The venue known as Sous Bas splashed onto the local scene attracting a discriminating clientele that wanted a different kind of place to experience music and dance. Sure there are the usual accouterments of the dance club but Sous Bas's perspective encourages different music, different deejays and a focus on welcoming anyone out who wants to dance without some of the negative stereotypes.
If you go to their website, Sous Bas clearly states, "We're a bar for people who like good music/nice vibes/living room dance parties/sunset lighting". Over the last three years, Sous Bas has attracted the likes of Benjamin Muñoz formerly of New Hands or Rich Oddie and Orphx as well as a myriad of influencers, curators and performers with different musical tastes to DJ different themed nights so Sous Bas isn't your ordinary dance club for sure.
March 19 sees punk rock drummer (Tijuana Bibles, Noble Savages), B-Movie aficionado and Hamilton Billy Van Museum founder Stacey Case spinning soul 45s from his own collection alongside DJ Donna Lovejoy for an event called The Good Foot. But this weekend, one of the regulars celebrates a milestone.
While he's spent a lot of the last thirty years in Toronto and Vancouver, Hamilton born Chris Sakai fell in love with electronic dance music at a young age here in Hamilton. His life long passions would return after a quarter century when he started up an interesting combination between live musicians and DJs called Collab.
"I grew up in Hamilton and the first dance club I went to was the all ages High School Club on Upper James Street," recalls Sakai on his youth. "After that it was Colours on King William and then it was Duckies, right across the street from Jackson Square. And then my friend, Skinny, used to do these dances at the Dundas Armories. Being a drummer and being part of that dance culture, I picked up deejaying naturally. I started playing at Stars in Burlington, NRG, Fever and Monopoly in the Hamilton area."
Sakai would develop a lot of fans and influential friends and started guest spotting on FM 108 (old schoolers might remember Energy108) with DJs like Wayne Williams before deciding on branching out from Hamilton and Toronto clubs.
"I just wanted to get out of the city for a bit and moved to the downtown core of Vancouver and started deejaying, even flew some Toronto friends out to play there," says Sakai. "I did that for a while but came home, got married, stopped deejaying, got divorced and then got right back into deejaying again. Since 2007, I've played all over downtown Toronto and then accidentally went to Sous Bas one night and I just said, 'I need to be in this space - I need to be involved, I need to do a night here'.
"Sous Bas is a very special place to me and I'm happy Erika [McMeekin] took me in and here we are two years later," adds Sakai. "It's a very open and loving environment - whether you're gay, straight, black, Asian and I have twenty year olds come out as well as people like Rohan who is sixty plus years old and he opens and closes the bar dancing non-stop. With the staff itself, it's really like a small family but everyone's cool that comes to Sous Bas. I've never seen a fight - for my night we have a motto: 'Hands Up, Eyes Closed'. When I look up while I'm deejaying, that's what I see on the dance floor - people just taking the music in. In this day and age with all of the negativity, commercial radio has such melancholy music, it's actually an escape for people to hear this music that's so loving. I just think people kind of need this in their life and they've found a place to close their eyes, listen to the music and relax."
Collab has had flugelhorn and djembe players accompany Sakai's deejaying but with the second anniversary pending, a bigger Toronto name is coming out with word of more “A” listers in the future. Sakai expects a grand celebration of two years for Collab with more to come for regulars every six weeks or so.
"Collab is electronic music, it's house music - but house has so many different sub-genres now, my style of music that I DJ at Sous Bas is very organic with a lot of vocals," says Sakai. "We call it vocal house, soulful house and it's been really well absorbed by the city of Hamilton. Ever since Sous Bas came around it's something that people have really enjoyed. Every night has been special but we've got big things planned. The next three or four events I'm including more live acts, some of the top live acts in the country. Tush are a nine piece band but they're bring a trio for this show with Jamie Kidd and Kamilah Apong. They're one of the hottest acts in the country right now with international producers remixing their songs and they just opened for Soul Motivators in Toronto. It's every six weeks or so to give my older friends to recoup and find babysitters so this is definitely a more mature crowd. . My demographic, the average age is 35. I'm turning 49 on April 19 and we have the Deep House Project led by the Mark Shapiro, bass player of the Soul Motivators coming out again. They did last year's and we were at capacity for that one. And after that, I have tentatively booked Canada's top house songstress Zaki Ibrahim for May 30 and more in July.
"And for this weekend, I hope anyone who's into electronic music and open to hear new stuff and see an amazing band, I hope you definitely check this out," adds Sakai. "I open with a more mellow set with some new jazz and indie and then slowly get progressively faster to get to that 120 bpm and by 11 pm the club is near full and people are rocking and rolling - well, maybe more like dancing and prancing... "
Chris Sakai's Collab Celebrates Its Second Anniversary on Saturday March 7 at Sous Bas (145 Main St E) with Tush and more. Doors are at 10 pm and if available, tickets are $15 at the door. Click on Sousbas.com