Your evening begins with the soulful crooning of Whitney Houston, quickly followed by the bouncy melodies of TLC and New Edition. The light is dim – except for the setting sun slipping through the skylight and red-purple bulbs lighting up the outer edges of the club – but the atmosphere engenders a nostalgia that lights up the faces of all participants. Your first kiss, your first slow dance, your first love – all of these memories and more come back as your shoulders start to sway.
But Houston, TLC, and New Edition are just the start. At the end of the evening, every corner of the R&B landscape will be touched, evoking feelings long buried.
Welcome to “Doo-wop… that R&B thing”.
Created by Headliner selection Miami’s newest R&B party, CEO Michael Gardner and Rahsaan “DJ Fly Guy” Alexander inject some soul into a scene dominated by hip-hop, EDM and Latin pop. The feature, which takes place monthly at the rácket, offers people of all ages the opportunity to celebrate a genre that resonates in their souls.
“With R&B you can reach so many different types of people,” Alexander said.
The mastermind behind LIV’s Sunday party, Gardner has been a mainstay of the Miami party circuit since two decades. He saw the parties come and go, but jumped at the chance when Alexander came up to him with the idea. For Gardner, the Doo-wop was personal, a chance to do something far from the glitz and glamor of South Beach clubs.
“It’s just something different from what the norm is,” Gardner said. The Doo-wop keeps some of the people who got past Gardner’s most “hyped” events coming back. “It’s more personal to me because it’s my demographics and it just makes you feel good.”
While the Doo-wop is by no means the only R&B night in Miami, it is perhaps the one that understands the mission the best. There is a level of intention there, said Alexander, who wanted to create something that frees him from the limits of other people’s expectations.
“Even going to other R&B parties, at some point they’re going to stray,” said Alexander, who has been DJing in Miami for 13 years. The Doo-wop “is strictly a celebration of R&B and soul music all day long.”
Like many, Gardner and Alexander’s love of R&B began during their formative years. For Alexander, Jodeci’s “Come and Talk to Me (Remix)” and Marvin Gaye’s live performance of “Distant Lover” at Oakland Coliseum sparked an unabated passion for the genre. For Gardner, it was a constant rotation of R&B from Stylistics to Teena Marie to Teddy Pendergrass.
By “my mother, [R&B] is all I heard, ”Gardner recounted.
These personal connections fuel Alexander and Gardner chemistry when it comes to song selection. The two represent different generations – Alexander is an ’80s baby while Gardner was born in the late’ 70s – but don’t let their personal tastes overwhelmingly dictate the night. At one point during the October screening, Alexander spun the black barbecue staple “Before I Let You Go” back to back, first with the version of Frankie Beverly and Maze before turning himself. launch in the Beyoncé remake.
“When you hear a song that really takes you back in time, it’s an amazing feeling,” Gardner said.
Alexander added: “You usually won’t hear Sade in a club. But now you’re going to hear Sade, you might hear TLC, you might hear HER, and then you might hear Teddy Pendergrass and everything.
Finding that perfect place is not easy. It requires in-depth knowledge not only of R&B, but of the crowd as well. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of on-site research takes place. Alexander does not come with an established list, choosing instead to feel the audience with music he considers “a sonic expression of his soul”. Gardner, on the other hand, spends the night wandering the club, watching VIPs, the bar and the queue, stopping only briefly to sip a glass of red wine. He stays away from song requests but, like Alexander, knows when a track needs to be played. After all, they share a common goal: to find the lead that produces one of those deep belly chants.
“I’m a backing DJ – texting him what he needs to play,” Gardner joked.
“You know like a backseat driver,” Alexander said, laughing before nodding in Gardner’s direction.
“It’s the good chemistry I have with him,” Gardner added.
Already two games, the third Doo-wop is scheduled for November 27. The rest is unknown. Alexander wants the Doo-wop to be a traveling attraction. Gardner rejects the idea of special guests. One thing is certain though: the atmosphere is unlike anything in Miami right now.
“These R&B nights are really all about the vibe, about having a good time,” Gardner said. “It’s not about how many bottles you can pop. This is not Instagram. If we didn’t have a cameraman there you probably wouldn’t know because not everyone … has time to be on Instagram.
If you are going to
What: Doo-wop … that R&B thing
When: 5-10 p.m. November 27
Or: Snowshoeing, 150 NW 24th St., Miami
This story was originally published November 26, 2021 2:18 pm.