World-renowned deejay Jonathan Toubin busts out of Brooklyn to return to BSP Kingston this weekend for his popular Soul Clap and cash prize Dance-Off, a night of rare soul 45s that you may not recognize, but will be unable to stop moving to.
Toubin’s Soul Clap and Dance-Off had its humble origins in Brooklyn’s underground art and music scene when he began spinning his already-massive collection of soul records, culled from years of crate-digging and online auctions, at monthly sessions. The inclusion of a dance contest laid the foundation, though the music is never the same. If you’ve been before, you know where Toubin is coming from. If not, he’ll explain.
“This is a soul party, so basically it’ll be all these weird ’60s unsung soul 45s that I find and play for people,” Toubin said. “I get bored with stuff I’ve been doing for a while, or I revisit things I haven’t done in a few years. Usually I come up and play records for around an hour or so, and then we stop the music and have these judges come on the stage and we have this dance contest. It usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes. And then I play records again. Basically, it’s a big dance party with an intermission in the middle that’s a dance contest.”
Just to clarify, because soul music covers a lot of ground: This isn’t smooth soul like Motown or disco; think Stax, but even grittier, with most of the records lost sounds of small labels from the Golden Age of soul. “It might be obscure soul music and late-period R & B, but real exciting: dramatic, with a big beat and a lot of screaming,” said Toubin. “A lot more guitar-oriented, and less of the Motown-type influence. I guess the one thing they have in common is that they were all probably recorded without the means they had in the bigger studios, so in that respect they sort of made the records more elegant. I guess a good example would be Elvis [Presley]. Everyone always says the Sun Records releases were so good, and then he went to the major label and it had all the backing vocals and it was kind of cheesy-sounding. But with Sun Records, it was partially their setup. They couldn’t really afford to put the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on there, you know? A lot of it sounds more contemporary because it doesn’t have that stuff; it’s big drumbeats.”
Those big drumbeats, filthy guitar riffs and screaming vocals have helped take Toubin around the world, spinning nothing but original seven-inch singles for crowds of people who might never know what he went through to find one record or another. “Last week I was in Texas, and this guy, he must have had 100 records from Texas labels,” Toubin said. “I would say about ten percent of them were incredible. Those ten percent, that’s what I’m looking for. I go digging in places and get real dirty. Sometimes I find something on eBay; it’s probably easier to find records now. I can buy one from a German guy. In Europe they bought so many great American records when we didn’t care, and they kept them in much better shape than we did.”
But while Toubin is a record-collector’s collector, he said that a Soul Clap and Dance-Off is a success when the crowd doesn’t actually consider where the records came from. “I hope they don’t think about it, to be honest with you,” Toubin said. “I want it to be the best, most exciting and unique stuff they’ve ever heard, so they get lost in it.”
The judges for the Dance-Off include Robert Earl Thomas and Molly Hamilton of the band Widowspeak, Andy Animal of the MetalAsia Music Festival and Doug Wygal of Rocket #9 Records in Uptown Kingston. A $200 cash prize courtesy of Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz and Rocket #9 is up for grabs. Brooklyn-based garage rock band Twin Guns will open the show.
Jonathan Toubin’s Soul Clap and Dance-Off comes to the front room at BSP Kingston at 323 Wall Street in Kingston for the fifth time on Saturday, December 13 from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Advance tickets cost $7; tickets at the door cost $10. For more information, visit: https://bspkingston.com/?event=soul-clap-w-dj-jonathan-toubin.