Arts Desk

Head-Roc’s Mouth: Big Tone, Bill Source, and DJ Divine are Daylight DC

An occasional feature in which esteemed D.C. rapper Head-Roc shares what’s on his mind.

Two Sunday nights ago I was invited by Chocolate City concert promoter Winta Teferi to check out one of D.C.’s proud examples of indie music success, Bambu Station, perform live on Black Broadway at Liv Nightclub.

On the way there, hopping off the Circulator bus and walking along U Street NW just across from the old State of the Union, I spotted two good friends from one of my current favorite D.C. Funk bands: Eme and Heteru. They were relaxing outside Twinz Jazz getting ready for their regular Sunday gig there. I had to cross the street and show love before continuing my journey along U Street to 11th Street, where Liv is located.

Arriving at the corner of 12th Street I decided to stop in the 7-Eleven to get some water, and lo and behold I saw one of my favorite people in the whole wide world, Jessica Scott. The world knows her as Big Jess and yes, she is a D.C. Diva and cultural legend. In fact, Jessica is a signature part of the U Street landscape from the heyday of places like State of the Union. We ended up hitting the store together, share in some good shit-talking and great jokes before bidding each other farewell. Jessica was on her way to see Eme and Heteru, but she mentioned something about a dance party she came from at Tap and Parlor, the restaurant that shares a building with Bohemian Caverns and Liv.

As I got closer walking along the north side of U Street, I began to hear funk and soul music blasting into the street. I looked at the cars at the traffic light, and after the light changed to green and the cars were traveling down the street, the music still remained. I was a little perplexed, as I distinctively heard '60s and '70s funk music cranking on U Street like it was a back-in-the-day block party. Johnny "Guitar"Watson’s "Superman Lover" was BOOMING on Black Broadway, and I couldn’t believe it. Who was doing this? Who was blasting this funk on U Street on a Sunday Night? I had to find out.

I stayed my course on the north side of U Street walking east, crossing 11th Street. Verifiably, the music was coming from Tap and Parlor. The reason you could hear it throughout the street was because the windows along the south side of the establishment were wide open. As I walked up on the first window, I sawmy man Renell McEwen macked out on the sofa next to the window inside. I tapped him on the shoulder and we dapped up. The music was loud from the inside so we really couldn't hear each other, but the look on my face said to him, “Whose party is this?” Brother Renell motioned to me to come around to the front entrance , and that’s where it all came together.

It was a beautiful night, for sure. The music that filled the air at that exact moment, coupled with the energy of going to see a black roots-rock reggae band in the building that houses the historic Bohemian Caverns made me feel like I had actually returned to Black Broadway.

Outside of Tap and Parlor there is a seating area, where I saw a brother for whom I have a huge amount of respect. He is known at Big Tone: another Chocolate City cultural icon who is a crucial part of the fabric of D.C.’s indie arts culture and community. I also noticed some other U Street/State of the Union cultural icons present. DJ Divine. Bill Source. Wow!

I didn’t have much time to rap to my brother Big Tone; I was there (and late) for the Bambu Station concert upstairs at Liv, but in the midst of a hearty soul clap and brotherly-love hug he let me know they have been running a party in that space for the last six years, and on Sunday, May 27 they're having an anniversary party. I handed him my business card and moved on upstairs to see Bambu Station rock the house! The memory and excitement of seeing Big Tone stayed with me for the rest of that week. I decided to look him up on Facebook under the name of his regular Sunday night party—Daylight.

While on the event page wall I sent a message to Big Tone to give me a call so I can learn more about the Daylight party I was so blessed to stumble upon. The Brother called me back and left a message, which is what this post is all about. You have to hear the love of music and people in this brother’s voice; he's been doing it BIG on U Street for at least 20 years now. Big Tone is a living legend in the constantly changing and fickle game of D.C. entertainment and nightlife. My hat's off to him and all the Daylight/Soul Stew crew! May 27th—the day before Memorial Day—when you’re looking for some authentic golden-era Black Broadway partying, you know where to go.

Listen to Big Tone’s message inviting everyone out to Daylight's six-year anniversary party on May 27. Visit www.soulstewdc.com for more info.

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