Posted by: Addison – Aug 02, 2012
For years, Soulpower has been the most popular rare soul and funk dance party in town – and it is one of only two parties of its kind in Virginia. Every third Saturday of the month at Balliceaux, hosts Mr. Felty and DJ Pari spin original vinyl 45s – bringing back the sound and feeling of the 1960s and 1970s.
CLICK HERE TO READ THE NEW ISSUE OF RVA MAGAZINE!
Soulpower was launched as a welcome party for DJ Pari at Ipanema in May of 2007. German native Pari, who had toured and DJed worldwide with funk and soul legends like James Brown, The Impressions, Marva Whitney, Bobby Byrd, Mandrill, Gwen McCrae, and many others, had decided to make his new home in the Richmond area because his wife had family here. Several months prior to his move, Pari had connected with local vinyl digger and DJ Troy Hurt on a web forum for rare Soul and Funk records. Within days of his arrival in Virginia, Troy hosted a welcome gig at Ipanema on Grace Street. Deciding that Richmond needed a regular soul party, Soulpower became Troy and Pari's monthly gig – and soon gained momentum as Richmond's premier party for lovers of 1960s and 1970s soul and funk music.
In April 2008, Soulpower moved to Cous Cous, where the party had a great run throughout the summer, often with lines forming outside during peak times. But in the fall of that year, the party's run at Cous Cous ended when Troy and Pari decided to go their separate ways. “We just had different ideas about what we wanted to do,” Pari says. Troy stayed at Cous Cous and revived his dance night, Mercy, while Pari joined Andrew Felty, aka Mr. Felty, as a co-host on the weekly soul radio show Midnight Soulstice, on Richmond Independent Radio 97.3 FM.
Felty had been a regular at the Soulpower parties since day one. “I was a fan of the Soulpower night and enjoyed the enthusiastic crowd of people that would hang out and dance,” he says. “It was a real good time.” On radio, Pari and Andrew revamped the format of their show, which now has listeners from all over the world and has been downloaded 50,000 times. Pari asked Andrew to join him in bringing the Soulpower party back to the place where it all started – at Ipanema. “I was happily surprised to join up with Pari for that,” Andrew says. “After I learned more about his résumé of Soulpower-related events around the world, I knew it would be something fun to be a part of. And, it justified my addiction for buying more and more funk and soul 45s,” he says.
But after a strong re-launch party, crowds began to stay away from Soul nights at Ipanema. In the summer of that year, Pari and Andrew called it a wrap. They took a break from promoting local parties until February 2010, when Soulpower found a new home at Balliceaux. “It was the perfect choice for us, and we hit the ground running,”Pari says. “It took us no more than three or four months to build a crowd, and we haven't had a slow night since.” At Balliceaux, Soulpower has found the perfect venue. “It's not too small, not too big, and it has the right ambience,” Pari says. “The guys from Balliceaux are all great to work with. They have done a lot to promote independent music and art culture in Richmond.”
Soulpower have also hosted a few live shows at their new home, bringing Kings Go Forth, Joe Quarterman & The Funk Ark, and Eli Paperboy Reed & True Loves to Richmond for the first time. As a DJ team, they opened for Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the National, on Brown's Island, and hosted the official aftershow parties.
In the five years it has been happening in Richmond, Soulpower has also featured many guest DJs from out of town, including Phast Phreddie (NYC), DJ Orb (San Francisco), Soulmarcosa (L.A.), DJ Nitekrawler (D.C.), Andy Noble and Dave Monroe (Milwaukee), and Miss Shing-A-Ling (Buffalo, NY). Many local vinyl heads like Mike Murphy, Chew La Rock, Mordecai, and Jason Hamlin have also spun at Soulpower.
Today, Andrew and Pari don't want to mess with their successful approach to hosting a great soul party. “We've done it the same way all this time,” Pari says. “We spin rare soul and funk records from the 1960s and 1970s, on vinyl only, and we play some rare Soul footage and Blaxploitation movies on our video beamer to create the right atmosphere. We're just keeping it real,” he says.
“Soulpower parties are about the love of the classic era of soul music that still gets people to shake and vibrate,” Andrew says. “It’s a classy night of loud funky soul music that refreshes the [memory] of a time long past in music history. I think the records we play can’t be duplicated by any current band.”
And Andrew and Pari hope that none of this will change anytime soon. “As long as Balliceaux is happy with us, and as long as there are people coming to listen and dance to vintage soul records, we'll be here,” Pari says. “When we see happy faces, big smiles, and sweaty bodies on the dance floor, and nobody even bothers to come up with a song request, then we know that we're on the right track. I think that's some pretty strong evidence that Richmond's got soul.”
By Thomas Wigglesworth/ Photos By Carlos Funn