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Canadian clubland
On the road with DJs Caps & Jones
Related Links

Carly Carioli downloads the Illegible DJ Caps and Pandemonium Jones, Moving in Stereo

Caps and Jones' official Web site

It’s . . . late? No: early. Maybe 3 a.m. Ottawa was last night, so that makes this Toronto. I’m laid out on a couch, flat on my back, trying to get my shit together. Forget journalistic integrity — it just looks bad to be passed out in a club. I twist my head up, toward the door. Must be past last call. People are leaving, stumbling out the door of the club. They’re vertical in a way that I can only dream of. Rolling onto my side, I’m greeted by a wall crammed with memorabilia, and I remember that I’m in Stone’s Place, a "Rolling Stones tribute bar" situated in the Parkdale section of Toronto. Which is appropriate, since the past 72 hours have featured massive levels of sleep deprivation and intoxicants. But my traveling companions seem unfazed, still spinning records to a half-empty club, then packing up and getting ready for the afterparty. Apparently, this is par for the course. Apparently, this is what I signed on for when I decided to take a Canadian road trip with the Brooklyn DJ duo Caps & Jones.

It’s hard to describe exactly what it is that Caps & Jones do, and harder still to explain the artfulness of it. They’re DJs who make mixtapes — those slimline-cased, burnt-CDR thorns in the music industry’s side. But they’re hardly your typical mixtape DJs: their game has nothing to do with pushing the freshest or rarest tracks before the next guy or girl gets his or her hands on them. In fact, their self-released masterpiece, Moving in Stereo, is largely made up of songs that are decades old, songs you could find in your dad’s record collection. Anybody, of course, can include Steely Dan’s "Black Cow" in a mix; what distinguishes Caps & Jones is the way they’ll lay a classic track between a Cam’ron verse and, say, the Brothers Johnson’s cover of "Come Together." Their mixes have a sincerity and a simple reverence for good music that a lot of mash-up DJs lack. But DJ Caps & Pandemonium Jones (given names Will Creeley and Brian Curtis) are no mere mash-up team — they’re party-rockers. That’s why I wanted to tag along with them on this brief, weekend-long tour of the Great White North.

I did know Creeley and Curtis before they pulled up in front of my apartment on Thursday morning in a rented mini-van. When Moving in Stereo came out last year, I ordered a copy from their Web site. Two weeks later, it arrived, crammed in an envelope with a note ("HEY DUDER! HOPE YOU ENJOY!") scribbled on the back of a found sheet of low-grade pornography, a photograph of a topless woman who was easily over 50 years old. After catching one of their sets during a trip to New York and watching them get Central Square’s Enormous Room completely shook this past June, I commissioned Caps & Jones to make a mix for my Web site. That is, I asked them to do it for free. That they agreed seems to fit with their business plan: on the ride from Brooklyn to Montreal, they explain to me that between renting the van and paying for gas and food, they’ll probably end up losing money on this trip.

By 2 am on Thursday, however, finances are the last thing on their minds. Spinning alongside Montreal’s Ghislain Poirier to a sparse and subdued crowd, Caps & Jones light up when rap legend Devin the Dude, who had been performing just a few blocks away, walks through the club’s door. He sits at the bar, famously mellow, nursing a Guinness and nodding his head as the pair self-consciously throw a few Houston gems into their set. When they’re done, they — and I, and all of the club’s leftover patrons — gather around Devin and chill in his blissfully stoned presence. Curtis, slightly inebriated at this point, sings Devin a hook for his next album, which the Dude seems to enjoy. In return, Devin records a drop for the pair’s next mix on my cellphone before retiring to his hotel. Between the all-day drive and a full evening of partying, we’re tired enough that Ghislain’s floor seems like a deluxe hotel suite.

Friday morning, we slump wearily into the van and hit the road for Ottawa. There’s a faint sense of worry: how could anything top last night? Never mind that our hosts in Ottawa are the DJs Caps & Jones are least familiar with on the tour, or that the city doesn’t exactly have a rep as Canada’s party capital — how does it get any better than hanging out with Devin the Dude? Worse, the day marks the six-month anniversary of the passing of Creeley’s father, noted American poet Robert Creeley. Will created a powerful memorial for his father’s funeral that included the senior Creeley’s collaboration with indie legends Mercury Rev.

But as on the previous evening, all worries are soon erased. We meet up with DJ Linus Booth at Organised Sound, the record store he owns in the heart of Ottawa. In a scene straight out of High Fidelity, we crack open cold beers in the store as the evening’s other DJs arrive and use the shop’s back room to change into our outfits. Oh, that’s right, our "outfits": this evening Disorganised, the DJ crew headed by Booth, are hosting a prom-themed party. It could be mere coincidence, or it could have something to do with the notion that Caps & Jones are just as comfortable playing the new Three 6 Mafia joint as they are dropping some Cyndi Lauper.

All cummerbunded and ready to go, we walk across the street to the venue, which at first glance appears to be a Chili’s. But in the basement, there’s a bar and a rec room, nothing but open space for dancing and a pool table to hold the DJ equipment. Booth explains that this is where the monthly party in Ottawa takes place — not as in "the hippest," but as in "the only." He tells us that all manner of kids come out to see Disorganised (Booth and his DJ partners Pho and Chameleonic): black, white, punk, indie, gay, straight. He’s right, and within an hour of the doors’ opening, the room is filled with dancing Ottawans of all shapes and sizes in their finest gowns and tuxes. The night’s still young, and Caps & Jones won’t get on the decks for hours, so we sit down in one of the basement’s restaurant-style booths to gather our thoughts. That is, until Chameleonic spots us. "Fuck this clique shit!" he shouts. "Get out there and meet some people!"

And meet people we do. There’s Melody, a certified prom queen who’s sporting a homemade hybrid gown: half prom dress, half vintage Anthrax T-shirt. There’s Celine, who produces a driver’s license to show us that she does in fact share a name with a certain waifish French-Canadian chanteuse. And there’s Alanna Stuart. Standing atop a chair behind the turntables, she needs only to belt out a few minutes of her soulful, patois-influenced vocals to make the crowd go crazy. It’s an ideal lead-in to Caps & Jones: their set starts as a Dirty South sing-along to new favorites like "Kryptonite" and "Stay Fly" and by night’s end turns into an old-school R&B slow-dance session. What with the wood paneling and the kids with corsages, it feels like a real prom party.

After some impromptu morning-after football in Ottawa and a hazy Saturday night in Toronto, we find ourselves back in Creeley’s home town of Buffalo wondering where our weekend disappeared to. I regret that I didn’t talk to the duo more about the skill and craft of DJing. But I also realize that I was too busy experiencing it first-hand. I’m amazed at how many people know about Caps & Jones, how many own their mixes and have heard about their preternatural ability to get a crowd moving. Maybe I shouldn’t be, the dudes being as good as they are and information spreading as quickly as it does these days. Maybe the question isn’t how come so many people know about Caps & Jones but how come so many people don’t.

Issue Date: November 11 - 17, 2005
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