As the records spin, they turn back time
By Fritz Hahn
Friday, January 4, 2013
Retro music draws some of the biggest crowds in town, whether it’s the Legwarmers selling out the State Theatre for a night of ’80s covers or DJs packing the 9:30 Club with an all-’90s dance party. But no venue is as invested in the good old days as Fever, an H Street NE bar where every night is old-school night, and DJs play music only from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.
“There’s a good number of 30-somethings about, but what I’ve heard from my peers is that there’s not a lot of venues that cater to us,” says Fever owner Darryl Cohen. “There are special events, like the [’80s-focused] Axel F parties [at Liv], but no place that’s dedicated to the music of the ’70s and ’80s.”
Fever’s hook is that every night is essentially a unique theme, so there’s a lot to put on your calendar. Its signature event, Fever First Fridays on the first Friday of the month, hosts different guest DJs or featured genres. In November, pioneering turntablist DJ Cash Money, a former DMC world champion, kept the crowd rocking to hip-hop, while December focused on Hall & Oates, George Michael and other stars of blue-eyed soul. Tonight, Cohen says, expect a ’70s party heavy on disco, funk, the Bee-Gees and Parliament.
Other recurring events include bands on the first Saturday of the month -- this Saturday, it’s former Rare Essence and Chuck Brown keyboardist Mark “Godfather” Lawson -- and deep and soulful house music on the second Saturday. Cuzzin B, Ninth Wonder and the Tru Skool DJs spin golden-age and underground hip-hop on the third Friday, while longtime radio fixture Supa Funkregulata Celo hosts a night of dancing at “The Experience” on the third Saturday. Hip-hop trivia night, formerly a fixture at Lounge of Three, takes place on the last Thursday of the month.
The only weekly fixture is Classic Material: D-Skillz, DJ Roz and guests take a stage with two turntables and crates of vinyl records to showcase the old-school art of cutting, scratching and beat-matching while crowds grab happy hour drinks at the bar (deals run from 7 to 9 p.m.) and occasionally cut loose.
A rich vein of hip-hop music runs through Fever’s programming, but Cohen repeatedly stresses that the space is about retro music, period. “I’m a hip-hop head, but I want people to know of Fever as a place for ’70s and ’80s music of all kinds,” he says.
Fever’s laid-back, nondescript room feels more like a small banquet hall than a club. It has a small bar, a couple of couches and a low stage in the back. Framed record covers, including albums by Prince, Michael Jackson and Kraftwerk, hang on the walls along with a “Breakfast Club” poster. The bare-bones bar offers a small selection of beer and wine and a minuscule drink menu that includes Long Island iced tea and an as-local-as-it-gets combination of vodka and fizzy Rock Creek Fruit Punch.
“People want to go hear that music that they grew up on without going to clubs and getting dressed up and getting knocked over the head by cover charges,” Cohen says. “Fever is about dancing and sweating and having good drinks.”
The easygoing vibe allows a focus on the music, which is exactly what Cohen intended.