Better Than: Any other house music night in South Florida.
By now we all know the story: Louie Vega was born into a world of music. His uncle was the great salsa singer Héctor Lavoe, and his father was an in-demand jazz saxophone player. Immersed into the rich rhythms of his beloved New York City, early on Vega formed half of the production duo Masters At Work, and became one of the top the DJs in the world. To date he's remixed everyone from Madonna, Donna Summers and Jamiroquai.
This past Saturday night marked the one-year anniversary of Vega's regular Miami Dance Ritual gathering, and was hosted -- as always -- at the Saturday night Back Door Bamby gathering at the Vagabond. As longtime local Vega followers know, the DJ likes to theme his five-hour sets to certain music genres. Sometimes he'll focus on his Latin roots, mixing tons of old-school Fania tracks with progressive house beats for a hot night. Other times, the versatile Vega will play mostly old-school house music.
For the Dance Ritual one-year celebration, Vega pulled all the stops, offering an intensive, loved-up set of soulful house. The night got to a rousing start with a splendid rhythmic track "There's No Guest List Tonight." The Little Louis hard techno classic scored massive applause by those on the super-packed dance floor. Which brings us to another cool thing about Vega's Dance Ritual residency at Bamby: the attendees are really an eclectic wild bunch, with an anything-goes attitude. There's no dress code, and every dance culture demographic (straight, gay, old, young, etc.) is fully represented on that dark main dance floor.
Also making the night a winner is the fact that Little Louie Vega's strong and loyal following comes, primarily, to listen and dance to his unique seamless mixes. There were many moments during the evening when the dance floor erupted in applause at the illustrious DJ's selection.
As his set progressed Vega preferred to focus on more soulful tracks, culminating in a half-hour house music rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. Other fresh cuts included the notorious Paradise Garage staple "It's Just Begun," followed by the always- spot-on Patrick Cowley remix of "I Feel Love."
Taken as a whole, Vega's Saturday set at the Vagabond was the ultimate lesson in how to throw a flawless DJ session. The dance floor remained packed until closing time, and the people were there for the music, enjoying the welcoming old-school house music vibe.
For those who haven't been to Vega's Back Door Bamby appearances, and are yearning for an ecstatic (and drama-free) night out in downtown Miami, the Dance Ritual offers a welcome sanctuary.
Personal Bias: I'm a fan of the Backdoor Bamby crew of misfits. They always put on an eye-catching show, with cool club personalities like performance artists Nicole Soden, Adora, Jasmine Kastel, and Jose El Negro making the night stand out from those at other clubs.
Random Detail: Unlike many dance producers, Little Louie Vega uses real musicians for his productions, hence the more soulful, organic style of his music.
By The Way: Louie Vega will be back at the Vagabond in 2010 for more Dance Ritual nights.