On Sept. 11, 1998, some 80 people would clamor into the dim ambiance of Que Sera for a night called The Good Foot.
It was the first time Dennis Owens got behind a set of turntables (officially anyway). It was “a total trial by fire,” he says.
Moving and shaking through the evening were members of the local mod and scooter scene, along with those in and outside of the city’s music cliques. Today, just like then, all walks of life and interest filled the floor.
By its one-year anniversary in 1999, Owens recalls a snaking line wrapping around the block to get in.
“And we never looked back,” he said.
Today, it’s the longest running dance night in the city. Twenty-five years on, The Good Foot legacy looms large over Long Beach.
Owens, whose name has become synonymous with The Good Foot, will celebrate the night’s 25th anniversary at Alex’s Bar on Friday, Sept. 15. The soul and funk on vinyl night has been an institution at Alex’s Bar every third Friday since 2013.
“We started it for fun. I was a band person, I thought I was going to be playing music—25 years later I’m not Dennis Owens, I’m DJ Dennis Owens,” he said.
Before finding a home in The Good Foot, Owens toured, sang and played guitar and bass in several bands including Suburban Rhythm, Action League and Free Moral Agents throughout the 90s.
Action League had just broken up when fellow bandmate Rodi Delgadillo brought Owens to a club in Santa Monica he’d been raving about. Owens vividly remembers setting fateful foot in that club with Delgadillo in 1997. There he says he witnessed a kind of crowd cohesion and energy that he’d been missing.
“Everybody was so lost in the music,” Owens said. “Immediately then, I started to become disillusioned with the rock scene that I was a part of—I wanted the vibe of what I experienced that night.”
Shortly after, they decided to give their own idea for a funk and soul night a shot when they were offered a night at Que Sera. Leading up to that Friday, they traipsed the streets of Long Beach, LA and beyond with stacks of photocopied flyers in hand to spread the word.
Eventually, Delgadillo left the project for a life in Japan, but Owens would continue on.
Good Foot really has two eras, Owens said. In 2011, Good Foot’s monthly residency came to an end with Owens nearly ready to hang up a successful run. But it never really slipped away, The Good Foot became a pop-up club, appearing and reigning people back in for a night here and there for some two years.
When Delgadillo returned from Japan and convinced Owens to start up the residency again, it would be at Alex’s Bar.
“My stipulation was that I wanted to expand the musical palette,” he said.
In the early Que Sera years, Owens was hauling in cases of ‘60s and ‘70s funk records each month. But over the years, Owens had dived heavily into salsa, cumbia and Brazilian music. Since then The Good Foot has maintained a healthy assortment of Latin, Afrobeat, disco and other adjacent sounds from the ‘60s to ‘80s.
“That era of Black music, with some Latin music,” he said.
“We lost some of our old fans in the process but we gained a lot more new ones,” Owens said.
Delgadillo is no longer a part of the project these days, but Owens has maintained a short albeit rotating cast of resident disc jockeys to keep things moving over the years. Today, it’s Lili de la Mora (DJ Lili Bird), Scott Weaver, Owens and the newest and youngest member, Nick Aguilar.
Aguilar, now a touring drummer for Frankie and the Witch Fingers, was hired to work the door at Alex’s Bar three days after turning 21. On Friday, May 18, 2018, he attended his first Good Foot. Immediately, he became entranced by the wax wizardry of vinyl DJing and particularly Owens’ selections.
“It was packed to the brim,” he said. “I didn’t know any of the songs that were being played because I didn’t really know what funk or soul music really was below the surface at that time.”
At the beginning, Owens said he would often get two to three texts a day from Aguilar with questions about the music spun at Good Foot.
“He is essentially the reason I got into DJing,” Aguilar said.
Owens has DJ’d more than one wedding who can trace their first dates or met at The Good Foot.
“And people who’ve fallen in love at The Good Foot,” he said. “I’ve met a number of people where it became a part of their life, it facilitated something important, and that’s not something I ever could expect but it really achieved a deeper meaning for some people which is incredible.”
Good Foot isn’t just known for its monthly Friday slot, annual specials like “Christmas Good Foot” have become a Long Beach ritual for hundreds. And not to mention, Owens’ Good Foot anniversary parties, at which Owens has booked greats like Jungle Fire and even the beloved Brenton Wood. This year, he’s chosen to give the red-curtained stage to seven DJs of major significance to The Good Foot.
A portion of this Friday’s proceeds will also be donated to the Long Beach Rescue Mission.
“Long Beach as a city and as a culture has given me so much,” Owens said. “I just wanted to give back to people who could really use the help.”
So, what’s next?
“I’m going to continue,” Owens said. “As long as my heart is still in it.”
This all drums up the question, have you really lived in Long Beach if you haven’t been to a Good Foot? Those who haven’t will get their chance this Friday at Alex’s Bar at 8 p.m. DJs Abel, Angelina, Caveman Leo, Clifton, Dennis Owens, Lili Bird, Music Man Miles and Scott Weaver will be on the decks until closing time.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Scott Weaver’s name.