Power of the Unknown 

Fright night's got a brand-new bag, thanks to the touchstone "Funked-Up Halloween Ball" at Sapphire, a prance and gamble beyond the attractions' habitual theme nights. The local lineup and activities pioneer the fusion of the familiar, the fantastic and the fresh, with a traditional costume contest and other ghoulish festivities. From house to rock, obscure alternative to soul, the experimental show features two DJs, a live soul/funk band and original house compositions interpreted by live musicians.

The ball is the brainchild of Sam Mollison and was brought to reality by Avidculture, a like-minded collective of musicians, DJs and promoters. The night, patterned after a similar and very successful prototype that took place last Memorial Day at Sapphire, is designed to provoke the eclectic landscape of the emerging music scene and to give experimental music and artists space to expand.

Vocalist Mollison migrated to Orlando from England into what he terms the "epicenter of the progressive trance scene" in 1994, the height of his own international chart success and viable career as a vocalist in the European house scene. But he felt stifled in Europe, limited by what he calls a "hold-him-down mentality" in the club circuit and industry. Finding Orlando rich with musicians and "listeners," he found his own expanding possibilities animated and soaring. In recognizing that risk is what art's all about, Mollison has set about fueling his funky ball.

Longtime underground native DJ Gerard (Gerard Mitchell of "Phat-n-Jazzy" and Eighth Dimension Records) warms up the night, styling "a fusion of urban street soul, acid jazz, and contemporary funk and soul, with a touch of Orlando sunshine," says Mollison.

When the sound hits sizzle, eight-piece SoFluid (nominees in the 1999 Orlando Music Awards Soul/Funk/R&B category) will be in possession of the stage, working out the music that Mollison calls "cosmopolitan, with a heavy jazz influence -- sort of a cross between Stevie Wonder and Incognito."

When the funk gets low and groove hits the bone, SoFluid's core trio -- Gerry Williams (keyboards), Errol Windham (guitar) and Chris Valentino (drums) -- provides the backdrop and vehicle for Mollison's experimental leap -- sans technology -- into interpretively exploring his own material steeped in house, acid jazz and some new "Mollison in the mood" down-tempo ballads.

John Gardner wraps up the night with up-tempo house "to light you up till the end," says Mollison.


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