DJ Nola has been one of the most visible local DJs of the past year.
After moving to the Twin Cities from Duluth, Nola has been playing out a lot lately, in a lot of settings—I last caught her opening for (and upstaging) Rick Wilhite at the Hook and Ladder back in October. She moved to the Cities partly to be with her partner, Evian Rave, but also because Duluth’s scene is small and the Twin Cities’, especially this past year, has been robust. Up north, Nola says, “I did tiny little disco parties that were super fun but like 30 people tops.”
Nola has been DJing for 15 years: “All vinyl until recently—I’m doing XDJ and vinyl. I started with house; within the last seven years or so added disco. Now I play both.” On January 17, she’s throwing a disco session titled Freak of the Week at Honey in northeast Minneapolis. (It’s also her and Rave’s fifth anniversary.)
“Disco” can be a pretty elastic term, so I hope she decides to slip some house in there, too, because as you can hear on her Kajunga Program SE.2 Ep.1 (April 1, 2017)—a lively volume of a local dance podcast—Nola’s got a real knack for playing those styles’ contrasts for a rich tension.
There are a lot of reliable dance-music classics on this set, starting right at the beginning, with A Number of Names’ “Sharevari,” from 1981, which is somewhat akin to a favorite band leading off a set with the track that made their name. You always want to hear it. But the DJ’s real work is in how something is played, as much or more than what is played. So when a filter-heavy Fred Falke track slides into T-Connection’s “Do What You Wanna Do,” live-band funk-gone-disco from 1977, what’s communicated is less the obvious links between O.G. mirror-ball music and its glossier offspring from the digital era than just how differently they truly sound, even as they’re connected at the rhythmic root.
Disco being disco, there is some kitsch on hand. (Did you know that Manhattan Transfer did a disco tribute to The Twilight Zone in 1979? Me either. It starts around 48 minutes, fellow fact fans—not to mention the kitsch-averse.) But she finds a lot of gems, too. My favorite comes around 63-minute mark, with the one-shot Italo-disco band Capuchino’s “El Bailara Conmigo (He'll Dance With Me),” featuring a vocal so hypnotic that the whole record feels slowed down even though the pulse is a ramrod and the percussion just about flies out of the background. Nola is clearly a digger—it’s not for nothing that the mix’s last few seconds document the sound of a needle heading to the middle of the platter, gathering dust.
In The Mix ~ NYEEE!!!
With: Psymun, Marcel Michelle Mobama, Symone Smash It, Berndt, and more
Where: The Nomad
When: 9 p.m. Fri. Dec. 29
Tickets: $8 door; more info here