The second annual Classic Summer Disco Extravaganza At The Italian Center, Stamford, CT, Saturday, August 10th, 2019, Reviewed
With his mother and brother, family members and friends, and disco fans, surrounding him, like an Old Testament avenging angel, SohoJohnny Pasquale rained fire and brimstone down on the disease that took his beloved father from him, cancer. Throughout Saturday’s all day and all night, 21 acts of disco inferno, one of the main reasons for the event (a portion of the proceeds will benefit the American Cancer Society), was never far from his mind. Perhaps it was SohoJohnny’s reason for being at that precise moment, though it wasn’t s only reason for being, as he hosted the twelve hour event with Dance Fever’s Deney Terrio introducing a blast of music stars. As Johnny once explained to me, “I wanted to produce the concert that I wanted to see”. The second annual Classic Summer Disco Extravaganza! played out like a dream of what a show should be, a BBQ in the afternoon, an Italian buffet in the evening, a move of the proceedings from the open tent near the tennis courts to the Main Ballroom at the Center, a silent auction, a meet and greet, and event manager Steven Calapal, a whirligig of energy and movement, everywhere at once.It was completely sold out with 100s of folks left on the waitlist and, in schadenfreude style, those of us who got in enjoying being there that little bit more.
And of course, music, music, music. The pace was relentless, no act got more than five songs, and the only lull was between the afternoon and evening sessions while the meet and greet was happening. The day began at noon with Chrissy and Connie of Chrissy and Connie’s Date Night, pretty in pink, welcoming us and Denny introducing the event. Star Hanson freestyling was followed by Robert Bartko’s excellent George Michael’s tribute with a superb “Freedom” to end the set. After that, the afternoon took off and the dancing took over. Monti Rock, and an ace Leroy Gomez, improvising on sax, surrounded Mini Kiss, the rock band for the proceedings. Group Karaoke with SohoJohnny had us all singing along, and the big names just kept on coming, Planet Patrol, Instant Funk, and the most soulful performance of the set, Raydio’s tight harmonies on “You Can’t Change That,” a real honor to see Arnell Carmichael in person, still doing it. SohoJohnny was everywhere at once, dancing, extolling, playing with his position like a checked in disco nostalgia, and singing, with a pretty powerful baritone.
The consistency of the daytime BBQ was only bested by the star power of the evening’s dinner buffet. But first there was the silent auction of sports memorabilia and….
Steve Capaldi warned us that there were 21 artists waiting to meet and greet us, and a woman beside me, excitedly grasped her vinyl collection for signing as the artists mingled with the fans.
But this was about music, and as SohoJohnny repeated, and his (and our passion) for music and the ways it makes life better for all of us, a respite and an embrace of the sensual response to rhythm, beat, doo wop harmonies, DJ production: disco as the great uniter, ethnically, and sexually, the first major music movement spawned from the homosexual underground of New York, from Paradise Garage. With no class barriers (lest we forget, “Saturday Night Fever” was a history of working class Brooklyn), that took us from the famed heights of Studio 54 to the outer borough bridge and tunnel white middle class.
The dance floor was so crowded that I didn’t get to see Denny Terrio recreate the steps he taught John Travolta for “Saturday Night Fever,” Marla Mase, involved in the planning for the event, made it through! Who knew the spoken word rocker was a disco fiend? Denny was a place opener for a remarkable evening which reached a breathtaking height at around 830pm when we were given Heatwave followed by Tavares followed by Double Exposure. Consider it disco heaven, two world class and one legendary disco vocal band. Double Exposure were formed in 1961, and have retained the same line up since then; Leonard “Butch” Davis was phenomenal on “My Love Is Free,” the sweat dripping down his face. Tavares were formed in 1959, the brothers have been together since then and they were awe inspiring, Tomas Doncker, who rushed here from recording a radio session with another disco legend, Keith Shocklee, dubbed Tavares “the sound of blackness,” after sixty years of precision vocals and sublime beats, Tavares performed “It Only Takes A Minute,” “Don’t Take Away The Music,” More Than A Woman” and an extended “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” and were simply astounding.
And we were into the homestretch, Sharon Brown, Fonda Rae, and especially Teri Desario’s performance of “Ain’t Nothing Gonna Keep Me from You,” a showstopper, built to Jimmy Bo Horne’s channelled James Brown, Harold Melvin’s Bluenotes hits parade, and, just like last year, American Idol Constantine Maroulis, brought the evening to its midnight conclusion.
SohoJohnny is my partner in rock nyc and a close friend I’ve known for years, and with this production he has taken his concert production to a whole other level of excellence, and there is a moral here: there will be more concerts and more sellouts, so for goodness sake add your name to sohojohnny.com mailing list and don’t miss the next one.
Johnny wanted to do three things with the Classic Summer Disco Extravaganza:
1 – Get his musical heroes of the 70s and early 80s on stage
2 – Fight cancer
3 – Give the world the concert he wanted to see and longed to share.
He did all three.