Valentine’s Day, the day we celebrate that crazy little thing called love. How purrrfect that Mr. Lovesauce himself, the indomitable deejay PUMPKIN, was playing in San Francisco; home of the Summer of Love, keeper of Tony Bennett’s heart, and, of course, my own little love bubble. Pumpkin’s fans have dubbed his unique sound “lovesauce” because he simply chooses songs that he REALLY loves, and loves them UP even more, tenderly weaving in beautiful beats to make them even more danceable, sensual, and FUN. A little bit house-y, a little bit glitch hop-y, “Bouncy Lovehop” is the name of the genre, if you really even need a genre anymore. People who resonate with his heart-centered style tend to be heart-centered people themselves. As he said himself, “Pumpkin fans are just so nice…” after a series of love bunnies poured adoring sentiments all over him outside the venue. I always judge an artist by their crowd, and this was hands down the happiest, warmest, most open and connected crowd I have ever experienced. It was like we were just one big happy family, gathered around the sounds that make our hearts sing out loud. I resonate with the tribe that surrounds his music in a way that makes my smile want to stretch off the corners of my face.
Upon arriving at Public Works – my first time at this bumpin’ venue with a Funktion One sound system – I was greeted by my ladies Annie Butts and Jess Dugan of (Sparkleberry Lane) and immediately showered with My Little Pony stickers, heart-shaped glitter, a sparkly red heart-shaped notebook, and a Valentine’s card with kisses. All signs pointed to a fabulous night.
When Pumpkin took the stage, the crowd erupted in cheers. He started off slow, building a steady, sexy beat that beamed with his trademark sweetness. The steady, rising flow soon came to a point of climax and then dropped hard, breaking down into the remixes, re-edits and reinterpretations we know and love. Before the show, I asked him if any of it was planned, and he explained that one reason he loves being a DJ is the ability to spin whatever feels right in the moment. The spontaneity of playing an improvised tracklist allows him to tune into the crowd, feeling out where the energy is at, and where the dancers want it to go. He adjusts his unique selection to turn any dance floor into a big ol’ puddle of lovesauce, finding a familiar thread in songs from multiple genres, styles, and eras, and weaving them into a sound that is all his own. Highlights for me were his newly released remix, The Mowgli‘s “San Francisco,” with perfectly appropriate lyrics like “Do you feel the love/I feel the love/C’mon c’mon let’s start it up/Let it pour out of your soul”… and he dropped some brand spankin’ new ones I hadn’t heard before, including an incredible rendition of Suzanne Vega‘s “Tom’s Diner.” Singing along to the Pumpkin-flavored Muppet’s theme song was one of the happiest moments I have had in a long time. An incredible range of songs – from Blind Melon‘s “No Rain,” to Angus and Julia‘s “Big Jet Plane,” and The Bird and the Bee‘s cover of “I’m Into Something Good,” by Herman’s Hermits – were seamlessly upgraded by Pumpkin’s magic touch.
It was such a participatory experience, with half the crowd dancing onstage and on top of the speakers, people waving Pumpkin flags behind his head, squeezing him from behind… and a rollicking sing-a-long dance party that had everyone bouncing up so high, I thought we might all float away. I am usually super sensitive to packed crowds and take frequent fresh air breaks at every show. But with Pumpkin, I could not even fathom going to the bathroom until it was over. It was just so juicy, and so full of YUM. Here’s to playing, living, singing, dancing, and spinning from your heart. Thank you, Pumpkin, for dishing up another delicious serving of your lovesauce. I will be spreading it around and eating it up everywhere I go.