This post, DJ Keoki All Mixed Up, is the second in a series I’m calling The History of Dance Music. If there’s a DJ who should be more widely known and whose influence on dance culture should be more acknowledged, it should be DJ Keoki.
Let me rephrase that.
Superstar DJ Keoki
He was the first DJ that I knew who added the superstar moniker to his name AND was worthy of the addition. At one point, from what I remember, he was splitting residency between New York City and cities in Europe and Southeast Asia. I remember this because I kept thinking I don’t care where he ends up on the weekend, so as long as he was back at the Limelight on Wednesday nights for his Disco 2000 residency.
Limelight New York
I lived for Disco 2000 on Wednesday nights at the Limelight. It was my chance to escape the life I was living at the time. I was in my early 20s, struggling with school and working several dead-end jobs I could find in the aftermath of the financial meltdown of 1987, my Gulf War service and injury, and the recession that hit Generation X hard in the early 1990s. Several of my friends, who had graduate degrees and student loans, were working the same shit jobs I was working, and we were all in need of an escape. Because of that, we were all hating on Baby Boomers before Millennials, and Gen Z made it cool to say, Ok Boomer. I’m kidding, of course, but what I don’t joke about is the fact that I feel a solidarity with the young people of today who also try to find refuge in the music they like now.
Because it was what saved me back then.
From 1991 to 1993, I looked forward to seeing Kenny Ken at the ropes. Most times, Kenny would let me in. Sometimes, if I didn’t have the right vibe, Kenny would say go away. I would laugh. Looking back, Kenny was right. I was probably carrying way too much of the day with me that I would probably bring others down.
I remember walking inside and hearing the thunderous sounds as I walked up the steps. I remember walking down a corridor, and it opening up to a view above the dance floor below. Across the room, Keoki performing in a booth.
Once downstairs on the floor, I would dance all night long.
At the time, that room was one of the most progressive spaces in New York City.
No one cared for about your color, your gender, your sexuality, how you identified yourself, or anything else. Through music, everyone was accepted.
It was all about Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect.
Everyone felt loved and validated, and for me, I felt hope that this measure of spirit I felt while dancing was the real me. It was imperative for me to focus on that feeling and place value on that feeling as I faced my days dealing in dehumanizing work.
When Did The Limelight Close
A lot has been written about why the Limelight closed, so I won’t bore you with that, but the Limelight I knew and loved closed a year after All Mixed Up was released. In 1996.
It reopened and closed several more times after that, but I don’t count those. Those versions of the Limelight were nothing compared to the club, as it was when it had DJ Keoki and Disco 2000.
By then, I had caught my break with a corporate tech job in 1995 and began focusing more on creating a stable life for myself and the family I was building. Also, the peace, love, unity, respect (PLUR) vibe that was once part of Wednesday nights at the Limelight was long gone by then. It was replaced by the twisted dark energy that contributed to the murder of Angel Melendez. This twisted dark energy and his murder were depicted in the movie, Party Monster.
What This Mix Means To Me
Whenever I listen to DJ Keoki’s set, All Mixed Up, I remember precisely everything positive about the scene before it all fell apart.
Before I grew up and became an actual adult.
I think I may have answered my own question about why DJ Keoki’s influence is not more widely acknowledged. He was, unfortunately, dragged in all that mess. I couldn’t write this post about the importance of this DJ set and the Limelight without going into why it ended. Unfortunately, it takes those types of experiences to help us grow, and if you look up his work now, you’ll see he’s better than ever, looking healthy and happy. I have so much gratitude for the artist that he is, providing me, on those dark nights of my soul back in the early 1990s, some hope the ecstasy I was feeling in the dance was real.
As I sit here now, in my office in Houston, Texas, in 2020, so far away from the cold room I lived in Brooklyn, New York in 1992, I can’t help but smile and feel grateful in knowing that, in the midst of the misery of being young and broke, back then, those were the best days of my life.
Take a listen and enjoy it.
1. Cirrus – Future
2 Aquatherium – Bonny Doon
3. Squelch – Darkhappy
4. Poltergeist – Vicious Circles
5. Union Jack- Cactus
6. Brother Grim – Survive
7. Imaginears – T-1000 (Doi-oing Remix)
8. Flange Squad – Justice Juice
9. Cocker & Lazonby – Astrology
10. Scope – Bachanal
11. Tessier Ashpool – Gravity
12. Humate – East (The Opium Den Mix)
13. Firefly – Supernatural (DJ Wink’s Acid Journey Mix)
I’ll never forget when Keoki dropped this, mid-set, and I was surrounded by the most beautiful people in the world.
The thunderous bass and the intense flashing of the lights breaking through the smoke in the darkness of the room still sits in my head after all these years.