastically awful "Twist and Shout" with orgasmic vibrato. And Yeomanson, better known as DJ Le Spam, can show the aerobics video at his Thursday-nighter ¡Fuacata! along with the episodes from the bilingual 1970s television series ¿Que Pasa, U.S.A.? and the James Brown Live footage that are slowly edging out the old, grainy films of prerevolutionary Cuban performers on the screen behind the stage at the Little Havana club Hoy Como Ayer.
In his everyday uniform of secondhand plaid pants, Converse low-tops, T-shirt, and a too-small jeans jacket with a heart and "mutha" embroidered on the breast, Yeomanson warms up the Calle Ocho club on a recent Thursday with Afro-Cuban recordings from the 1940s and the pyschedelic Latin boogaloo of one of his current favorites, Charlie Palmieri. The DJ's turntables, mixer, and boards are set up on a makeshift table. He digs around in several milk crates at his feet until he finds a record by 1960s Latin soul group the Lat-Teens that includes their hit "Mary-Wanna." Yeomanson, who is as tall and lanky as Gumby, flips furiously through the crates again. "Let's put on a whole bunch of [Cuban bandleader] Arsenio [Rodriguez] covers," he says with a chuckle. "We'll see if anyone gets the pattern."
Probably not, but the thickening crowd has begun to dance. Tables removed to lay bare the bric-a-brac décor, this Little Havana hole-in-the-wall feels more than ever like a swinging basement rec room. Soon, Yeomanson will start the live set, with several musicians improvising to the groove of his Latin soul mix.
Yeomanson concocted his live-vinyl recipe in the early 1990s. "On the first track we recorded, I played a snare drum pattern, and I had recorded all of these homeless guys on the street asking me for change," Yeomanson recalls. "Needless to say, that wasn't a runaway hit." The second foray featured a montuno pattern he played with a tres and a cowbell over samples from a record that included a Spam ad from the 1980s. "The guy was at a shopping mall asking people to taste a quiche made with Spam and asking them, "What kind of meat do you think that is? Is it haaam?' It was hilarious. So I just started calling [my group] Spam Allstars."
In a city nearly devoid of live music clubs, the erstwhile guitarist devised a new direction for his performances. "I went at it guerrilla-style, with the idea that we could be more flexible," he explains. "It's all about the beats here, man. Bass music is everywhere. Hip-hop is huge. Beats and Latin music; rock 'n' roll is on the sidelines. It's just the nature of the place. It's been about the beats since the get-go."
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