On Saturday, August 25, former Backbeat scribe and longtime local musician and DJ Jason Heller is coming together with Reggie Blanding, his Chit Chat! co-founder, and the city's other resident soul ambassadors in Mile High Soul Club and Denver's Vintage Reggae Society for a very special one-off at the Deer Pile called Can U Dig It!, a glorious, sweaty celebration of soul in honor of the all-night dance parties of England's Northern Soul scene.
In the mid-'90s, Heller began specializing in soul, playing selections from his collection of soul records in various Denver clubs and warehouse venues. Eventually he came together with Blanding to create Chit Chat!, a night that stayed true to the classic soul spirit, spinning the best of Northern soul, R&B and funk. In 2007, Chit Chat! earned a nod in our annual Best of Denver issue as Best Club Night.
Chit Chat! stopped in 2008, but Heller and Blanding had a blow-out reunion at the hi-dive last year. Afterward, Heller was left with a vast collection of soul 45s, and he found he kept wanting to put them back to use. "When I wanted to try to get another reunion together, Reggie Blanding decided to come out from Philly," Heller explains. "And once I started looking around, I realized it might conflict with something going on with one of the two other groups. I knew all of those guys, they had been guest DJs and old friends, so I thought, why don't we just have everyone come together for a big party?"
The result: Can U Dig It!, a dance party of epic proportions. From the get go, Heller wanted to work something out with Dan Landis, the owner of Watercourse and City O' City, and an old friend of Heller's. When Landis opened Deer Pile, it seemed like a natural fit for Can U Dig It!, which is meant to be a throw to the Northern soul all-night parties, as well as a celebration of '60s and '70s mod culture.
"Back then, this was what you did," says Heller. "It was a sign of pride to stay on the floor for hours and not leave. We want to make this happen again. We want everyone to dress up, get hot and sweaty, and by the end of the night, look like an absolute wreck."
For Heller, the most important thing about soul music is everyone's connection to it. "There is a reason Bob Dylan said Smokey Robinson was his favorite poet," Heller points out. "Soul is completely timeless and endearing -- it's never really gone away, and if for a moment it did, every few years it bubbles back to the surface. The songs are smart and heartfelt -- and it's as emotionally and musically complex as everything that's made nowadays. Soul is nostalgic and smart, regardless of the era, and it's the best dance music ever created."
Can U Dig It!, an all-vinyl affair (just two turntables and a whole lot of soul), is slated to take place on Saturday, August 25 at the Deer Pile and the party will rage from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. Suggested donation: $5.
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