Karl Kamakahi is one of the gold standards of house music in Seattle. Founder of Seattle’s De La Creme crew, Karl learned to DJ in 1989 in his home Pearl City, Hawaii, taught by legendary Hawaiian DJ James Coles. He began experimenting with freestyle, transitioned into techno, and eventually felt the most at home with house music in the early years of the house movement in 1992. Playing parties and residencies Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Madison, and St. Paul, Karl’s latest efforts in Seattle caught the notice of Brian Lyons and Wesley Holmes of the world-renowned Flammable crew. Karl was asked to join as resident DJ several years ago, and released the first ever mix CD to represent Seattle’s flagship house music party, now the longest running house music night on the west coast, nearly 20 years of house magic.
In Seattle, Karl has played and created terrific parties in venues such as Re-bar, The Woods, The Cuff, Electric Tea Garden, Expansions on KEXP, The Underground, The Baltic Room, Havana, The Monkey Loft. In addition to Flammable Sundays at ReBar, Karl is the creator of Seattle house pillars like Proper at Baltic Room and Soft Option at Monkey Loft.
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All of the house heads are in mourning today as we lost one of our forefathers, Frankie Knuckles, who died unexpectedly at age 59 yesterday afternoon, reportedly to causes related to Type II diabetes. Frankie was beloved worldwide for both his music and his spirit.
From the Guardian, UK:
One night in 1981, Chicago DJ Frankie Knuckles was driving through the city’s suburbs with a friend when he saw a sign in a bar window: “We play house music.” “Now, what’s that all about?” he asked. “It means music like you’re playing at the Warehouse,” his friend replied. And that’s how Knuckles realised he’d inadvertently invented a new genre.
Knuckles had begun his residency at the westside club in 1977 at the height of disco fever, but by 1980 a backlash had swept the craze away. Knuckles began playing obscure imports and re-editing oddball disco records for maximum dancefloor impact. The crowd, overwhelmingly black and gay, went nuts for this new style, which became known as “house” as the new underground style spread to clubs across the city. Knuckles’s and fellow pioneer Ron Hardy’s merging of Salsoul classics with mutant disco, electro and European synth-pop paved the way for the first tailor-made house tracks in 1984. Six years later, Knuckles proudly described his creation as “disco’s revenge”.
Frankie is probably most known for the Whistle Song:
Personally, I loved “Baby Wants to Ride”:
A recent mix (thanks to Timothy Latz):
And thanks to Xan Lucero for the graphic.
Photo/meme by Christina Wright
You’ve probably heard of the Train Car House Party by now, a free party held in a set of conjoined train cars attached to Orient Express, a Chinese restaurant in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. TCHP is run by the fabulous Erin O’Connor-Drew, Patrick Hernandez and Bryan Jarr, who wanted to create something in a kitschy, unknown venue simply for the love of house music. Since then TCHP has become both an institution and a bit of a who’s who in the Seattle house world. Where else can you come get drunk on gay bar-strength cocktails to some of the best house music in down…on a frickin’ train? read more …
So much underground talent in Seattle, and our local treasures are many. One of the shiniest is DJ Hyasynth, member of the De La Creme posse and frequent guest at Flammable Sundays, Q, Electric Tea Garden, and anywhere else where house music is played. A dancer and instructor, her sense of music is natural and seemingly effortless, and her mixing is always en pointe.
Hyasynth, aka Karen, is respected as headliner and style maker, bringing a unique voice to house music. Here’s a set she did for Robby Clark’s Emerald City Brunch internet radio show, which recently accompanied me on a desert journey, but is at home pretty much anywhere:
And another mix on Soundcloud (free download) from last summer, which we loved so much we played it in our Burning Man camp even in her absence. That last track, “Gain on Top” just gives me the shivers.
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Look for an exclusive Hyasynth B40 podcast coming in the near future…I am excited!!
A quick, not all-inclusive preview of what looks to be a gonzo weekend in Seattle. We’ve got visiting Chicago legends, Burning Man all-stars, queer west coast bitch house & techno upstarts at leather bars, pop stars turned DJs, parties in warehouses and on train cars…and that doesn’t even include the big downtown venues or most of our fabulously talented local resident DJ nights, or Flammable’s guest whom I don’t even know yet. Really Seattle? What are you trying to do to me? Really?
Those of us lucky enough to live in (or visit) Seattle have no right to complain. Primary among many dance music treats and astoundingly talented DJs/producers, we have a weekly opportunity to feel the warmth and depth of Flammable: the longest-running house music weekly on the west coast. Flammable, held at Seattle dance music institution Re-bar, is hosted Sunday nights by resident DJs Brian Lyons, Wesley Holmes, Karl Kamakahi and Xan Lucero. After all these years Flammable is still the 800-pound gorilla of dance parties in Seattle, and always a joy to attend.
This Sunday, instead of traveling to Portland with my Bottom Forty compatriots for the Gospel According to Willam, I stuck around closer to home to commune with friends and loved ones during some difficult times. In doing so I was fortunate to have caught Alexander East joining Flammable resident Xan Lucero and Mr. Flammable himself Brian Lyons for a St. Patrick’s edition of Seattle’s favorite house music party.
My honey and I were both tired from being out late checking out DJ Paulo and Almond Brown showering circuit beats on shirtless muscle boys at Q the night before. But, upon hearing the music, we were so glad we hauled ourselves out. While we missed Brian’s opener, we caught Xan’s set, which was deeply and appropriately on FIRE. I nearly lost my mind when I heard he had actually recorded his set. If you missed it, this is what you missed. And yes, it was THAT good–one of the best live sets I’ve heard in my years in Seattle. Xan is quickly becoming one of my favorite DJs and people…so much heart and music all stuffed into one grinning, tattooed package.
Mixtape 109. You can visit the U:Move podcast to listen and download Xan’s mix at the link, or by clicking on the above image. And a little video of Xan rocking an earlier Flammable, for visual. He glows, and not just because of the traditional Flammable red light bulb. He loves the shit out of music, and you can hear them screaming in response in the background:
Flammable is sociologically interesting as well, being one of the most ardently mixed parties in town. It’s been a real treat to watch over time as more and more queer men, women, and transfolk “discover” Flammable with wide eyes. “I didn’t know this was here!” they say, as hugs and kisses are exchanged and people get down. Lately, it’s been populated by groups of friendly gays, trans, and straights of all colors and ages as well as a whole catalog of Seattle DJs, celebrating the uniting power of house music produced by locals and international talent alike.
Minneapolis’ Alexander East is a house music producer and DJ we all admire, a frequent Flam flyer, and important part of the Flammable sound Brian, Wes, and Karl have championed for years. He often plays live bass or sings while spinning records, bringing live flavor to an already deep, funky take on house music. His voice spreads across the beats like warm honey. This past Sunday he was additionally wearing bug antennae and grinning brightly as he brought soulful track after track.
East’s “Talk To Me” with Lawnchair Generals is a Flam staple–Brian once admitted to me with a guilty smile “I might play this one too much.” But how could he not? It’s a deep classic.
East also has a wicked falsetto, as evidenced on this deep/beatdown track with Manuel Tur.
East hasn’t released a recording of his set from this past weekend, but you can get another dose of Flammable this Sunday night with guest Justin Collins playing a special birthday set. If we’re lucky, he’ll wear his suit too. 😉
And one last: Bottom Forty’s DJ Nark live at Flammable, released a few months back on the Honey Potcast: http://honeypotcast.blogspot.com/2012/11/hny-164-nark-live-at-flammable.html. Snap, girl!