Dance-music virtuoso Ben Watt has taken turns as one-half of Everything But the Girl; helmed the infamous Lazy Dog sessions at the Notting Hill Arts Club with Jay Hannan, Cherry Jam and Neighbourhood with Alan Grant; and started his own imprint, Buzzin’ Fly, for which he is label boss, chief producer and A&R. Currently on tour to support his third compilation for the label (“Buzzin’ Fly Volume III,” out this month), he reminisces about his first time Djing in Chicago.
“I played [Smart Bar] in 2000, I think, with Jay Hannan on a Lazy Dog trip. It was before any of the recent re-furbs. I remember the sound in the booth was amazing and the little step down onto the dancefloor made it an intimate space to dance… I remember Jay holding the needle above his first record in the old Smart Bar, saying, ‘Here I am about to play my first record in the home city of house.’”
While many will remember that first gig and the many that ensued as inciting a revivalist-tent level of electricity in the packed house, Watt has taken a somewhat more serious turn with his latest mix—if in nothing else than the sheer breadth of styles he explores. The seventy-minute comp navigates effortlessly through melodic house, spoken word, understated techno, ethereal ambient and driving electro like nobody’s business.
Watt explains his philosophy, “Any DJ is also only as good as the way he communicates with the people in front of him. You need to have forks in the road, points where you can follow the crowd’s lead a little bit, go with them part of way if they want to take that route for a bit.”
Given all of the above, what can the uninitiated prepare for this Saturday? “Broadly speaking, younger crowds often want more energy and less melody. Older crowds lean towards depth and soul. Given that my crowds are often composed of both parts, you can expect a bit of everything!” (Melissa Lane)
Ben Watt plays with Brad Owen and Detroit’s DJ Lephtee, the most recent Buzzin’ Fly signing, at Smart Bar, 3730 North Clark, (773)549-0203 on August 5, 10pm-5am, $15 cover.