The role of a DJ has undergone a number of changes in the half-century-plus since its inception. Whether the term is defined as someone who simply plays pre-recorded music for a live or broadcast audience or as a craftsman who remixes other pieces into hours-long sets, the best DJs have unique sounds and visions for their mixes. Jonathan Toubin, known for his all-night “Soul Clap and Dance-Off” events, brought his unique brand of DJing to Eclectic on Saturday night. Although the event got off to a slow start, Toubin soon had the audience enraptured in his soulful sounds.
The concert began with DJ Michael Vaughan, who opened with a set of disco tracks from across multiple decades. It was a perfectly enjoyable, energetic set that unfortunately wasn’t very widely attended—at around 11 p.m. there were maybe 20 people in attendance. It’s a shame because with a larger audience the slick set would have been a perfect and well-received complement to Toubin’s ’60s soul tunes.
By midnight, however, Eclectic was totally packed to the point that it was difficult to move without hitting another audience member. For the uninitiated, Toubin plays mixes composed entirely of the classic Motown sound. These tracks are edited and remixed, but they offer something different than the monotonous bass of a typical club set.
Tobuin’s love of soul radiated from his entire set, whether he played songs from soul luminaries like Aretha Franklin or from lesser-known acts. His nearly three-hour-long set weaved through funky cuts ranging from doo-wop harmonies to blue-eyed soul to funk rhythms. For anyone tired of mixes that feel overpowered by house and electronic beats, Toubin is a breath of fresh air.
Judging by the crowd’s sustained energy throughout the night, the massive Eclectic audience did indeed find his set refreshing. The much-anticipated dance-off, another staple of Toubin’s events, was a sprawling, chaotic mess—it was often difficult to see exactly what was going on amongst the massive crowd surrounding the DJ booth—but that didn’t detract from the competition as students let loose on the dance floor. By the time a winner was crowned, onlookers had returned to dancing by themselves; by the next hour, students began to slowly trickle out of the venue.
Toubin himself was anything but stoic, and he maintained an energetic relationship with the audience throughout the show. In a somewhat touching interaction, Toubin assured the attendees that the songs, though originally from their parents’ generation, were “[ours] now.” Cheesy? Perhaps. But, at least on this Saturday night, Toubin’s words seemed to be true.