Testify: Fri., Jan. 14, 10pm. $5. Silk City, Fifth and Spring Garden sts. 215.592.8838
When Russell Alexander says he plays almost exclusively 45s at his DJ nights, he's not being pretentious. Rather, those antiquated vinyl singles are the format of choice for his genres of choice--funk and soul.
Indeed, the whole Northern Soul genre stemmed from DJs in Northern England playing obscure American soul 45s in the '70s (though much is available today on CD compilations). "It's sort of a collector's thing but also the style. It's a 45-based thing. It's just what's always been done," he says.
Alexander is also not being pretentious when he rattles off the myriad subgenres he spins. There's raw funk, '60s garage, Hammond groove and boogaloo, a kind of Latin-influenced soul. There's even, he finally offers, "a little bit of disco."
Humbly started as an irregularly occurring party, Testify is now a monthly Silk City night Alexander does with DJs Miss Marianne and Michael Lowe. He sometimes gets help from Dave Brown, who runs the local soul label Funkadelphia, which reissues old Philly soul and funk 45s.
The records spun at Testify range from common picks like Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner to less obvious choices like the Highlighters and the Nazz.
A Valley Forge native and Pitt grad, the 29-year-old Alexander lives in Queen Village, where he's now unemployed after a five-year stint working as a management consultant. "I sort of took some time off to focus on stuff like this," he says.
Alexander started DJing about four years ago, inspired in part by Gregg Foreman's legendary Silk City night the Turnaround. "That was probably the first time I heard someone spin more raw funk tracks instead of just Northern Soul," he says. "That was the first time I heard it in the States."
In addition to Testify, Alexander does a nameless, more low-key night every Tuesday at Bar Noir. He's also helped out at the Intensified and Bombay to Brazil nights at the Khyber, and he's spun with other DJs between sets at Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' recent residency at the Five Spot.
So where does he find all these dusty little slices of vinyl heaven? Locally, he goes to the 45s-only Val Shively's R&B Records in Upper Darby. Then there are thrift stores and flea markets. He sometimes buys a hundred or so 45s at a time, figuring 10 of them will actually be good. "Anywhere I go, I look for places that carry 45s," he says.
RUSSELL ALEXANDER'S HOT LIST
Pica's Pizza in Upper Darby
Black '72 Tele Custom
My new top secret 45 spot
Fri., Jan. 14, 11pm. Free. Weekly. Cafe Spice, 35 S. Second St. 215.627.6273
It can be hard to be young and fabulous. So many lagers. So many remixes of "Heart of Glass." And that TV on the Radio song. It just never stops. What's an urban warrior to do? Bombay the hard way, baby. Every Friday at Old City's Cafe Spice, DJ Munish spins Bhangra, Bollywood, Indian retro and hip-hop for a room of diehard fans. As a former employee of the Bollywood behemoth, India native Munish has an extensive record collection and an uncanny sense for what will make young'uns bum-rush the dance floor. He's almost single-handedly turned Cafe Spice into the place to be for folks looking for a home away from home. The management prefers to keep the crowd "sharp and stylish," so leave your jeans and shell-tops at home. It's a small price to pay for a Bhangrified good night. (Emily Brochin)