Last night, my first night back in Detroit since Movement, I went to see Soul Clap at TV Lounge. My visits to the venue have struck me as magical every time. Perhaps it is the air of ownership on behalf of its majority Black staff – the sense that it is their house and that I am there as their guest. There is joy in the air, and a feeling that there is a team – a family, even – holding down the fort. I feel safe and at home in a way that I rarely if ever do back in New York. I feel as though there is an expectation of how I will conduct myself within the club’s walls, almost like visiting the house of a friend’s parents, but also entirely free to be myself. At TV Lounge, I know that I am welcome.
Soul Clap is one of the many acts that I imagine feel this way, too. They add to the atmosphere meaningfully with their philosophy of expansive love and radical inclusion. It comes through in their music and in the way they work a crowd. At a Soul Clap party, you will make friends.
Last night, in the last set Soul Clap’s Eli Goldstein would play for the night, a 2013 release entitled, “MLK Dreams” by artist Cratebug, expressed the fraught emotional dissonance this particular Thanksgiving’s eve represented for many of us. The crowd, composed of primarily white, late-2os and 30-somethings, responded to the extended edit with a mixture of emphatic cheering, ecstatic thrashing, and church-like swaying that my friends and I agreed was one of the most powerful moments we had ever witnessed in a club setting. Simultaneously joyous and sorrowful, cathartic, and in no way simple or dismissive. It was what the moment called for.
Today, like so many of my friends, I remain torn with how to handle this holiday. Knowing at this moment how many others are without the basic luxuries to feel grateful for, without good food, warm homes, and loving families – and beyond that, being sprayed with fire hoses and blasted with concussion cannons – it is hard to focus on things to be grateful for and hard to enjoy what should be basic pleasures I’ve come to associate this holiday with. With overeating and watching mindless television. With laughing.
Since the recent election that has left us all with so many questions, I have felt strongly that there is nothing more important in this moment than remaining optimistic to whatever degree possible. This does not mean being ignorant, but it does mean enjoying and appreciating what is good. It also means being open to – and supporting – the very real possibility that humanity will make a different choice this time.
Last night at TV Lounge reminded me that art has the power to promote optimism and remind us of who we are. It has the unique power to unite people who, otherwise, may have very little in common, and even to free us from seemingly inescapable bounds.
My friend Dio managed to find one digital recording of the track we heard last night in that powerful moment. Please enjoy and share:
Love to you all, and Happy Thanksgiving.