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: Groove Collective Live Recording Session @ Clinton Recording Studios – June 25, 1993

 

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For today’s Throwback Thursday Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories on Groove Collective’s 1993 live recording event for their debut album. What do folks remember about these early Giant Step staples? Let us know!

Groove Collective was a band who grew out of the crew of musicians who jammed with our DJs at the Giant Step club. From there, we started managing the band and between the weekly club and their shows created a huge buzz and eventually got them signed to Reprise Records.

When it came time to put together the album, the idea was to capture the essence of Groove Collective’s live show experience since that’s what they were all about. We actually used to do shows with them every Friday at Sybarite on Wooster Street, and then moved the shows over to AKA on Houston Street where they continued the residency.

The album was recorded in three parts; we first did a live recording at the Giant Step club at Metropolis Café where the full band played with DJs Jazzy Nice and Smash and a mobile recording truck parked outside. The next day we held a live recording session at Clinton Recording Studios where we invited an audience of friends to help create the live show atmosphere. Finally, we mixed everything down, tracked it all and added overdubs at River Sound, the studio owned by Donald Fagan and Gary Katz of Steely Dan fame.

Gary Katz was instrumental in getting us signed to Reprise and produced the album, too. And Elliot Scheiner, who worked with Steely Dan and Eagles amongst other artists, mixed the album. They both did a great job of capturing the experience of a Groove Collective and Giant Step party while translating it into an album, too.

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.”

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