Event Review: Stevie Wonderland at Corsica Studios
Stevie Wonderland holds disco-oriented shindigs in London and Manchester, throwback events to the golden age of ’70s New York. Their ethos is “a celebration of all things disco – the Paradise Garage, Studio 54, the dancers, the divas and all the music that went with it.” Claiming to stand on the shoulders of club history’s giants but then also mentioning the word diva? This sounded like it could work.
Past SW guests have includes Nicky Siano, Danny Krivit, Floating Points, Maurice Fulton, John Morales, Greg Wilson and Horse Meat Disco, and for their most recent London show, a first time visit to Corsica Studios, the team enlisted original US house pioneer Marshall Jefferson, and Lakuti, legendary party thrower, label boss and DJ via SA, London and now Berlin.
With the heavyweight line-up looking particularly promising, I arrived to Elephant and Castle full of bounce. Security was all smiles and the faces on the door were equally warm and welcoming. Pushing open the double doors, we arrived in the throes of it. The event had sold-out – and from the start, Room One was fairly chaotic. It felt nigh on impossible to throw any shapes without accidentally punching someone in the head, yet that didn’t deter some from trying unpredictably, making dancing somewhat stressful.
As we entered, Mahogani Music-approved Dan Shake was in full swing, though momentum seemed elusive as he jumped between Salsoul disco and house classics at times a little haphazardly, and with rapid cuts between recordings from different decades that sounded stark. The beautifully arranged climactic “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” by Dan Hartman never rose out of the EQ mud and was reduced to an indistinguishable plodding dull beat.
In the middle room, the Stevie Wonderland residents’ selection was more coherent and better programmed; clean, bouncing, jacking house music with room to dance. A constant stream of traffic to the smoking area did disrupt things a little, with a number of people smacking straight into the speaker blocking half the exit doors. We explored the third room where we found Lakuti standing in the wings, observing a fairly static dance floor and readying herself for her vinyl-only set.
Lakuti first made a name for herself throwing parties in her hometown of Johannesburg in the early 90s. After relocating to London, she ran a host of successful parties under the Süd banner for 11 years in tandem with the Süd Electronic imprint, and established dependable deep house imprint Uzuri Recordings in 2007. Now residing in Berlin, here was someone with a long, rich history in international club culture and knowledge of dance music who could school us.
Her selection didn’t disappoint, despite the wobbly turntable set up which caused a couple of issues during her set. She traversed a lush landscape of house deviations varying from Blaze’s ‘Elements of Life’ to nineties jazzy house track ‘Luv Music’ by DJ Slym Fas to Dego’s nu-boogie banger ‘Don’t Stop’. Her set peaked with the infectious Winans Brothers and Clark Sisters summer 2015 smash ‘Dance’ followed by glorious splashing and cymbal crashing house plus gospel truth in “God Helps Those That Help Themselves” by the fabulous Jasper Street Company. Favourite new discovery was ‘Good Times’ by Orlando Voorn feat. Slikki Tim at the end of her set. Lakuti taught, preached and moved us and those two hours in her company shone bright enough to not end up going home completely deflated.
But what I observed on all three dance floors regardless of selection was unfortunately, at times, dismal. Overheard in the toilet queue was a conversation about whether the transsexuals had gone home yet because they were apparently too weird and freaking some people out. Later, I was subjected to being sexually harassed by a guy who, in order to show off to his girlfriend, thought it was funny to dry hump me from behind in the middle of the dancefloor. Men were pushing and throwing each other about as if it was a secondary school boys’ corridor and women were slapping and elbowing anyone out of their way just to parade across the dance floor.
Despite Stevie Wonderland’s claims to club history pedigree, which are certainly validated through their imaginative bookings, the music was clearly an after thought for the punters. Unfortunately, it felt more like a student night than an evening invoking the spirit of Larry Levan, the sophistication of Studio 54, the dancing and the disco divas.