One Night In a Lifetime: We Love to Love You Donna Listening Party Recap

Posted November 7, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

Dozens of bad girls and sunset people in small town pay tribute to a dancing queen

Photos by J Matthew Cobb

No one is truly prepared for the event of death. One may not be afraid of it, but the finality of something like death is irrefutably hard to prepare for. When word leaked about the death of pop music icon and disco diva Donna Summer, most of her devout fans were unprepared for the grim news. A private funeral, attended by her widower Bruce Sudano, children, family members and close industry friends, was quickly finalized. But for a public figure with the glowing international stardom as Summer, it seemed a bit unorthodox for there to be no pomp and circumstance tagged to her in the event of her passing. The only thing that best resembled a public memorial was the befitting induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year, which came with a vocal performance from Jennifer Hudson on “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance.” Christina Aguilera was also scheduled to perform, but she passed on the gig. Still, the rock revelers were way too consumed in hearing Hall of Fame inductees Rush rock the stage than they were with honoring a disco darling posthumously.

Thanks to Verve Music Group, a proper something was put out in order to satisfy those yearning for a “last dance, last chance for love.” With Love To Love You Donna, the 13-track collection allowed the dance world to take some of her iconic dancefloor anthems and modify them into twerk magnets. Big EDM names like Afrojack, Laidback Luke and Holy Ghost! were all called to the table, along with mixing legends including Frankie Knuckles, Masters at Work and Summer’s longtime producer Giorgio Moroder. And for a few dozen city slickers in Birmingham, Ala. – many young, some middle-aged, they would stumble across a golden opportunity of hearing in person much of that updated music penetrating the booming speakers of a comfy lounge with the same kind of gusto of a posh big city disco. For those eager to hear the new mixes and had no qualms with being found in a friendly gay bar, they were treated with a pageant decked with interactive treats, free giveaways, door prizes and rounds of open mic karaoke. By 8:15 p.m, the flat screen TV monitors plastered on the walls at Our Place were simultaneously playing concept videos of Summer from the Eighties and Nineties, even displaying some of her mesmeric live performances on The Midnight Special and on her 1999 VH1 special. A table of four even belted out their best sing-a-long action when “I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro)” made a brief appearance. The grey walls of the intimate bar were also outlined with promotional posters of the remix album’s cover art, showing Summer caught in a moment of surprise and coy innocence. After a few talking points, song introductions and the usual party protocol announcements from the evening’s hosts, the album’s soundtrack lit up the remainder of the evening. Taking intermission breaks and quick segment openers proved to be necessary for the big giveaways, including CD copies of the album, a 180-gram, double-LP copy of the Love To Love You Donna disc and two pairs of tickets to any upcoming show at the nearby Iron City concert hall (courtesy of Weld for Birmingham).

Not attempting to upstage the evening’s honoree, the sound of music from an extensive, versatile library of karaoke mesmerized much of the program. Karaoke is usually a normal treat for patrons who tend to the intimate bar & lounge on Tuesday evenings; this night, despite the Donna Summer theme, was no exception. Repeat performances from one hunky ready-for-Nashville singer, a rowdy team nicknamed Bad Ass Motherfuckers and Eddie Quattlebaum’s Reba-loving country pop decorated the night’s line-up of live entertainment. HiFi’s J Matthew Cobb even decided to take a spin at Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love.” But no one could eclipse the comedic performances of Georgina Starlington, who posed as a blonde Donna Summer. Raunchy, silly and unusually crass – Starlington’s vaudevillian takes on Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” and Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” were of the Weird Al kind. By the time, Starlington wreaked havoc on Kim Karadashian and Kanye West with his remix of “Delta Dawn,” the room was totally engulfed with unstoppable laughs. Although a short list of Donna Summer hits was made available for the willing karaoke daredevil earlier in the evening, no one stepped up to the challenge to perform them.

As a bonus feature to the long list of activities, the crowd was asked to fill out audience response cards. This was a clever gauge designed to poll the attendees as to which tracks worked well and which ones didn’t. Of all the tracks, Masters at Work’s “Last Dance” had the greatest reception, quickly filling the floor with jubilant dancers. Gigamesh’s “Bad Girls” and Giorgio Moroder’s fresh take on “Love To Love You Baby” also won much of the crowd’s approval.  Public reaction was immediate when Chromeo’s take on “Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” exploded through the speakers. “That’s very Eighties,” Robert Hernandez said, while smiling cheek-to-cheek as if he had been transported back in time using a Bill & Ted time warp. For “Sunset People,” a selection mixed by Hot Chip, a few listeners echoed how great an improvement the mix was over Summer’s original. “Good remix for a bad number,” Gil Mobley said. “I never liked that song.” Mobley even expressed disappointment over the fact that he could not recognize “Dim All the Lights” at all in the Duke Dumont update. By the end of the evening, Mobley hops up in the DJ chamber and cues up the original, yelling, “Now this is ‘Dim All the Lights.’” Those that stayed to the very end were rushing to the elevated front stage to have their bodies painted with the spinning strobelight action while basking in the glory of Summer’s 1979 classic. With all the right treble and bass coming from the manned control booth, the song clearly sounded just as good as anything previously played, proving that some music is just eternal.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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