DJ Soul Sister will hold her last Hustle at the Hi-Ho Saturday

3 years ago The Times-Picayune 0

Melissa Weber, who is better known to WWOZ listeners and the late-night dance crowd as DJ Soul Sister, has announced that May 27 will be the last of her long-running series of Hustle Saturdays at the Hi-Ho Lounge. Weber has been leading the Hustle for 13 years, with the last 5 at the St. Claude Avenue nightclub. Cash Money maven Mannie Fresh will be on hand Saturday to help her bring it home, she said.

Not that Weber’s get downs are going to disappear entirely. After Saturday, Weber wrote in a Facebook post, the Hustles “will no longer be weekly, but will exist as an infrequently thrown party at various TBA locations.”

“I always knew that at some point I’d shift to doing a little less,” she said.

She couldn’t do much more. In addition to her weekly wee-hours dance parties and her weekly Saturday shift at OZ, Weber regularly entertains at other events. She’s also a part-time student, studying for a master’s degree in musicology at Tulane University. Which, she said, “means lots of papers to write, and things to do.” Not to mention that she holds down a full-time day job in the Newcomb-Tulane College dean’s office.

Plus, she said, she’s just not as young as she used to be.

“The 21-year-old Melissa, and the 31-year-old Melissa are different from the (currently) 41-year-old Melissa,” she said.

Weber laughingly said that in the beginning, the Saturday Hustles went on until 5 or 6 in the morning, but over time she’s cut back to a more reasonable hour … 3 a.m.  

According to the Hustle Facebook page, Weber’s Saturday Hustle “started at Leo’s in Bywater, moved to the infamous upstairs at Mimi’s in the Marigny, and is now at the Hi-Ho Lounge.”

Weber’s tastes include disco, funk, hip-hop and anything with soul. As music writer Keith Spera reported on the tenth anniversary of the Hustle, Weber makes up the show as she goes.

“She packs four crates with 300 or so albums drawn from her collection of thousands of vinyl LPs,” Spera wrote. “A dedicated ‘crate digger,’ she hunts through bins at the Louisiana Music Factory and Domino Sound Records most weeks. She also flies to New York specifically to seek rare vinyl.

“She doesn’t pre-plan sets, preferring to improvise in the style of jazz artists. At ‘Hustle,’ she spins continuously for four-plus hours, cueing up longer songs – Marvin Gaye’s ‘Got to Give It Up, Trouble Funk’s ‘Drop the Bomb’ – to give herself time for a bathroom break.

“She doesn’t take requests. ‘I come from the live music tradition, where you come to see an artist do their thing. That’s how I approach my sets,'” she said.

In 2013, Weber’s Hustle became a lightning rod in the city’s noise ordinance controversy, when neighbors complained that Mimi’s in the Marigny lacked the proper permits for a.m. dance parties. Weber packed up the music and moved on to the Hi-Ho.

Weber said that she thanks the Hi-Ho for immediately giving her a home when she needed it.

“It’s kind of a jarring thing for the weekly dances to end,” she said. “It’s been a joy.” But, as she wrote in her Facebook announcement, “it’s time for change.”

Weber said she’s hopeful she’ll institute sporadic Saturday Hustles sometime down the line, but she has no firm plans.

“If everything continues to go well with Hustle under its new incarnation, I’ll probably be doing it until I’m 71,” she wrote in a text.

The Hi-Ho is located at 2239 St. Claude Avenue. The swansong Hustling starts at 11 p.m.  Admission is free.