Throwback Thursday: Freestyle Fellowship @ Metropolis – May 6, 1993

 

*(2013)_19930506

For today’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories of our May 6, 1993 show with Freestyle Fellowship. And as always, we’d love for you to join us in reminiscing on the night and sharing your favorite Freestyle Fellowship memories!

Out of Los Angeles, California, Freestyle Fellowship were from the same era of LA rap groups like The Pharcyde. They were signed to 4th and Broadway and had a very jazzy hip-hop feel to them – kind of like the west coast juxtaposition to De La and Tribe. Their “Park Bench People” track in particular was a big hit for us down at the club. Jose James actually covered it many years later on The Dreamer.

This show was at Metropolis, which was the classic Giant Step venue. Metropolis was in the basement of what is now Blue Water Grill. It held about 250-300 people but we’d get like 400-500 people, all smoking and drinking. In this day and age, so many people would never be allowed in a club like that – those are times that are totally gone.

Freestyle Fellowship had a young manager named Kedar who was very impressive and also quite pushy, which definitely helped him get my attention quite early.

After managing Freestyle Fellowship, Kedar went on to manage D’Angelo, helped discover Erykah Badu, and eventually became the President of Motown Records where he signed India Arie. He’s also someone who took credit for coining the term “neo soul.” Like I said, a very impressive guy.

Having Daddy-O from Stetsasonic as a guest was a very nice addition to the bill. He was actually introduced to us by Kedar as his brother. For those that are not familiar, Stetsasonic were a hip-hop band from the late 80s/early 90s. One of their most popular tracks was a song called “Talking All That Jazz” that sampled Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions,” which also was a big hit at the club.

It was a very memorable show – a hot, sweaty, sticky late night downtown. Great band to see live.

Throwback Thursday: Incognito @ SOBs – May 19 & 20, 1993

 

*(2013)_19930519

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories from Incognito’s US debut show in 1993. A throwback can’t be complete without our community, though; chime in at the comments and share your experiences from the night or just tell us about your favorite Incognito memory!

Incognito were a band that was part of the English funk movement of the 1980s alongside bands like Freez and Light of the World. By this time in 1993, Bluey, the leader of Incognito, had garnered a large following in the UK, Europe, and Japan.

In the early 90s the band was signed to Talking Loud, a label on Polygram that Gilles Peterson was then running. Their album at the time of this show was Tribes, Vibes, & Scribes and was released through Verve Forecast in the United States.

Washington DC based Maysa Leak was the vocalist and brought a very smooth R&B sound to Incognito. This sound really helped them gain quite a bit of popularity in the United States, seeing as it was very compatible with the adult urban format on the radio.

For this show, we brought the band out as part of a tour for their US debut. We did two sold out nights at SOBs with two shows a night. Incognito is a funky, tight band. As far as the crowd, you had your jazz-funkers, which is what I call myself, and then you had your adult urban crowd who were a bit older and knew Incognito from the radio. It was a nice mix of folks; some getting down and dancing, others mellowing out and taking in the music. It was just a great show, very fond memories.

And I have to say: Bluey was and still is one of the sweetest guys in the music business. He always stayed very pure and true to the music; Incognito is still going!

Throwback Thursday: De La Soul & A Tribe Called Quest @ Ritz – Feb 16, 1992

 

*(2013)_19920216

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us his memory of a 1992 De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest show at Ritz.

This show was at the Ritz, New York. The Ritz used to be where Webster Hall is now, but at this point the Ritz had moved uptown into what was Studio54. It was a big venue.

The show happened on President’s Day weekend and was a double bill with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. While we’d worked with Tribe before, this was the first show we did with De La. It was a Sunday, there was no school on Monday, and it was absolutely ram packed. Everybody wanted to be there. I mean, Tribe in ‘92, De La in ‘92, you know? It was pretty incredible – great performances with great energy. This was a classic, classic New York show.

One of the things that I remember very distinctly – and I actually talked to Q-Tip about this as well – there was a big fight by the side of stage. All these different posses came down and they were all standing at this side area. People would go up and they’d all start freestyling during the performers’ sets. When the fight happened, I remember Tip turning around – he was on stage – and just saying, “Can you guys just all chill out?” It was one of the first times I’d seen a fight at one of our events. It was very rare that something like that would happen at a Giant Step event. But when these posses would roll in, there was always beef between somebody and somebody.

Throwback Thursday: Digable Planets @ Supper Club – Nov 10, 1993

 

For Throwback Thursday this week, Maurice recounts our first Digable Planets show! Get the scoop below.

I first found out about Digable Planets around 1992. I received a call from Dennis Wheeler, President of Pendulum Records, which was an imprint on Elektra. He knew what we were doing at Giant Step and told me he wanted to send over some demos of a new band they’d signed to hear our response. So, they sent me the demos and I thought it was very Tribe-esque [see: A Tribe Called Quest]. I ended up meeting with the band and the label to explore how Giant Step could help Digable Planets, and this actually became a very early marketing project for us without really realizing it.

Digable Planets finished “Cool Like That” and brought the test press of the track to the Giant Step club, which was then in the basement at Metropolis Café. We tested the song out on the Giant Step crowd – first time that record was ever played in public – and it went down brilliantly; people went crazy. Inspired by the response from the crowd that night, the guys went home and they made The Crashing Giant Step Mix, which was on the original 12” of “Cool Like That.”

Read more after the jump

Throwback Thursday: Brand New Heavies @ SOBs – May 6, 1991

 

We’re super excited to present our third installment of Throwback Thursday. Today, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein recounts the Brand New Heavies’ debut NYC show.

This was the first of about four shows we did with Brand New Heavies. They were just about to release their debut album here on Delicious Vinyl; the original version was released on Acid Jazz in the UK.

We were playing The Brand New Heavies at Giant Step for quite a while. “A Dream Come True” originally came out with Jay Ella Ruth on vocals. But when the band signed to Delicious Vinyl in the United States, they decided to have N’Dea Davenport (another Delicious signee) become the vocalist.

They re-recorded some tracks like “A Dream Come True” for the American album version, and N’Dea definitely gave it a funkier sound. Also, “Never Stop” was an instrumental on the original album; when they recorded it for America, they had N’Dea sing on it.

This first New York show paired with an American debut album on the way got the band quite a big buzz. The show sold out. The who’s who of downtown New York were there – everybody wanted to see The Brand New Heavies. The place was packed, and people went bananas. It was a very energetic, memorable show

An aside – people might notice that we presented the show under the name Groove Academy at that time; This was because we wanted Giant Step as a club to stand alone and Groove Academy was the name were using for concerts back then.

The album came out and “Never Stop” was a radio hit. The following summer we had them play at our first anniversary show at The Palladium with Parliament Funkadelic headlining; The Brand New Heavies opened up and backed Blowfly as well – that’s a story for another time. [laughs]