Any dance music fan worth her weight in vinyl recognizes Chicago and Detroit as the birthplaces of house and techno, respectively. Some of the pioneers, such as house godfather Frankie Knuckles and James Stinson of the undersea-themed techno group Drexciya, have passed on. But many others have become veterans in the international dance community. Chicago's Larry Heard released the celebrated EP Outer Acid as Mr. Fingers last year. Detroit's Underground Resistance collective moved to Bandcamp in response to vinyl-pressing-plant backups. Jeff Mills is a dance music superstar working with orchestras. And the Belleville Three will be at Coachella this year.
Now, Miamians will be lucky enough to experience some of this Midwest mayhem on the regular with one of the scene's most colorful characters: Chicago's Green Velvet will soon take up Club Space as a resident DJ.
Before hitting the decks, Curtis Alan Jones wanted to become a doctor and then a chemical engineer. In another life, he was even working toward a master's degree from UC Berkeley. But the call of the club, first heard when he was an undergrad at the University of Illinois, was too strong to resist. He moved back to Chicago, started the Cajual label, and took up the moniker Cajmere, splicing his initials into the names of both. As Cajmere, Jones landed two solid hits with "Coffee Pot (It's Time for the Percolator)," with its ridiculously catchy hook, and "Brighter Days," with vocalist Dajae. Both are considered classic house tunes.
As Green Velvet, however, Jones truly came into his own. Spiking his hair into a bright, toxic green modeled after the vivid persona of David Bowie, he opened a new label, Relief, ditched the melodies of his house project, and moved into the vortex of techno, laughing all the way.
With this move, he caught the Zeitgeist. Techno was in. Across the pond in Berlin, the punk-meets-club subculture was already a way of life, and the character's raw appearance and rawer beats may have appealed to the trends taking hold in mid-'90s clubs.
The new sound certainly took the DJ away from his house music roots, but among techno artists, what set Green Velvet apart was a sense of humor. Using vocal samples and spoken-word monologues gleaned from Chicago house, Green Velvet commented on club culture via a risqué, earthy wit not often found on today's international scene. "Preacherman" centers on a jeremiad delivered by an evangelical preacher instructing on the dangers of "playing house." "Answering Machine" gives us a week in the life of Jones' voicemail, with eviction notices and unfaithful lady friends, the constant stress making him shout, "I don't need this shit!" In "Flash," the DJ leads a group of camera-laden parents into the dark recesses of the club to dig up dirt on their partying children. With charisma worthy of a ringmaster and sarcasm to match, he skewers the moralistic reaction to rave culture over a devastating acid beat.
Since splitting the difference between house and techno, Jones has remained a stalwart in the international club music community, releasing singles, EPs, and albums at a slow and steady clip. Recent projects include a collaboration with Claude VonStroke under the name Get Real, and in 2015, he played two different sets at Belgium's Tomorrowland festival as both Green Velvet and Cajmere. As he prepares to take the reins at Space this Saturday, he'll step into the role as a seasoned veteran with a signature streak of mischief.
The one aberration? In the mid-2000s, a spiked drink and an accidental overdose led Jones to become a born-again Christian. Thankfully, it hasn't stopped him from playing house.
11 p.m. Saturday at Club Space, 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 305-757-1807; clubspace.com. Admission costs $11.25 before 1 a.m., $22.50 before 3 a.m.