Manny Lehman - A DJ for All Seasons
By Brian Sands
As Thanksgiving gives way to Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanza, for many people Halloween remains a vivid memory. And why not? At the Saturday night Vamps and Voodoos Party, the costumes were incredible, the lighting was spectacular and the people were fabulous. And keeping it all together was the spinning of DJ Manny Lehman whose musical journey that night was described by one very satisfied partygoer as "absolutely awesome."
With so much going on inside, outside and all around the Municipal Auditorium, the party was a bit of a challenge for those of us who like to see everything, be everywhere at once. Yet every time you entered the main dance floor the music was flawlessly pumping, the crowd was rocking and the atmosphere was goose bump thrill inducing.
Some parties start slowly. Not this one. From the moment the doors opened, Manny (DJs seem to go by their first name) had people dancing and the excitement continued for six hours. Whitney, Madonna and other vocals alternated with harder edge trance music which gave way to uplifting circuit anthems. At any moment, if you looked down from the balcony you saw a vast scene of joyous humanity totally under the spell of the man in the DJ booth.
The vibe seemed to go both ways.
"I had a f**king great time," Manny said recently from his home in Los Angeles. "It was really, really fantastic."
A Bronx boy schooled at the famed DeWitt Clinton High School, Lehman cut his teeth spinning at Manhattan's famed Paradise Garage. Remixing songs led to a job at A&M Records where he quickly climbed up through the ranks. He signed CeCe Peniston who became a number one artist and worked with many major names including New Orleans' own Aaron Neville.
But after eight years at A&M, Manny returned to spinning full-time. He now holds monthly residencies at the Factory in L.A., Twilo in New York and Miami's Salvation and has become the number one requested DJ on the circuit party scene. So he knows what he's talking about.
"I thought the Halloween party went very well. There was a good consistent energy. It wasn't as intense and dark as other circuit events, more of a fun and frolicky thing. I was very satisfied."
In spite of, or maybe because of, holding sway over thousands of partiers each week, Manny says, "I'm always nervous and excited before an event. Working against expectations is always difficult."
Part of those expectations, Manny feels, is that Halloween is a touch more free-spirited than Mardi Gras. "I did happy dance music earlier in the evening and then did my schtik. I held back on the intense track and drum driven stuff till later. I saw the diversity of the crowd and didn't want to drive them off the dance floor." If only all DJs had that kind of sensitivity.
Less than 24 hours after his triumph at the Municipal Auditorium, Manny was spinning again, this time at Oz. As opposed to Saturday night's wave-your-hands-in-the-air music, Sunday's was more progressive, more tribal.
Watching Manny spin at Oz up close is to see the intensity he brings to his work as he makes sure each number segues flawlessly into the next. It's a bit like observing a master chef create an extravagant dish, adding each ingredient at just the proper moment.
Somewhat surprisingly, for any given evening Manny says that "I have no idea what I'm going to start with or what I'm going to play next. I have no preconceived notions in my head." No wonder each time he spins it sounds fresh. No wonder crowds love him.
Dade County crowds (and those who flock there) tired of ballot counting and recounting will have a number of upcoming chances to hear Manny and forget their election blues. November 24th sees him at Miami's Snowball, while New Year's Eve he'll be at the Miami Arena. Further afield, in January he'll be spinning at Philadelphia's Blue Ball and then February takes him to the Fireball in Chicago.
And if you can't make it to any of these parties, Manny has a new CD out that brings him to you. Circuit Sessions 00.1 features continuously mixed big room anthems. "I prefer fun, energetic diva vocals," says Manny, "and I love strong, good drum tracks." The CD offers those and more. "It's a nice tight reflection of a night at a club with me," adds the reigning mixmaster.
During Halloween weekend, Manny didn't have as much of a chance to enjoy New Orleans as he wanted to. But he hopes to get back cause, "I love that city!" The sooner the return, the better.
Manny Lehman's Top 10: "Stand Up," Magic Cucumber; "Just Not Satisfied," That Kid Chris; "Papa's Got A Brand New Pig Bag," Thunderpuss; "Don't Tell Me," Madonna; "Issues," Vernessa Mitchell; "Looking For Love," Peter Rauhofer Mixes; "You're Mine," Atom; "Miss My Love," Reina; "One The Level," (Aude Mix) Yomanda; and, "Lifetime To Love," (Rosabel Mixes) CeCe Peniston.
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