Club Review: Jellybean Benitez at the Vagabond, August 30

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Jellybean Benitez
The Vagabond, Miami
Saturday, August 30, 2009

Better Than: Any other house music night in town.

The Review:

In the realm of cool and soulful DJs there will always be a warm place reserved for the fantastic Jellybean Benitez. As one of the most influential producers/DJs from the anything-goes '80s club scene in New York, Benitez's energetic mixing style helped define what we now know as house music.

Part of his legendary reputation was forged when he produced the single "Holiday" for a then-up-and-coming singer known as Madonna. He also remixed all of the early tracks from Madge's now classic debut album. So obviously, Saturday night at the Vagabond was an excellent opportunity to catch a brilliant and legendary DJ throw down a tight set. 

Benitez, looking young and fresh, took to the decks promptly at 12:30 a.m. The main dance floor at the Vagabond was tightly packed, with the crowd consisting of a rich mix of b-boys, veteran club kids, and assorted party types. Staying true to his Puerto Rican roots, Benitez began the set with a rousing house mix of Héctor Lavoe's '70ssalsa classic "Mi Gente." Unsurprisingly, the Latin beats really got to the crowd, and soon there were plenty of couples busting out their hot and well-honed salsa steps.  

After a good hour of solid tropical beats, Benitez began spinning long versions of tracks such as Marlon D's "Feel The Spirit," and things went more decidedly into a sizzling progressive house vibe. At this point, a small group of b-boys took over the dance floor to bust out some old school steps. Benitez responded to the dancers moves by upping the ante and mixing in harder beats.  

By four in the morning the walls were literally shaking, prompting me to improvise makeshift earplugs out of paper napkins. Everything about Benitez's five-hour set was pretty much perfect, prompting me to wish that this legendary New York DJ spun more often in Miami. With more than 30 years of experience behind the decks, it was evident that Benitez had more than a few trick to keep everyone moving. Overall it was a great party, made better by a cool and inventive DJ.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: I was happy Benitez opened with Héctor Lavoe's rousing "Mi Gente," which really primed the crowd for a really wild and eclectic set.

Random Detail: The always-cool Backdoor Bamby "Sex Kitten" dancers passed out jellybeans on the dance floor.

By the Way: To listen to classic mixes by Benitez visit myspace.com/jellybeanbenitez

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