(Image above: courtesy of DJ Gordy)
By ModCloth Writer Annie Morrison:
A few Saturdays ago I attended the final edition of Vipers Soul Club, a highly anticipated monthly party where DJs Gordy and Juddy spin the finest in rare and classic soul, motown, and R&B. The event, always hosted by Shadow Lounge in Pittsburgh’s East End, is infamous for handpicked vintage grooves and a “just dance” kind of vibe. It’s no surprise that the last Vipers Soul Club brought out the best I’ve seen in both music and crowd. Everyone seemed to be having one of those nights, a night where you don’t necessarily care how sweaty you are or how badly your feet hurt. All you care about is what’s really important – dancing to incredible 45s with your favorite friends, amongst a group of friendly, albeit intoxicated, strangers who are having just as much fun as you are!
Read on to learn more about this night of soul shaking, body moving, spirit exhilarating fun…
Large strips of colorful fabric traverse Shadow Lounge’s high ceiling like treetop canopies. Local art decorates the walls, some pieces an obvious homage to Pittsburgh native Andy Warhol, who probably would have attended Vipers Soul Club and approved of the fun party atmosphere. Underneath the muted yellow lights, a sea of people sprawl across the medium-sized dance floor and front stage, where the event’s two DJs are busting out everything from lesser-known hits of British mod soul groups to the body-shaking beats of Latin Boogaloo. The crowd is jovial, and from the instant I entered the room, I could tell everyone was having an amazing time. After paying your $5 entry fee, you were required to check social insecurities and embarrassment over cardiovascular dancing at the door. When asked about the typical VSC crowd, DJ Gordy Greenawalt replied, “It’s a nice mix. We get students from the local universities, older folks who were a part of the music in the 60s and 70s, and people who just want to dance. I like to think that a lot of people who come to our nights are genuinely interested in hearing a new sound.”
And indeed, a new sound is what they get! New in the sense that it’s retro, please pardon my oxymoron, and therefore unique in the Pittsburgh DJ night scene. Unlike many other regular Pittsburgh parties, the Vipers Soul Club DJs have always played records versus using the convenient technologies of an iPod. That being said, VSC has steered clear from Top 40 hits, hip hop, nostalgic 90s jams…basically anything made after 1970. And that’s what makes it so good, so refreshing, and ultimately, so well-received. Greenawalt said, “It’s exciting to see crowds dancing to something they’ve probably never heard before.” Some of my favorite tracks from VSC were “I Say, I Love You” by Johnny Watson, “There He Is” by Dream Team, and Gloria Grey’s “It’s A Sweet World.”
DJs Gordy and Juddy began Vipers Soul Club as an offshoot of Soulcialism, a similar soul-,Motown-, and blues-oriented event held in Pittsburgh’s South Side. After the venue for Soulcialism closed, Gordy and Juddy decided to bring something to the East End, and more specifically, to a hip little place called Shadow Lounge. Greenawalt said, “At Vipers, we tried to create the sound of sweaty juke joints and Chicago blues clubs, but continued to spin obscure and classic soul tunes for the dance floor. We also incorporated some gospel and jazz into our sets.”
Both Gordy and Juddy scoured their deep crates for the best, most dance inspiring tracks at the final Vipers Soul Club. What they produced was a last big hurrah to celebrate the overwhelming success of the event as a whole. The overzealous crowd responded accordingly, dancing as if this may not only be the last Vipers Soul Club, but the last dance night ever, kind of like a Footloose situation. As I navigated through the crowd to find my way to the bar, I was amazed by what I saw. Not a single unhappy face. Not a single awkward wall flower. Not one dramatic fight! It was truly awesome, in every sense of the word, and can only be attributed to the funky, boisterous music, which I believe dispersed an invisible gas that night, inducing a widespread euphoria in the energetic masses.
Even though what we know to be Vipers Soul Club is no more, don’t worry, readers – next up is Title Town, a night of “Northern Soul and R&B…with some funk and deep grooves,” said Greenawalt. DJs Gordy and J. Malls, of Pittsburgh’s The Big Throwback, will be hosting the party at Shadow Lounge starting October 24. If you’re in the area, be sure to check it out – I highly recommend it!