Microgroove spins soul, funk in Greensboro
Microgroove was born in a conversation between Soul Relief Records owner Harley Lyles, promoter Jeff Brown and their friend Brycon, a San Francisco-based and Charlotte-born DJ who first discovered soul through hip-hop.
“Microgroove is our monthly Greensboro-based event where we bring soul and funk DJs to play vinyl and mostly little records,” said Brycon in a conversation at Lyles’ record store in early August.
Previous Microgrooves have been held at College Hill Sundries and Little Brother Brewing. The next one is at the newly reopened Flat Iron on Aug. 31. Brown also plans for future Microgrooves in Asheville, possibly in tandem with the Greensboro ones.
Brycon first became aware of soul during his North Carolina childhood. “My mom’s from Detroit and had a lot of Motown around the house.” He’s now a professional west coast DJ, MC and producer, and has worked with Masta Ace, the Artifacts and Michael Rose of Black Uhuru. But even before he spun and produced it professionally, hip-hop brought him back to soul and funk.
“Listening to a friend’s tape of some oldies, I started to connect it to the soul artists that hip-hop groups sample. As a hip-hop fan, you get ravenous to discover these breaks and samples and want to have them for yourself. Before long, I was actually enjoying the music for itself, rather than just for nostalgia or who it influenced.”
Brycon said he’s still drawn to the stuff that has “more hard drums and kind of a hip-hop feel,” as a way of introducing newbies to the good old stuff. “I hope that the drums and beat will connect with certain dancers, certain people in the crowd, who go ‘hey, I remember that sample,’ but then I want them to kind of drift from that, and just listen to the music for what it is.”
“Brycon and I did music promotion years ago in Asheville,” Brown said. “Since then, we’ve lived in the Bay Area. Brycon is still there, and I’m back in Greensboro. With him periodically visiting, we started talking with Harley about how we could do an event with music we like that’s not here already. I don’t think there’s really a lot of people in Greensboro spinning funk and soul.”
“It all starts and fans out from James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic. But we do a lot of soul oldies from artists all over the map, from all your standards like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Nina Simone to more obscure artists, including ones from Greensboro.”
I asked Lyles about Greensboro’s soul and funk history.
“The Greensboro-based artists we play include Roy Roberts, Electric Express, and High Point’s George Campbell. There were once were a lot of North and South Carolina based labels where they could get package deals, back in the sixties and seventies through the early ’80s. When little records were easier and more affordable, you could get a recording session and 500 records for anywhere from $250 to $500.”
The three consider themselves educators as well as the promoter, DJ, and seller. “I think a lot of people don’t know about how Greensboro was once heavily entrenched in the history of this music,” Brycon said. “We get a lot of requests, but try to help people understand that these are curated sets and these are musicians and turntables are instruments.”
He said that he, Brown and Lyles see it as part of their mission to bring in people from other areas who’ve been spinning soul and funk. “It’s kind of like a vinyl conglomerate, so to speak. Guys who are going to bring the same flavor to the table, like John Kirby from Dogpatch Radio/Numero Group and Nate Smith from Carolina Soul, both whom will be at the Flat Iron. Some guys we haven’t had in the mix yet would be like Tom Page from Durham.
For Brown, it’s an important part of his promotion company Make Greensboro Weird. “I think Greensboro is a great growing place. But I think we need to continue to make Greensboro weird, and I think plugging Soul Relief Records is good. Check out Make Greensboro Weird’s Facebook page for updates.”
The next Microgroove is on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. at the Flat Iron at 221 Summit Ave. in Greensboro. Admission is free.