DJ Review: Billy Carroll at RISE

By: Joe Thompson

When friend and master DJ Billy Carroll (pictured here) played at RISE in Boston, MA, we were all a little sad we could't make it. Fortunately, the fabulous Deedee Mignonne sent a write up. Deedee has been doing music criticism for more than 30 years and for A-list publications. She currently writes for the Boston Phoenix (among others) and was cool enough to let us reprint her piece here.


By Deedee Mignonne

Billy Carroll's 5-hour gig at RISE last night was a can't miss for Boston's House Nation. His career as a spinner of disco -- and now house -- goes back to the beginning decade, the 1970s. One wants to see pioneers like Carroll while there's still time. Nor did Carroll disappoint the packed dance floor, folks who did NOT go to the Winter Music Conference in Miami -- which means most of Boston's most dedicated House people -- who came to see him crank, jolt, and bang the rhythm.

There was nothing girly about Carroll's first three hours. He played deep, clanging funk beats redolent of 1993-96 in NYC ( including two vocal drops from back in that day: the phrase "whatever," and the shout from Uncanny Alliance's hit "I Got My Education." His mixes hammered one track onto another with few pauses at first -- this was rhythm to ride and ride some more, no stopping. Constantly he filtered, reshaped, up tempo-ed the music -- I've never seen a DJ edit his rhythms so intensely, so non-stop.

RISE logo Then Carroll played the "2010 Remix" of Danny Tenaglia's "Dibiza...Bring the Drums Back" -- a staple of this seasons solidest DJ sets -- and so it was: drums and drums, layers of them, as the crowd screamed "werk it, Billy!" As he riffed on "Bring the Drums Back" and induced variations on its theme, the rhythm became teasingly complex. To avoid exhausting his dancers Carroll inserted pause breaks into the mix, injected with mercilessly distorted noises and voices. Usually during pause breaks people rest up; but not this time. Beats or pauses, Carroll's fans-- muscle guys, twisty gals, and some local DJs (Wayne Michael was in the house) -- kept on keeping on.

Here, Carroll played mostly tried and proven tracks from the 1999 to 2006 years, stuff familiar to dancers of a certain age -- sand Carroll's crowd included guys in their 40's, even 50's. It got better, and even ,more classics as, at about 4:20 AM, he switched textures to an all-vocal program. Now there was a girly ness to his beats. It was a lighter, swirling rhythm going on -- but riding a beat road no less deep (deeper, in fact) or funky than his first phase. Instead of Junior Vsasquez, Carroll now worked David Morales territory: diva screams, girl group house music, including -- I think -- DJ 88 Keys's' "Addicted," always a favorite (of mine too), Macello Castelli's "Deeper Inside," Drop X's "Deeper and Deeper," and DKS's "Deeper Down." Carroll's mixes, too, were smoother, less jolting than in his first phase. He filtered and jolted the music less frequently, too. It was an altogether less hectic sound, good for drifting oneself off into the sunrise.


Buy Billy's Dirty Beats album.

DirtyBeats If you want to know just how much a pioneer Carroll is in dance-music DJ-ing, and how continually inspired this middle-aged spin virtuoso is, here's how his website's bio page puts it:

"Beginning in the 1970s, Billy’s passion for dance music and the art of DJing led to formative stints at Club Directoiré and Reflections/Down Under, and eventually career-defining guest spots at Paradise Garage and Studio 54.

"Residencies at the Roxy, Palladium, Twilo, Bump @ USA, Men’s Room @ The Building, Limelight and Tunnel (where Billy played the first gay night, incidentally) followed, paving the way for the almost daunting flow of globe-trotting gigs he balances these days at the hottest clubs and Circuit parties around the world. As a Billboard reporting DJ..."