For many people life is a process of finding yourself, through trying on different skins, checking out different scenes and taking a little of this and that from each of them. Then there are those people who figure out what they like early in life and stick with it. People like Jason Ringgold, aka Jason Pandora, the DJ and promoter behind LA’s Blackeyed Soul Club.
“I’ve been into the mod scene since I was in high school,” explains Ringgold who is now in his mid 30s, but looks about ten years younger in his ‘60s suit and bowl haircut. “Since I was 17. So going on 20 years now I’ve been collecting records.”
Ringgold puts that record collection to work every week at Blackeyed Soul Club, a ‘60s dance happening that takes place at the Monty Bar on Friday nights. Ringgold, along with his fellow resident DJ Howie Pyro, (former bass player of seminal punk group D Generation), and a rotating cast of special guests spin highly-danceable sets of authentic ‘60s vinyl to enthusiastic crowds of mods and other discerning hipsters.
The club has been going on at different locations around LA for about four years now.
“We’re on our third venue,” explains Ringgold. “We started at the Medusa Lounge, we were there for a year and we parted ways. We went on a little hiatus and then wound up at the Three of Clubs. We had some great times at the Three of Clubs, it was a good venue but we found a better one here at the Monty Bar.”
The Monty is a former topless bar located on an otherwise desolate block of LA’s downtown-adjacent Westlake neighborhood. The vibe at the cavernous Monty is a kind of vintage erotica take on the Old West, with pictures of pinup girls, saloon doors and a buffalo’s head mounted over the turntables.
“It’s a really awesome venue with a great 1920s kind of western gunfight vibe,” explains Ringgold. “The ‘60s drew a lot from that so I think it’s a natural fit.”
Blackeyed Soul Club take full advantage of the Monty’s open space by displaying a swirling psychedelic light show on the bar’s massively-high ceiling and projecting films of ‘60s go-go girls and strippers onto the far wall.
Like the other DJs at Blackeyed Soul, Ringgold spins strictly vinyl and prefers the authentic sound of original pressings whenever possible.
“I’m not being a snob about it,” explains Ringgold. “It’s just that Vinyl sounds superior. It’s richer, brighter, and fuller. I also believe that the personal investment in years of collecting vinyl and hunting down hard to get songs vs. downloading 10,000 songs on Soulseek and calling yourself a DJ, tends to weed out those who really don’t love and know the music and genre.”
Ringgold’s current DJ set includes snarling three minute garage riots like the Satan’s “Makin’ Deals,” Northern Soul stompers like Herbie Goins’ “Number One in Your Heart,” and fuzzy French-pop gems such as Erick St. Laurent’s “Le Temps d’y penser.”
The crowd at Blackeyed Soul is mixed. Suited up mods vie for space on the dance floor with eastside hipsters, indie kids, rockabillies, and others who are just out for a night of drinking and dancing to classic ‘60s soul, freakbeat and garage.
“It’s a very diverse crowd,” says Ringgold. “We get some mods but we’re not strictly a mod club. That’s the music we play but we welcome everybody”
One of the most notable things about the crowd at Blackeyed Soul Club, is that it seems to range from kids in their early 20s to people in their 40s. But it’s the preponderance of kids in their 20s that perhaps best illustrates just how enduring even the most obscure records from the ‘60s are today.
“I think there’s something really quality about this music,” says Ringgold. “It came from a very prolific creative period in history which I don’t think has been matched since.”
Blackeyed Soul Club happens every Friday night at the Monty Bar. Along with the unmatched musical selections and kitschy western décor you’ll also find a great selection of beers and drink specials. Admission is free and the place gets packed after midnight on most Fridays.