Nowhere else in Fort Lauderdale could a party underpinned by the warbling of Hammond organs, wailing saxes, and vocal harmonies over the buzzing of electric guitars have been staged except at 5 Points Lounge. The elaborate tiki themed watering hole, located in the shadow of the petroleum yards of Port Everglades just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale, has soul. "It's gonna get hot in here," DJ Mikey Ramirez remarked early in the evening, noting the stuffiness of the room as he set up on the patio deck style stage next to a stern 7 foot tall tiki idol. And as the crowd swelled throughout the evening, he was proven correct.
Along with fellow DJs Sensitive Side, Blue, and James Brown's Sweat from Lake Worth, classics and album cuts from The Drifters, Edwin Starr, Stevie Wonder, The Bar-Kays, and even a little disco played late into the evening. The bar stacked up considerably at times, as people many generations removed from the 1960s got funky to music seldom heard on South Florida radio any longer.
It could have been a scene out a rowdy L.A. airport area bar circa 1966, lacking only an off duty Eastern Airlines crew with jackets over chair backs and a third round in front of them to complete the picture. A clutch of people in the corner near the elaborate, candlelit, pan-religious shrine to music greats Charlie Patton and Hank Williams danced, beers in hand, as James Brown's "Get Up Offa That Thing" dropped from the overhead speakers and the meters on the DJ mixer pinned into the red.
Could this perhaps be what it was like in the spring days of 1960s Fort Lauderdale? Hot R&B slamming out of the jukebox at Elbo Room, beer fueled liberation amid social and political tension as the traditional southern values of a still very Southern South Florida were challenged by lusty northerners with a taste for liquor and the brassy, uproarious melodies being churned out of Detroit like so many Chevy Impalas.
The Popcorn Soul Revue was less a nostalgic trip than it was a celebration of the music that started it all. The tipping point where the vocal groups of the '50s began to take on a louder, driving, and more urgent sound, becoming the DNA of the conscious soul of the late '60s and early '70s, later progressing into disco, before branching off into synthpop, electro, hip-hop, and techno, seeding itself permanently in the evolution of music.
A couple danced in each others arms to "Up on the Roof" by The Drifters as the 1 o'clock hour approached and several people adjourned themselves to loiter on the sidewalk and eat at food trucks across Miami Road. The party was starting to wind down though the mood remained upbeat as people drank and talked in clusters in front of the bar. Hopefully in the coming days, some of them will recall that one Little Eva or Marvin Gaye hook from the party and take it upon themselves to start tracing the genealogy of what they know as rock 'n' roll at their local record store.
The Popcorn Soul Revue was coincidentally held on the eve of the death of Booker T. & the M.G.'s bassist Donald 'Duck' Dunn, a legendary R&B group and among the first to feature both black and white musicians. One of their signature tunes, 1969's "Time Is Tight," was on the impressive list of music played on Saturday, a jam that builds and rises like a Tennessee heat wave. Just dig this bass groove and you'll understand that it is with good reason he worked with so many of the legends.
Donald 'Duck' Dunn.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Hey, the party's out here too!"
Only Thing Missing: Popcorn! Save for one stray, kernel riddled bowl there wasn't much to be found.