What promises to be a great night of entertainment begins with a screening of Jamal Shabazz: Street Photographer (2013), a new documentary from the director of the seminal hip-hop film Wild Style (1983) Charlie Ahearn. The director is in attendance and the booths of the Sugar Club are filled with happy spectators. After the film there’s a Q&A with Ahearn, who seems a bit disconnected, going off on tangents and not listening to the questions posed by Garry O’Neill, author of Where Were You? Dublin Youth Culture & Street Style.
After a prolonged Q&A that runs well over time, the stage is cleared and a table with decks and a mixer is carried onto centre stage, followed by a single keyboard stand holding Dam-Funk’s Roland AX synth. There isn’t a peep from the crowd as he walks onto the stage and starts checking his mic, and even when he takes out a record and starts into some laid back soul nobody seems to notice. It’s not until he launches into one of his own tracks that people recognise who’s onstage and suddenly the dancefloor begins to fill to the sound of ‘Hit the Pavement’ off his most recent release, a collaboration with Snoop Dogg (or should I say Snoopzilla) called 7 Days of Funk. As he steps to the front of the stage he immediately takes control of the gig and tracks like ‘Fading Away’ and his most well known hit ‘Hood Pass Intact’ alleviate any fears that this might be a DJ set.
In fact as the gig progresses we see that the performance involves a combination of DJing, MCing, singing and musicianship as he flits from the decks to the front of the stage with his keytar, taking it into the crowd and letting spectators chance their arms at playing a few notes. The set is peppered with his own material, boogie rarities and more contemporary house and techno tunes, allowing him the opportunity to either play along or mime out some choice poses behind the decks. A special moment comes in the form of a quieter solo keyboard and vocal tune as he takes a breather from the backing tracks. Afterwards two encores are demanded and delivered without hesitation. Dam-Funk is a real people person and soaks up the admiration that pours from the crowd as he reaches out to the audience members, hugging and shaking hands as he leaves the stage. A DJ set with a difference ends with a sneak preview of ‘Trying to Survive’ a track from his forthcoming collaboration with Q-Tip Invite the Light. Boogielicious!