Photo by Sebastian Kim

Disco pioneer to play DJ set downtown

Updated: September 5, 2018 - 10:37 am

What to do downtown after work

Moroder mania

Jake Rudh has been spinning tunes for Twin Cities audiences each week for years, but his next gig has him feeling like “a kid in a candy store.”

“It’s about as good as it gets for a DJ, that’s for sure,” he said.

Rudh is one of a few locals opening for Giovanni “Giorgio” Moroder, an Italian music producer, not to mention performer in his own right, who has inspired some of the world’s most popular artists for decades. Chances are you’ve heard the work of Moroder, considered the founder of disco and a forerunner of electronic music, if you’ve seen “Scarface,” “Top Gun” or “Flashdance” or listened to any Donna Summer song from the 1970s. He’s worked with David Bowie, Cher, Freddie Mercury, Elton John, Barbra Streisand and more. Moroder mega fans Daft Punk even have a song named after him.

The Sept. 20 concert at First Avenue’s mainroom has Moroder headlining with a rare DJ set, while Rudh, Dark Energy’s Grant Mayland and Dirty McKenzie will start off the night.

It’s not every day that Rudh gets to share the bill with other DJs. Typically, he’s paired with some of his favorite bands and songwriters, his “heroes” from the 1980s music scene to today.

“I love to be able to build an energy and atmosphere leading to showtime, and I don’t see this as any different, just with a fellow DJ,” he said.

Rudh remembers when he first heard Moroder’s work. It was, naturally, The Human League singer Philip Oakey’s 1985 collaboration with Moroder.

“I literally was introduced to Giorgio’s work by watching MTV growing up in the ’80s,” he said. “I saw the MTV video and literally went out and bought the cassette.”

Growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, Rudh said, he was exposed to Moroder’s work with soundtracks like with “The NeverEnding Story,” or songs like “Take My Breath Away” from Berlin.

Though Moroder is more aligned these days with the electronic dance music scene, Rudh said the producer’s work has inspired much of the music he’s known for playing, from ’60s psychedelic and ’70s disco to ’80s new wave, a gene of rock and pop music that blended the disco and electronic stylings that Moroder is famous for producing.

“He was the blueprint of some of my favorite tunes,” he said.

Performing before Moroder takes a lot of preparation, something that Rudh doesn’t typically do for the request-focused Transmission where each set is new and different. This show has been in the back of his mind for weeks, though. Rudh said he expects to spin an electronic-heavy set with plenty of artists who Moroder inspired.

Asked whether he’ll give Moroder a welcome to Minnesota music, Rudh said he’s considering playing a little Prince or even “Funkytown.”

“There’s no doubt Lipps Inc. were inspired by Giorgio,” he said.

Rounding out the night will be Mayland of Dark Energy, a music collective known for bringing Vampire’s Ball to First Avenue. Dark Energy takes influences from new wave, industrial, electronic and goth music.

Minneapolis-based Dirty McKenzie, a Lebanon-born DJ who was recently added to the lineup, grew up in Berlin in the late ’70s and early ’80s, right when Moroder’s work would have been all over clubs and movies.

The 18-plus show begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 20.

“I think the whole night is going to be unique, that’s what’s going to make it fun,” Rudh said.

The Al's table. Photo by Eric Best
The Al’s table. Photo by Eric Best

Come for the ‘furniture,’ stay for the drinks

I think I found my favorite furniture store. For $12, that ottoman was a steal.

It’s all a front, however, for Al’s Place, the speakeasy bar and Italian restaurant that opened late last year above Stanley’s Northeast at Lowry & University.

I recently went back with a guest from out of town. I may be breaking a rule telling you about the bar. It has its own rules, not to mention after-dinner chocolates that remind you that “you were never here.”

The 1920s-themed establishment was even more committed to the old-school atmosphere than ever. Mia Dorr, a boa-wrapped lounge singer in a flapper dress, was cooing elegantly in the corner, a fog machine and dim lighting kept the bar feeling intimate and a dress code — more of a suggestion — made sure guests don’t burst the Roaring ’20s bubble.

The “furniture” on the menu is a reference to the front businesses of the Al Capone days. There’s no real racket here, unless you’re talking about the Racquet Summer Badminton, which at $11 is a fair price. Americano wine and a little seltzer give the gin drink a nice body and some cucumber and lime cordial keep it easy to drink. The Barstool Between the Sheets ($12) with special-order rum from Northeast-based Tattersall Distilling Co. was also great with a nice smokiness.

Be sure to grab reservations here unless you don’t mind waiting at the bar, but with a little live jazz singing and a drink, that’s not so bad. The bar’s cocktail hour — think of this as its happy hour — is 5 p.m.–7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, which will get you $3 off house cocktails and $10 off drinks from the Captain’s List.