Expectations can create problems. One such expectation is that the towering legends of the DJ world are like the curators of a musical gallery of coolness, displaying their genius by delivering on the elevated tastes of the most demanding music heads. In this formulation even a tip of the hat towards populism is a sign that the sacred covenant with their "true fans" is threatened.
It is hard to imagine a more legendary DJ than Francois Kervorkian, who first made his mark in the New York disco scene of the late 1970s and whose career is barely captured by words like "illustrious." Yet here he was, booked for a smallish, upmarket bar/club in Sydney's Kings Cross usually frequented by punters not known for their trainspotting. This arrangement did, however, instil a little of the vibe of clubbing in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, where FK has held a long-time Monday night residency at which he plays the more outré sections of his collection.
Setting the scene was Garry Todd, who dug deep into the annals and inspirations of NYC house in his thoughtful warm-up. Dubbed-out mixes of Janet Jackson sat comfortably alongside Kerri Chandler deepness, the jack of KC Flightt's Talking Heads-sampling "Planet E" and a nod to the Body & Soul with the Soldiers of Twilight classic "Believe."
Then, as I have seen him do before, Kervorkian read the crowd and played the populist, in the process reflecting the quality end of the genres that have helped dance music finally break through Stateside in recent years. Early on there were proggy indie dance melodies (Flashmob, the Aeroplane mix of Storm Queen), as well as traditional soulful house (Divas of Color). Soon things got tougher with the grit of Romero & Morillo's "Pa Ra Ra" and even the ravetastic abrasiveness of Chuckie's "Together" before waves of acidic squelch arrived. An obligatory detour into Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" preceded a patch of bass music (Objekt and Scuba included) before things went techno. Slam's new remix of Paperclip People's "Throw" was soon followed by Jay Lumen's "The Drummer," some exuberant Joris Voorn, Luciano's remix of Inner City's "Good Love" and then Carl Craig's toughening up of Tom Trago's "Use Me Again." As things spun towards a conclusion it was time for a Body & Soul classic, Danny Krivit's edit of Soul Central's "Strings of Life," before the emotive subtlety of Maceo Plex's "Can't Leave You."
What really came through was Kervorkian's famed ability to bounce between multiple musical styles in a three-hour set and still make it sound coherent. At the same time, it lacked the emotional impact of those occasions he's allowed himself to more patiently explore each musical terrain before moving on. It was as if there was simply too much going on to draw breath. Never boring, always expertly played, but leaving the sense that this was merely the highlights reel of something much deeper and richer.