Ty Jesso has dug deeply into the Providence music scene over the past 30 years or so. Back when, his legendary Totally Wired promotions booked hundreds of happening shows, bringing Stereolab, Fugazi, Tiger Trap, Bikini Kill, Royal Trux, and anyone who was anybody to local clubs. His tireless work, DIY ethic, and great taste made Providence a significant stop on the indie/punk tour schedule.
By the late-1990s, however, the ever-au courant Ty was growing weary of the “humorless slow bands” that were fashionable at the time. As Ty well knows, Providence has always preferred a riotous atmosphere; he sought to reclaim the good time immediacy afforded by dancing to some great music.
Ty saw the future by looking towards the past. “Soul Power was inspired by the rare soul clubs in the UK such as Wigan Casino and The Golden Torch, as well as sixties and Mod events that are still going on today such as Beat Bespoke Weekender or Euro Ye Ye Weekender,” says Ty.
For the neophytes, Ty is referring to the fabled Northern Soul nights of 1970s England. These weekend dance parties, marketed to hardcore R&B fans, highlighted fast-moving, burn ’em-up numbers, the wilder and more obscure, the better. Fans would pack small clubs, dancing to stone grooves, showing off their latest threads and athletic prowess. Melting yourself down into a pleasantly sweaty puddle to the tune of The Contours and Lee Dorsey was each night’s goal.
Inspired, Ty began spinning records at the now defunct Custom House, a virtually subterranean pub located downtown. He avoided morose indie and bloodless math-rock, de rigeur at the time. Instead, he blasted a wooly, pulsating mixture of Garage Punk, Funk, R&B, Mod, Twist, Boogaloo, and other deep beats. What would eventually become known as The Soul Power dance party was an immediate hit.
Over the ensuing 15 years, the Soul Power train has stopped at a bevy of Providence locations including Jakes, Tazza, The 201, and Local 121. It currently reverberates at Dusk, occurring on the second and last Friday of every month.
“To me, the perfect Soul Power night is when the club is full of old friends and new faces, all drinking and dancing to an eclectic mix of both known and unknown Soul, R&B, Funk, Garage, Mod, and Boogaloo, too, from 10pm till 2am,” begins the debonair DJ. “When I see people getting down to tunes I have never played before, I know that it’s not just me that can feel the magic of the musical genres we champion.”
301 Harris Avenue, Providence