Monday, March 16, 2009

My Own Beliefs are In My Song

Last Thursday night, Emily and I met up with our friends Spyridon and Lisa at Northwest Film Forum to check out the latest edition of Soul Nite. In addition to dynamite clips of Ike & Tina Turner, Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Stevie Wonder, founder and host Peter Lucas screened a tightly curated selection of Sly & the Family Stone footage in celebration of Sly's birthday. They set up a bar in the movie theater, served birthday cake, and had a DJ spinning Sly-inspired cuts from the year 1969 (since the evening was also part of 69, NW Film Forum's ongoing exploration of films from that year, forty years later). It should come as no surprise that Kerri was there chicing up the place, and we were also lucky to catch up with Spyridon's cousin Shawn, who used to have a record store on Vashon Island and is himself no slouch in the music knowledge department.

Here's a very low-quality video of one of the Sly clips they showed:

Going into the night, that's kind of what I was expecting – that they would show some soul videos, and that it would be entertaining to watch them with friends in a theater, but otherwise not too different than watching on YouTube. I could not have been more wrong – seeing these performers on the big screen was totally overwhelming. I'm not saying it was like actually being there and watching live performances, but something about being in the theater with the lights off, and the focus that provides, made it feel like discovering soul music all over again, or at least in a new way. It makes it somewhat possible to put yourself in the mindspace of someone watching Sly Stone, at the end of the 1960s, tell the audience "Don't hate the black. Don't hate the white. If you get bitten, just hate the bite." Folks know "Everyday People" from Toyota commercials, but at the time it was revolutionary as it made its way out to mainstream America. It expresses love and complex emotion in such a way that you could only call it Soul music. And it's also just fun as hell to watch the crowd go nuts as the Family Stone does their thing.

The next one is May 13th for Stevie Wonder's birthday...can't wait.

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