Scene Report: Instant Funk
Scene Report: Instant Funk
Scene Report is our continuing series on the best parties and music nights in the Bay Area
April 29, 2019
Instant Funk is a monthly night at The Ruby Room run by Oakland vinyl collector and DJ, Lil Jojo – aka Joey Diaz. Every first Saturday features Diaz’s deep collection of boogie, disco, funk, and Latin records, as well as the occasional guest DJ. The night was a quiet staple of the weekday music scene when it was a Thursday night affair and has been consistently thrilling a small, but appreciative audience for now over two years. Now in a weekend slot it is one of the few nights in Oakland where you can hear those genres of dance music in a setting that feels unpretentious and inviting for both casual listeners and dancers alike.
Part of the charm of Instant Funk has to be attributed to The Ruby Room itself. Walking into the Ruby Room from the street feels like taking off your shoes when you get home. Sandwiched between a spa and a taqueria, the entrance to the bar is a discreet doorway illuminated by soft red lights that are the only indication of its name. Inside, the bar remains true to that name with red mood lighting, out of date furnishings, and a low-key atmosphere that conjures fantasies of opium dens and mobster movies.
The dance floor is small and right up against the squashed DJ booth illuminated under the signature hanging red lamps. It is not uncommon to see curious dancers get up close and personal to take a peek at the record that has caught their fancy. Graffiti painted bathrooms and an indoor smoking room with pool tables (yes, you can smoke indoors) rounds out the one of a kind atmosphere.
More than the nice ambience, its the music played by your host that makes the night special. Lil Jojo has some of the deepest cuts of international funk and boogie out of anybody that I have ever met. If you can’t appreciate the music for itself just know that some of the records he collects can regularly sell for up to one hundred dollars. That means every time you are gifted the opportunity to hear one of them it is like drinking a very fine and expensive wine. For a night that has no door charge that is quite the bargain indeed.
When you think about it, Instant Funk could be considered a near perfect night out dancing. No, there isn’t a great sound system. There isn’t a professional quality DJ mixer either. The dance floor only comfortably fits 15 people, but the music is always sublime and people actually dance! That’s right, without pretense and without reason people dance, because that’s what you get when the music speaks to your soul.
You can’t help, but love Instant Funk. Cheap drinks, inviting atmosphere, and great music - it’s a music night sent from the seedier side of dive bar heaven and blessed with the soul of funk, boogie, and disco by a dedicated aficionado. Make sure to stop by some time. We’ll see you on the dance floor.
For more of Lil Jojo check out his mixes on Soundcloud and make sure to check out his profile here on our website!
You can catch Lil Jojo’s Instant Funk at The Ruby Room every first Saturday!
Words and Photos by Brennan Ko-Madden