In what is being billed as the first fest of its kind in Montreal, Disco Capitale hits Crescent St. Friday and Saturday
Evidently, it ain’t dead. Disco, that is.
And, evidently, here in Party City central, where homage has been paid over the years to everything from the blues to blueberries, comedy to crustaceans, a disco fest has yet to be staged. Until now.
So in what is being billed as the first fest of its kind in Montreal, Disco Capitale hits Crescent St. Friday and Saturday. With a sonic boom, no doubt.
There will be dancing in the street, and this time not only from tipplers stumbling from the street’s pubs.
There will be pulsating disco beats blaring, courtesy of world-renowned DJs Jellybean Benitez and Tony Okungbowa and live music from Fredy V. and The Foundation band, featuring Freddie James.
The only thing missing will be John Travolta doing some Saturday Night Fever strutting in an ultra-white polyester suit. But, no worries, this town’s party peeps are certain to show up in vintage ‘70s duds with their locks appropriately bobbed and jelled.
Curiously, some in the know credit ever-boppin’ Ellen DeGeneres for helping to keep disco going. She begins her TV shows in boogie mode. And it was Okungbowa who served as resident DJ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show for a 10-season run. He will soon be caught on the new CBS show Bob Loves Abishola as the frenetic Kofo.
“Ellen has also been a disco fan forever,” he says. “She understands that dancing is such a great release, and her idea for her show is to have some fun and make people forget about their worries. In this day and age, that’s more needed than ever before. With everything going on in the world, you couldn’t ask for a better time for this festival.
Okungbowa is no stranger to Montreal. He has worked his DJ magic here before and even cut a disco disc here with local talent. And, natch, he absolutely refutes the notion that disco has died.
“Definitely not,” Okungbowa says. “That’s just total nonsense.
“Here is the sad reality of the situation. Not a lot of people realize that most of the music they listen to now is derivative of disco. And, hopefully, festivals like this will educate people as to where the roots of the music they like today came from.”
Okungbowa, who is based in Los Angeles, finds it odd that Montreal has never hosted a disco festival before.
“That’s so ironic,” he says. “Montreal, in my opinion, is the capital of disco in North America. So much of it came out here. And so much disco was produced here. So this festival is really a long time coming, and Montreal should celebrate it.”
Okungbowa will be spinning discs Saturday night and has dug up some vintage French disco tracks for the occasion. And, of course, he will be dancing up a storm all the while DJing.
“I’m not one of those DJs who can stand still, maybe to my detriment. But I just can’t stop dancing.”
Jellybean Benitez can’t refrain, either. A legend in the DJ trade for more than four decades, he has produced and/or remixed more than 100 Top 10 pop hits and about 35 No. 1 discs. He is credited with helping to launch the career of Madonna. He has also worked with a who’s who of diverse legends: Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Santana, Sting, Shakira, Nas, LL Cool J, Barbra Streisand and Billy Joel. Oh, and can’t forget that Benitez was resident DJ at New York’s swinging Studio 54 in its heyday — before it shut down in 1980.
“There have been disco festivals in Europe, but I’m glad they finally have one in North America, particularly in Montreal, which contributed so much to the scene. So many disco acts who came from Montreal became very popular in the States,” says Benitez, who closes the fest Saturday.
“I never really know what I’m going to play until I’m there. I have to feel the space and the energy of the people dancing. But my set will capture the energy of what disco was, and what it is now.
“Rumours of the death of disco are as premature today as they were in days gone by,” he adds. “I remember DJing in Chicago when a story came out saying that disco was dead. There were 3,000 people dancing, but I guess none of them had heard.
Of course, when one thinks disco, one thinks of inimitable Crescent St. publican Ziggy Eichenbaum …. never!
“I’m digging out my John Travolta suit and I’m getting my chest waxed, because I’ll be leaving my high-collared disco shirt as open as I can,” Eichenbaum says. “This will be different for sure.”