IF GEORGE CLINTON were seeking citizens for his funk nation, the dance-happy folks gathered for the People Party in Oakland would be natural-born candidates.
The party, every fourth Saturday at the Oasis on 12th Street near Lake Merritt, is all about getting down for the funk of it and "bringing people together in a really positive way," as unofficial diplomat Amy Navong put it.
The People Party, which began about four months ago, has a "beautiful vibe," said Navong, whose husband DJ Cali was one of several music masters on the scene Saturday night.
Things were still pretty quiet when I arrived at 10 p.m. But the outdoor dance floor started filling up by the time Navong finished speaking and I was done admiring T-shirts of Johnny Cash and Audrey Hepburn in irreverent poses made by fiftyseven-thirtythree.
"I love the energy, the music, the sophistication of the people, the DJs," said Erik Cummings, a life-of-the-party kind of guy from San Leandro who was heating up the dance floor in his straw fedora-style hat. "No shootings, no fights it's wonderful."
By day, the Oasis attracts a lunch crowd and evenings a Nigerian chef dishes out West African specialties (for years he served the only fufu porridge in town). But by night, the sprawling complex is transformed into a full-blown nightclub byvenues such as People Party, Black Market Techno, Culture Sundays, Roots Wednesdays, as well as hip-hop, dub, dancehall, disco and so on.
"Looks like I'll be here for a while," is how first-timer Nathan Adkins described his reaction when he set foot in the door on Saturday. Adkins said the atmosphere is very sedate in the front area, which is split in half by the bar and diminutive dance floor (a DJ was spinning salsa, samba and other Latin-flavored tunes).
"But back here ..." continued Adkins, sitting in a spacious covered patio ringed with sofas and tables and a vintage Range Rover parked in the corner.
Vendors are set up in an adjacent patio, which is where I was led into temptation by jewelry designer Linda La Touche. I usually abstain from buying jewelry because my tastes lean toward expensive whereas my income leans toward what one politely, ahem, calls limited (and then there are the political issues about precious metals and gems). But I could not resist La Touche's owl ring made from a scrabble piece ($10) and a charm ($12) with a tiny map of Oakland and tiny heart in the corner (formerly the vowel "I" worth one point). I bought both.
The patio also holds another bar, two DJ stations, an elevated lounge and the open-air dance floor.
The partiers looked like they were given fashion advice and dance moves from every generation since 1968. Some revelers were self-absorbed, some were absorbed by dancing and some with people they showed every indication of wanting to get to know better.
In short, everyone was having fun.
Well almost everyone. Marcus Cutcs was looking a little too solo at his table with only a bottle of Corona.
Another first-timer, Cutcs came to the party at the invitation of a friend, but said it wasn't quite his scene. He was no party pooper. He just preferred hip-hop clubs in San Francisco.
And the party had "kind of like an older crowd," said the 23-year-old in his spotless camel-colored Timberland boots. (I nearly choked on my Red Stripe because I had been feeling a bit overaged among what I perceived as a young hipster crowd.)
Vernon Peralta, a veteran partier, dancer and DJ, was crossing the bridge in the opposite direction "just to hang out," a trek he said he wouldn't make unless it was "a special thing."
That prompted Navong to add that the People Party is about building an East Bay culture.
"We've got it going on here," she said, nudging Peralta. "It's the East Bay grease."
That's all for now, ladies and gentlemen. But if you have a cool shindig, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
visit the Night Owl blog http://www.ibabuzz.com/nightowl for more events and oddities.