Standing -- and dancing, often -- at DJ DEKA'S left side during his 90-minute set at Bijou this past Friday night, this writer often thought back to what blues lyric master Willie Dixon wrote and that Howlin' Wolf and Koko Taylor sang, about partying, in "Wang Dang Doodle:" "We're gonna bust out all the windows, break down all the doors..." So intense was Deka's set, so layered with vocal excitations, waves of rhythm, and echo-chamber razzle dazzle, that only the deaf were not moved to bust and break -- not doors and windows, maybe, but a whole lot of inner hassles and uglies.
It was a muggy August night, and true to the evening's theme -- it was the club's "4th Annual White Party" -- the gals, at least, almost all wore white. You'd have thought it was a wedding and that Billy Idol would take shape and start warbling. Maybe next year...
Even without Mr. Idol, it was the strongest Deka set that this writer has seen in six years of attending the Boston DJ's performances around town. Limiting himself largely to tracks produced by the Chus + Ceballos production collaborative that he works with, the man born as Alexander Karangioze had his mixing skills chiefly applied to the music (mixing skills have always been his inspiration). He played at 126 bpm, slowly pitching upward to 128 bpm; the dancers noticed and responded joyously.
The mixes revved up as well. Overlays of two or even three tracks, voice drop-ins, "DJ tools" (voice a cappellas or instrumental single tracking, excerpted from full productions) presented as is, jumps and breaks, long wind effect build-ups, even a boat horn -- Deka at Bijou called upon them all, rapidly rushing the music, goofing on it. "Lose control" is what house music adepts call this level of musical strip-search. On Stuart Street, Deka showed how it's done. The floor full of dancers loved it.
Typically at a Deka set, you never realize just how excited he is by the mix surprises he creates. (For the record, he mixes "old school:" three CD players and mix board but never, ever a computer program.) Unflappable as a software nerd, he stands at the decks, expressionless, a musical Mr. Fix-it. But not at Bijou. His body rocked, his head bobbed; he practically kissed the mix board.
Back and forth in time came his selections, from Ralphi Rosasrio and Angie Gold's 1987 "You Used to hold Me" to Tamara Wallace (who in the mid '90s was featured voice on the Murk Boys' iconic club hits) doing "Let Me Be Myself" to Celeda's "Music Is the Answer" from 10 years ago, and then -- a signature in Deka sets -- another Celeda, the monologue from "The Underground."
Onto this remembrance of parties past, Deka grafted anticipations of parties future: techno bomb beats, samba traipses, hypnotic noises, and plenty of sci-fi soundscapes, the fiercest of which was, in fact, a DJ tool: "Tool 2" lifted from Gary Beck's remix of Phil Kieran's techno hit "Empty Vessels."
Seen at Deka's set, and among the fiercest dancers of it, were several of Boston's most committed house music fans as well as other DJs. All set long they came into the DJ booth to wish him well and admire his work. Willie Dixon would have loved to see it.
NOTE: Veteran Boston DJ Mark Doyle admirably complemented Deka's set with a strong, mostly 124 bpm set of soulful house music, suavely segued and with not one boring or cliché moment in it, a lesson to so many Boston DJs who feel the need, in an opening set, to play the usual club suspects over and over and in a cliché way.