Serving up seven inches of soul

Jonathan Toubin gives you the Clap

When he’s touring Jonathan Toubin doesn’t check his luggage prior to boarding a plane anymore. After all he’s learned his lesson: While flying with Turkish Air the venerable soul DJ checked a crate with hundreds of vinyl rarities. And when he arrived in Tel Aviv to play a show everyone’s luggage tumbled down the carousel — except his own.

“It was super hopeless” recalls Toubin from a pit stop in Kingston N.Y. “If you play guitar you can always borrow another. But if you play records and they don’t show up there’s no gig. Anyhow somehow they found them and got them to me right before I went [onstage].”

Even beyond losing a gig Toubin’s cargo would’ve been in essence irreplaceable. In the various DJ nights he heads he trades in rarities spinning early R&B doo-wop rockabilly and garage 45s. His love of the genre runs so deep that in his first visit to Calgary he hit up Recordland before even checking into his hotel.

For Soul Clap the night Toubin will be bringing to The Palomino he’ll be focusing on his soul collection (duh). In his words he’ll be playing “all of the great black 1960s music that comes after R&B jump and rock ’n’ roll… but before it becomes funk” but he won’t be bringing hundreds of rarities — rather for the evening he’ll be bringing roughly 70 7-inches which when he’s flying he’ll tuck under the seat in front of him.

“I’ll have less choices but I’ll have to be more creative with how I use them” says Toubin. “You just pretty much need to make sure that there’s not one record in there that’s not amazing.”

Easier said than done. But Toubin’s up for the task; he’s known for both his curatorial skill and his ability to start a party. While much-loved labels like Burger Records and Sacred Bones have released Toubin’s mixes he’s built his name with New York Night Train his New York-gone-global series of parties. His nights are legendary for their ’60s-inspired aesthetic high-profile guest DJs (K Records’ Calvin Johnson anyone?) and a dance contest complete with celebrity judges.

His reputation as a party-starter too has led him around the world. He’s played boats floating through Venice. He’s played a 65-year-old’s birthday party. He has his own showcase at SXSW this year. He’s playing Burgerama festival. And in Calgary he’s technically heading a concert — local garage faves Fist City The Nancees and the Pygmies share the bill with Toubin.

“I like it to be a community event” he says. We ask him who he’s selecting as judges. “The promoters and venues tend to select the judges. I know that my friends Tubby [Jon Truch of Tubby Dog] and Carl [Cassidy of Sunday Best] are both amazing Calgary DJs will be involved in some capacity though!”

But for the evening’s vintage vibes — right down to the bands on the bill who all play a variation of time-tested rock ’n’ roll — Toubin doesn’t want us to label his night retro. “I basically see old records as tools to achieve the same means that somebody with a computer and some new pop hits has” he says. “It’s just I don’t like mp3s or new pop hits. But if I did I’d play that stuff. I play this kind of music not to achieve some sort of nostalgia or retro vibe but rather because I think it’s the best stuff ever.”