Hoodoo Dance Party

by Justin Allen

Conjuration, my friends. That’s the word for the day. Whether or not you believe in the supernatural, I’m here to tell you that everyone has experienced an occasion in which they were moved by an unknown spirit of sorts. It’s the energy in a room that pervades when we completely forget ourselves and submit to the moment. It’s when we are surrounded by like-minded comrades and engaged in some semblance of ritual that these experiences have the potential to be transformative, transcendent, and at times, magical.

Listen, words cannot describe it:

We met the author in much the same way we meet many people, over coffee at One World Cafe after a round of emails. Within moments we were certain that there was more to discuss than his contribution to What Weekly. After coffee, libations, and dinner with his wife, whom he described, “as much cooler than me,” we decided to throw an event to promote his book, which neither of us had read. The only thing we knew was the book’s title, Coffin Point: The Strange Cases of Ed McTeer, Witchdoctor Sheriff, and that was enough for us. Now, you might think us unwise for planning an event with a stranger, about a book we’d never heard of, but the truth is the central figure in the story is like candy for the imagination. If we couldn’t pull off a party with a Southern hoodoo witchdoctor sheriff as its muse then we have no business throwing parties at all.

A couple of months later, we all found ourselves above the Midtown Yacht Club at the best book party any of us had ever been to. I’m not just saying that because it was our party, I checked with several people and they agreed, it was ri-goddamn-diculous. The success may have had something to do with his reading that conjured images of fevered beat poets and clamorous gospel sermons that somehow morphed into a unforgettable blues jam session.

It could have been the juxtaposition of amazing musical acts like folk heros Harwood who contrasted nicely against jazz greats Lafayette Gilchrist and John Dierker who were, in turn, complemented expertly by El Suprimo, a DJ whose prowess alone is mystifying.

After over a year of pumping good vibes into Baltimore so many of you came out and gave that energy back, so much so that the room was packed and we could hardly make our way from one end to the other but somehow many of us still managed to dance.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of hundreds of open, frenzied individuals feeding their energy to the crowd and conjuring a joyous revelry that sustains itself for hours by some magical synergy. From Dionysian feasts, to Carnival to Mardi Gras to the Love Parade, it’s clear that celebratory, ritualistic phenomena are an important quality of the human species. When we transcend our normal states of consciousness and enter into this sort of dialogue, hours and minutes and all of the man-made conceptions and regulations disappear. Maybe it is nothing more than deviant hedonism, but it feels damn good.

Photo by Philip Laubner

Words fail to capture the brief moment in time when the music lifted us up as spectators became performers and the performers let go of expectation and we stood in awe of each other as the music completely took over and led the way into the night. There at the convergence of consciousness we had an unforgettable time with you. Thanks for the memories.

Shaun Callahan, Peter Davis, and Kate Guntermann

Celebration and ritual are some of the most noticeable practices separating us from every other species on Earth. The Hoodoo party was beautiful, even if only because it allowed us to touch base with the social animal that lives inside of us and longs for interaction with its fellow human begins. When we dance together, we remember that we’re all a part of each other and we’re left with a tremendous feeling of oneness. Plus, all this gives us a great excuse to dress up like dead people.

Photo by Philip Laubner

What’s so powerful about the phenomenon of ecstatic ritual is the promise of the extraordinary. That night, as we invoked the manifestation of our collective energy through pulsing patterns of rhythms and dance, we forgot about past and future and knew only the moment and all the sensual and somatic nuances enveloping us.

Photo by Theresa Keil

We were not intending to invoke the Sheriff for reals, but I question whether or not he made an appearance.

Photo by Philip Laubner
Aaron Henkin

What made this particular event so special is that no one could plan it. Humans are very capable creatures, but we still haven’t found a way to guarantee the materialization of synergy. All we can do is put the pieces in place and hope for the best. Happy for all of us, the synergy happened and blew us away.

Where else can you see Aaron Henkin rap while Shodekeh beatboxes and Victoria Vox play the human trumpet with her lips, all while Lafayette Gilchrist and John Dierker lay rhythms and melodies down for a pulsing crowd of whirling dancers, whistlers and frenzied onlookers. And, by god, who was that saxophonist? If anyone had a lead on that, give us a holla.

A big thanks goes out to Flying Dog Brewery and Cyclops Books for sponsoring the party and making all of this possible.

Hoodoo? You do. from Shaun Callahan on Vimeo.

What Weekly’s Hoodoo Dance Party – The First What Weekly Event … Ever

“Best party of the year!” -Aaron Henkin, WPYR

Photo by Philip Laubner

If you’ve never heard Justin Allen wail, you’re missing something. With him is Shaun Callahan who showed up dressed to the nines, wearing a washboard and a truly fantastic get-up. Justin and his guitar set the tone for a mind-blowing night, and was joined by our talented friend Shodekeh for a song or two.

Photo by Philip Laubner

Brooke Hall and Lafayette Gilchrist

Photo by Theresa Keil
Grietje Smid and Matt Kelley of Harwood

Harwood officially takes the cake for performing two of my all time favorite tracks in the history of mankind. First, Nina Simone’s ‘I Put A Spell On You,’ and then, a less obvious choice, ‘Why Don’t You Do Right,’ a jazz standard written in 1936 by Kansas Joe McCoy. The song is alive contemporary pop culture thanks to the sultry Jessica Rabbit.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Ed Mcteer and his masked mistress.

Photo by Justin Allen

Ike Shark

Ike Shark, from We Used To Be Family, provided an eerie ambient atmosphere for the first segment of the book reading. Ultimately, he primed the crowd for total exhilaration.

Photo by Theresa Keil

When Lafayette jumped on the keys, the energy began to change.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Lafayette Gilchrist

The sound deepened, the energy heightened and rhythm quickened.

Photo by Theresa Keil
Victoria Vox
, Shaun Callahan, Shodekeh

Photo by Theresa Keil

Photo by Philip Laubner

Lo and behold the winner of this week’s prestigious and highly coveted, ‘Hot Damn Woman, Between the Way You Filled Out That Dress and the Way You Moved on the Dance Floor It Was Hard As Hell To Pay Attention To Anything Else, Which Is Probably Why Lafayette Dubbed You The Goddess In Black‘ award. The party owes much of its success to you and I cannot imagine a better muse.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Photo by Theresa Keil
El Suprimo

Playing only tracks on vinyl from 1930’s to the 1950’s, El Suprimo kept the dance floor alive and the party-people-in-the-place-to-be gyrating to the beat until 2 am when the lights came up.

Photo by Theresa Keil

Lady Bohemian

We were graced by the presence of the Witchdoctor’s very own World’s Fair belly dancer, who resembled the historical figures Little Egypt. The ladies of Little Egypt are thought to have introduce belly dancing to America. Much gratitude and love, Farida.


Photo by Philip Laubner


  • Femi lawal April 7, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    I missed out on one hela of a good time

  • Philip Laubner April 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I love What Weekly. I am proud to be a part of this number.

Comments are closed.