Title Town gives up the funk and soul

By Liz Keeney

It’s like any other Saturday night at the Shadow Lounge — when 9 p.m. rolls around… Title Town Soul & Funk Party

Shadow Lounge


9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

21+, $5; 18+, $8


It’s like any other Saturday night at the Shadow Lounge — when 9 p.m. rolls around, the line outside begins to surge inside, drinks are bought, friends are reunited, and the DJ begins to play. Tonight, however, instead of the latest Kanye West or Ke$ha single, the playlist consists of artists like The Yum Yums, Spanky Wilson and Dee Dee Sharp.

This is Title Town Soul & Funk Party, a dance party held on the last Saturday of every month that features only soul and funk, and strictly plays 45-rpm — that’s revolutions per minute — records. The first party of 2011 will be held this Saturday.

Although the true Title Town, USA, is Green Bay, Wis., which is appropriate given the upcoming Super Bowl matchup, the party’s name refers to an old record of DJ Jason “J Malls” Molyneaux, released during the glory days of Pittsburgh sports in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Officially created in October 2009 by Molyneaux and fellow DJ Gordy Greenawalt, the dance party provides partygoers with an alternative to what both Molyneaux and Greenawalt see as the standard club or party scene.

“A lot of other college stuff is all kind of the same. Just top-40 hits you’d hear anywhere else. We’re just putting it out there. Providing an outlet for the 18 and older group,” Molyneaux said.

Alexandra Caffee, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences agrees. Making the monthly trek to the Shadow Lounge has become a tradition for Caffee and her friends.

“I just really like to dance, and the atmosphere is just about dancing to really great, old music and not caring about what people think. It’s just two DJs and dancing. Everyone dances — there are some people who stand at the back to socialize, but by midnight everyone is dancing. And they get down,” she said.

Featuring all original 45-rpm vinyl, the normal playlist at a Title Town party will consist of ’60s and ’70s soul, Motown, old rhythm and blues, and ’70s funk. Newer material comes from artists like Sharon Jones, the Dap Kings and Aloe Black.

On any given night, partygoers might hear some better known acts such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, who Molyneaux refer to as the “meat and potatoes of soul and funk.” But both Molyneaux and Greenawalt prefer to feature lesser known artists, especially from the Pittsburgh area.

“A lot of it is rare music. That’s what makes it exciting; you can come to a party and not hear anything you know,” Greenawalt said. “We’re giving these artists and groups a second chance. They might not have been marketed properly the first time around because of finances or something. They might have been a great group but they just didn’t get out.”

Having hosted similar soul and funk parties around Pittsburgh for the past six or seven years, both Greenawalt and Molyneaux have amassed quite a collection of records and often take trips through Michigan and Ohio to improve their selection.

“For me personally, records just sound better,” Greenawalt said. “There’s definitely a difference between playing a song on a laptop and then on vinyl. There are these pops and clicks from years and years of playing. It’s that history that adds more. There’s a real physical aspect, too, of holding the 45 and putting it on the turntable.”

Their playlists of lesser known artists have intrigued Caffee enough to give these bands a chance.

“When I first went I didn’t have any significant interest in that kind of music, but it made me feel good, so I started remembering songs I liked and tried to download them later,” Caffee said.