Riverside Soul Club was started by DJ Redcat 4 years ago in Riverside, a city in California about 50 miles south of Los Angeles. Spinning at such venues as the Mission Tobacco Lounge and Union Barber and Beer Lodge, Redcat continues to hold it down for soul in the Inland Empire metro area.
Who is involved with putting on RCC and how long has it been going?
I originally started doing Riverside Soul Club back in 2019. I roped in some other DJs that I knew from around the area to rotate in and support the night. After a couple of months attendance dropped off pretty sharply so I put it on hold and then COVID hit. Just before everything shut down my friend Brandon, owner of Union Barber and Beer Lodge in Corona, CA, approached me about doing a mod/northern soul night at his beer lodge, so we’ve been doing that monthly since everything opened back up around 2021. That night is called Sabotage, it’s kind of a joint production of Union Barber and Beer Lodge and Riverside Soul Club. It’s myself, Brandon, and two other DJs Greg Gulotta and Ryan Calamusa who are the residents and we have some guests who rotate in.
When RCC started, were there any other regular soul nights in the Riverside area?
When I started doing RSC there was a couple other regular nights going that I would attend and sometimes spin at. My friend Mano who plays in the band The Debonaires from Riverside and is also a promoter hosted a Sunday afternoon DJ event once a month. That was more ska/reggae focused but we would play a good variety of soul, funk, and I would play afrobeat and other kinds of world popular music. Mano also hosted a Wednesday night event at the time with Gabe Roth of Daptone Records called Soul Hole, but that was mostly sweet soul and lowrider oldies type stuff, not too much northern.
How did you get into soul music?
I got into soul through my best friend from high school. He had started listening to a lot of soul right around when we finished high school and he got me into the classics. Then, throughout college I really started digging into it more and once I got into the DJ scene a lot of the other DJs hipped me to stuff that I wasn’t aware of. We have a lot of incredible DJs and collectors in the area, cats who just know everything so that was really cool to be around when I was younger and still learning a lot about it.
How did you get into the ‘Soul Club’ or ‘Northern Soul’ scene?
I got into the soul club scene through friends, back in 2016/2017 I had started DJing in Riverside and hanging around with other DJs so I met the people that were doing San Diego City Soul Club at the time and we became friends. They played some northern and a lot of rocksteady as well. Through them I got connected to the guys who run Jakarta Soul in Indonesia. I brought some San Diego City Soul merchandise to them when I moved to Java. I got into northern really when I was living in Indonesia. I moved to Surakarta, Java in August 2017 to study traditional Javanese music and I lived there for a year. There’s a big skinhead and mod scene in Indonesia so I started meeting those guys and going to DJ nights and they were playing northern records and I just loved it immediately. I started doing research online and watching videos of people dancing, learning how to dance and just listening to a lot of northern constantly.
Are there any specific records where you can’t wait to unleash them on the crowd?
A classic for me is always “You Don’t Mean It” by Towanda Barnes, I just love that tune it has so much heart and it’s so tragic. I also recently bought a repress of The Invitations “What’s Wrong With Me Baby” and that’s got a massive beat, just an all around perfect song.
Are you aware of any soul music that came out of the Riverside area in the ‘60s or ‘70s? If so, do you play much that came out of that scene?
I’m not aware of anything coming out of the area around that time. We had some legends who lived here in Riverside. Etta James lived here in her later life until she passed away, a friend of mine lived next door to her and got to meet her when he was very young. I believe Don Gardner lived nearby in Moreno Valley at the end of his life. I’ve heard Little Richard used to have a house out here as well. Nowadays Gabe Roth from Daptone has moved back to town and started recording bands here on his Penrose imprint, those records are incredible and part of a new resurgence in soul music.
Have you had a chance to meet any of the artists whose records you spin? If so, what do they think about their music being played in clubs so many years later?
I got to meet Nolan Porter once, not at my night but at a night down in the Long Beach area. I introduced myself and he had seen me dancing and asked me if I learned how to dance here in the States or in England. I guess he thought my moves looked pretty close to how they do it over there in the original scene, which I took as a big compliment. He’s since passed away so I feel fortunate I was able to shake his hand.
So much obscure or forgotten soul has been reissued by labels such as Numero, Kent, Soul Jazz, etc in the past two decades. Do you feel like you’ve dug into everything that’s out there or are you still stumbling upon and discovering soul you were unfamiliar with?
I’m always finding new things, there’s so much music out there you could never listen to all of it. I’m big into collecting world popular music from labels like Sublime Frequencies as well, digging through that stuff I always find something incredible.
Have you noticed any changes in the crowd that attends since RCC began?
Our nights are really small, most of the scene is in LA so most people in the area live out there and go to regular nights in that area so there’s not much incentive for them to make the drive out to us. We do go back and forth on a semi-regular basis and they’re a good time. It’s really just a night for some of us to hang out and drink a few beers, play the records we like, have a dance and enjoy the night.
Are you or have you been involved in anything else music-wise, besides RCC?
I sang in a punk band in college and some friends and I are slowly trying to get a new band going. I also regularly go out to the Indonesian consulate in LA to play Javanese gamelan with the community group there. I try to stay connected with that music and Indonesia in general.
Lastly, what are your goals for RCC in the future?
I think as long as I have some people around who want to hear northern records that’s good enough for me. Eventually I think the current night we have going will fold, due to circumstances outside of our control. After that I’ll have to see if I can get it going somewhere else and just keep spinning. It can be difficult, we don’t draw a big crowd being in a smaller market, so most bar owners don’t want us in there if we’re not making them money. We’ve been fortunate at Union that my friend Brandon owns the place so it doesn’t matter, but trying to start again at another location will be a hard sell. We’ll just have to see what options are available and try to make something happen.
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