Throwback Thursday: Bootsy Collins @ SOBs – Sep 26 & 27, 1990

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein tells us about Bootsy Collins’ fall 1990 shows at SOBs.

We started the Groove Academy shows in June of 1990 with Leon Thomas and The JBs. The JBs featured Maceo Parker, Pee wee Ellis, and Fred Wesley. And after meeting those guys, I was able to meet Bobby Byrd – also a James Brown alumni.

By continuing to put on shows with these artists and building their trust, we came to a place where we were able to ask Bobby’s wife Vicky Anderson if she could give us Bootsy Collins’ number. Bootsy was also an alumni of James Brown plus a member of Funkadelic.

We wanted to bring Bootsy to New York for a show – he hadn’t played New York in 5 years. I didn’t realize that Bootsy was living at home with his mother at the time. So when I called, his mother answered and I said, “Excuse me, is Bootsy there, please?” And she said, “Hold on a second.” She shouted up the stairs, “William! There’s some guy with a strange accent on the phone.”

Bootsy came to the phone and in the trademark Bootsy voice started talking to me. I explained who I was, that Vicky Anderson and Bobby Byrd had given me his number, and that I wanted to know if he’d be interested to coming to New York and doing some shows for us. He said, “Yeah, I need to you speak to my brother, he takes care of all the arrangements.” Bootsy’s brother was Catfish Collins, another James Brown alumni.

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Throwback Thursday: Gil Scott-Heron @ SOBs – Jan 20, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein highlights our Martin Luther King Day Celebration featuring Gil Scott-Heron in 1991. Maurice shares:

Gil Scott-Heron’s importance and influence on today’s music is indisputable, and we were lucky to do many shows with him. Gil’s use of his platform was admirable, too; As someone who was always outspoken – especially in politics and social issues – it would be interesting to know what he would have thought about the current government shut down. We invite you to tell us your thoughts on Gil: Did you attend this show or one of the thousands he did in his lifetime? How is his legacy being remembered in your experience? And what’s your favorite piece of music by Gil?

Throwback Thursday: Joey Arias Channeling Billie Holiday @ Metropolis Cafe – April 25, 1991

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes us back to Joey Arias’ mind-blowing channeling of Billie Holiday at Metropolis Cafe on April 25, 1991. Were you there with us? Let us know what you remember, and be sure to catch a video of Joey performing “Strange Fruit” earlier this year after the jump!

After starting Giant Step the party in September 1990 on Mondays at SOBs, in January 1991, we moved the night up to Tuesdays at AKA on Houston. However, that was around the time of the first Iraq war starting, and the night wasn’t very successful.

Prior to starting Giant Step, I was working in restaurants; A year prior, a coworker told me that a friend of his worked at a restaurant called Metropolis Cafe on Union Square. Apparently, they had a basement where they were looking to do parties.

It was a pretty raw basement, but in wanting to move the club to a better night in the week, I re-approached the people at Metropolis about doing a Thursday party. I met the manager Dennis Cicero and we made it happen. We started on the new night and location around the end of March or beginning of April in 1991.

We’d open the doors at 11, so in order to for us to try to get people in earlier, we decided to have some live performances beforehand. For this particular night, we chose Joey Arias – a very famous downtown performance artist who has been around a number of years and comes from a history a vibrant NYC performers from the 1980s; Joey had an act where he would channel Billie Holiday.

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Throwback Thursday: The Very First ‘Giant Step’ @ SOBs – September 24, 1990

 

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As we approach the 23rd anniversary of the very first Giant Step club, it’s only fitting that we highlight the historic night for this week’s Throwback Thursday! Join our President/CEO Maurice Bernstein as he takes us back to September 24, 1990 at SOBs. Were you one of the few that were with us in those early days? Tell us what you remember!

This was the very first flyer for Giant Step. After the success of the Groove Academy shows in the summer of 1990, our goal was to set up a weekly party that focused on the jazz and dance movement that we were familiar with in London. We were very influenced by Dingwall’s Sunday party and The Wag Club, which I used to go to when I lived in London and Jonathan Rudnick (Giant Step co-founder) had visited as well.

But we didn’t want to just do a straight version of that; we wanted to bring in the elements that were fundamental to New York – one being hip-hop music – so, we decided to mix jazz and hip-hop together. However, there was very little music like that at that time – there was Tribe that was mixing jazz with some of their hip-hop and Gang Starr had just done “Jazz Thing.” It was also tough to find DJs who really knew how to play the music and make people dance, plus there weren’t really records

I ended up picking DJ Smash who I used go hear at Save The Robots, which was a famous after hours in New York in the 80′s. What I liked about Smash was his amazing music sensibility and knowledge, as well as his ability to mix anything, which is something that British DJs didn’t really have the ability to do. He was able to take original jazz records and mix them with hip-hop – exactly what we needed.

We were given Mondays by SOBs because it was a dead night for them. If I remember correctly, our original night had more people working than actual guests. Cool to note: there are in fact a few people who came to the opening who still come to Giant Step parties – Michael July is one of them. A lot of people claim to have been there in the early days, but I remember every single person that was there the first night because there weren’t that many of them.

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