Erykah Badu. You may not have heard of her, but if you have, you”ll understand why Kelly and I didn’t question attending her afterparty on Saturday nite at a downtown ATL club. (For those who DON”T know, she is a very jazzy hip-hop artist, blending scat and jazz into the hip-hop genre.)
The invitation said 9pm, and being the white suburbanites we are, we arrived at the club at 9:05pm. It was still closed. A few well-dressed folks were milling around, so we hung out and waited, chatting up the other early birds. (I was NOT one of the well-dressed ones…I had on jeans and a black Miles Davis t-shirt…mor on that later.) At 9:55 the GIANT security guys opened the doors, and began checking ID. My sparkling smile let me thru w/o a check (it must have been that!) and Kelly and I went upstairs to the club. We were early enough to get stools at the bar, so we settled in. A DJ set up and began playing a really hot mix of old-school, hip-hop, trip-hop and euro rap. Very nice. We sipped our drinks and absorbed the surroundings. I had been to the club before to see other shows, but punk bands bring out a very different crowd than Erykah obviously does.
The crowd was young, more late 20’s to mid 30’s than a rock show. (Kelly said I “had the crowd by a factor of at least 25 years”,personally, I think it was only 20,) Virtually all were African American, with a gender mix tipping toward the female. Everyone was very casual-chic, but with an edge addressing their culture (silk, flowing scarves, bright colors, afro jewelry, some tasteful bling). A lot of the women wore dresses and FMP,something you simply don”t see much anymore, even at the symphony. Interesting. We also noticed (since we were sitting at the bar) that virtually the entire crowd drank mixed drinks (Cosmo’s, martini’s, vodka — especially flavored — Hennessey, etc). Kelly and I were both drinking beer (a Belgian pilsner, I”ll have you know), just another thing to make us stand out from the crowd. (BTW, I wrestled with the Miles t-shirt message…could it have been read as cool…”hey that white guy has a Miles t-shirt on, he must be cool” or racist…”hey is that white guy wearing that Miles t-shirt because he thinks we’ll think he’s cool?” Honestly, it must not have been an issue, since there were absolutely no comments about it at all. Guess us white folk jus are skitterish about offending anyone that we think of crap like that.)
We enjoyed the crowd and its vibe for several hours. By 12:30am the club was nearly full, with probably 500 souls grooving to the DJ’s old school sampling. At a little after one a.m., Erykah and her entourage trooped in applause and cat-calls. The DJ wrapped up and her crew hit the stage.
She was dressed in her usual flowing, gauzy dress, wearing a giant afro streaked with platinum. She welcomed the crowd in her trademarked husky voice, hitting a couple of a cappella scats for effect. The crowd gave it back. Lil” John was also on the stage, and Andre 3000 (Outkast) was standing backstage in preppy orange Bermudas with a button down oxford shirt, tails half in and half out. What looked like a Burberry tam-o-shanter was perched on his head. Just like in the magazines.
Erykah began to casually jam a few songs, with Lil” John and her back-up crew joining in from time to time. She extolled the crowd to join in as well, and we did. Quite unlike the performance art of her typical show, it was very loose, with the stage performers occasionally venturing out into the crowd during their songs to sing with — and dance with — the crowd, who was in full-on “you can”t touch this” mode. Meanwhile, the DJ had moved his “two turntables and a microphone” over to the side of the stage, where he started scratching and sampling along with the jams.
At 2:30, Kelly and I decided that five and a half hours was long enuf to hang out in a club, and we bailed out. The security guy told us we were the first to leave and wondered if everything was OK. I told him I had to soak my teeth before church.
Overall it was an OUTSTANDING evening.
Gas to drive downtown and back: $4.25
Bar tab for six beers plus tips: $36.00
Hanging out with people half your age to groove to a hip-hop legend: Priceless
(Check out samples of Erykah Badu at http://www.erykahbadu.com/).