In my sloppy early 20s, you had to chain me to the radiator to keep me from going out every single night. Bars like Balanca’s and the Empire Room threw ongoing weekday dance parties that attracted thirsty crowds. In those blurry, Stoli-infused years, I probably danced poorly to the Cure‘s “Boys Don’t Cry” and Joy Division‘s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” around 23,015 times.
Now I’m a little older, and I try to reserve playtime for the weekends. Still, every once in a while, I’m lured to some DJ gig on a Tuesday night.
But I swear to Shiva, if I hear Robert Smith‘s caterwauling, about a lack of tears, blasting over the PA again, I’m gonna lose my shit. It’s played-the-fuck-out, seriously.
“Raspy” Josh Lacy couldn’t agree more.
This young DJ’s been spinning his eclectic but accessible blend of punk, funk and whatever else he fancies for four years. Instead of selecting the blaringly obvious picks, Lacy prefers to get the masses moving to B-sides and other lesser-known tracks.
But he’s not one of those maddening cats who gets off on stumping the crowd with some unheard-of garage band whose only release was 40 pressings of a 7-inch in 1963. He just likes to keep things interesting.
“If I didn’t change it up, I’d get bored with my own record collection,” he says.
Lacy’s been told that he resembles everyone from Sid Vicious to Alasdair Gillis (the charming little smartass from Nickelodeon kiddie sketch show You Can’t Do That on Television). Tall, thin and tattooed, he’s like most of the other rock-and-rollers trolling midtown, except he’s rocking a tracheotomy tube (hence the “Raspy” label).
The tube, visible as a little, boltlike
hole at the base of his throat, came after a nasty car accident when he was a teenager. Soon after that, Lacy was in an even nastier motorcycle crash that caused the loss of a kidney, plus damage to his lung, liver and ribs. Is he a walking catastrophe, or what?
“Yeah, I’ve fucked myself up a few times,” Lacy laughs. “I used to be accident-prone. I used to be a wreckless, death-wish motherfucker. Nowadays I’m trying to be an adult.”
The 25-year-old is growing up by going into business for himself as a sound designer and DJ. For now, he’s the regular Thursday-night thing at Balanca’s, alongside DJ partner Sweeney. He also makes sporadic appearances at Westport venues such as Karma and the Westport Beach Club.
He’s sticking to familiar territory, which means competing with other countless weekday throwdowns around town.
Lacy feels a kinship with DJ Cyan Meeks, the painted lady of “Black and Blue” Mondays at Karma. Cyan culls from the dark and kinky, selecting tracks from Nick Cave and Siouxsie Sioux. Like Lacy, she doesn’t always opt for the hits.
Then again, Lacy is also a fan of the Fuzzy Buddies, who are usually found at the Buzzard Beach Wednesday nights. Mark Mathison and Steve Tulipana spin a repertoire of old-school punk and metal bands. The two also engage in what seems like a contest to musically upset and outgross each other with songs that exceed being simple guilty pleasures. Think Europe‘s “Final Countdown” and Eazy E‘s “Gimme That Nut.”
“Those guys are so over-the-top, it’s a mockery,” Lacy says.
After all, there’s a delicate balance in orchestrating a smart but fun dance party.
“If a bunch of girls come in, I’ll throw something on that will make them dance. If it’s dudes, I’ll just let ’em get drunk and put on Tom Waits or whatever,” Lacy says.
Last week, Lacy had an engagement at the Beach Club. It had rained earlier that night, but the skies had cleared, and the weather was balmy and pleasant. People in shorts and Budweiser T-shirts played volleyball in the sand, but no one was on the dance floor yet.
Lacy kept the mood breezy with summer sounds, such as the Ventures’ surfed-up version of “Tequila.” When he played “Johnny Kick a Hole in the Sky” from the 1989 Red Hot Chili Peppers’ album Mother’s Milk, a girl started shaking it in the sand. She got so into the groove that when the ball came sailing to her side of the court, she missed it, costing her team a point.
Now that’s playing to your audience.