Grand Rapids Soul Club celebrates two years of bringing the funk

Courtesy / Katy Batdorff
The second anniversary of the Grand Rapids Soul Club at the Pyramid Scheme on January 24.

Courtesy / Katy Batdorff The second anniversary of the Grand Rapids Soul Club at the Pyramid Scheme on January 24.

David Specht

Although the popularity of soul music may have died down since the ’60s, it continues to shine through DJs Josh Breuer, Andrew Christopoulos and Mike Saunders, who represent the heart and, well, soul of the Grand Rapids Soul Club.

For two years, the GRSC has gathered on the fourth Friday of each month — typically at The Pyramid Scheme or Billy’s Lounge — to highlight rare funk and soul via turntables and crates.

“We like to play a lot of stuff from this region,” Saunders said. “Even old Grand Rapids artists like Spot and the Blotters or People’s Choice, who have gone relatively unknown on a national stage.”

Throughout the ‘60s, soul artists dominated the African-American music charts, but by the end of the decade, “soul” had become an umbrella term for an array of R&B-based styles. The soul movement fractured toward the early ‘70s, and though the number of musicians performing traditional soul today is scarce, the genre continues to influence musicians worldwide.

According to Saunders, the crew spins vinyl from unknown artists to more well-known artists such as Curtis Mayfield, The Isley Brothers and The Supremes. And while DJs typically start their set with a handful of choice records on deck, the activity on the dance floor is the deciding factor as to what tracks are next in the lineup.

“It’s a party with really great music,” Saunders said. “Sometimes our featured guests will play a special set to really get folks moving; other times we all just play records and try and keep a good vibe and keep the dance floor moving.”

Though the soulful grooving is a key element to the GRSC’s gatherings, Christopoulos said he believes that exposing people to music they might not hear elsewhere is equally important. And while the three core members of the GRSC are typically the ones doing the musical enlightening, they sometimes invite other soul-spinning DJs to the party. The club has even featured nationally known artists such as Eric Cooke, also known as E Da Boss, of Myron & E.

“We like to have guests as often as possible to mix things up,” Christopoulos said. “Most of them have been from the Midwest. It was special to have Eric come in from the Bay Area. We’ll definitely continue to bring guests in, whether local or national.”

Christopoulos said the night has grown in many ways since it began in 2012. Attendance is up, and there is, now more than ever, a great energy and flow to the evening.

“People come out to dance, socialize, and generally just have a good time,” he said. “That’s our ultimate goal and we’ll always strive to keep that up.”

And while their consistency has helped the Grand Rapids soul community grow, Christopoulos said the group tries to keep the experience fresh from month to month.

“Sometimes we’ll bring in someone on visual effects; other times we’ll create a new mix CD or we’ll possibly have some new merchandise available,” he said. “We’ll keep evolving while keeping the basics intact.”

While the music industry did experience what appeared to be a reemergence of neo-soul in the early ‘90s, mainstream support for soul-related genres seemed to once again diminish shortly thereafter. But if you happen to wander into one of the monthly soul music dance parties hosted by the GRSC, you’ll see that people’s love for that funky funk hasn’t faded a bit.