It's soggy, it's stressful, it's the monstrous holidays yet again. That's why it's the perfect time to sneak out to the Elbo Room's downstairs lounge in the Mission tonight for a free, relaxed, impeccably curated night of sophisticated soul music. The shy yet brilliant DJ Lucy spins a vinyl-only, mostly-45s set from her collection of “really slowed down, sweet, Chicago soul,” she says.
Supporting act DJ Vinnie Esparza broadens the offerings with northern, sweet and funky soul, he says.
“It's pretty much like the various shades of the '60s and '70s. … The Elbo Room lends itself so nicely to those sort of sounds – the layout is just custom for lounging,” says Esparza.
SOMA resident DJ Lucy is sort of an accidental specialist in the vintage genre – which combines gospel, R&B and jazz. Her father, who was a radio DJ in Vietnam, has tons of “just, like, oldies but goodies, '50s doo-wop jams,” she says.
Lucy was born in Korea and raised in Chicago, Roseville and New York. She studied French and art history, worked her dream job at the Guggenheim and Whitney, and dabbled in the finance industry.
While studying architecture, friend and WFMU DJ Mr. Fine Wine fanned her soul obsession, and she later ditched graduate school for graphic design work. That led to gigs with Vinnie, Sweater Funk, Motown on Mondays and a residency at The Standard in New York.
The idea for the Mission Soul came from the Old Soul music night at Casanova Lounge, where serious 45 collectors would spin. “I'm pretty sure I'm the only girl that spins sweet soul in the city,” she says.
A longtime DJ at Elbo Room, she tried out her Standard set last month for the locals and earned the first Thursday night downstairs slot. “It was a cool crowd – it wasn't any bridge and tunnel, no one really requesting any top 40.”
The Bay Area's vintage soul scene is thriving – with nights geared specifically to ’80s soul, Motown, or northern or sweet soul, says Esparza. “The nights tend to be pretty divided [into sub-genres], I feel like.”
Conversely, Mission Soul embraces all its different shades, adds Esparza. Even so, James Brown is still the king. “Only because he was so good for so long and did so many different styles of music,” said Esparza. “The guy was super-diverse.”
IF YOU GO
at Mission Soul with DJ Vinnie Esparza
Where: Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Dec. 4