When you go to a museum, nobody really talks about who the curator is. When you pick up a book to read, it's not because you're thinking about who edited it. But when you go out dancing, the first question anyone asks is: Who's the DJ?
The disc jockey selects the music and can single-handedly make the difference between a forgettable night and one in which you dance the soles of your shoes away. While DJs in electronic music culture have become megasuperstars netting hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single performance, the majority of people running the ones and twos are just like you and me, music aficionados and record collectors. They get this title almost simply out of a yearning to share their collection with others.
James Brown's Sweat is just such a specimen. Born Nicholas Dewey, the vinyl junkie was raised in Hialeah and now resides in West Palm Beach. His passion for record-collecting began at a young age. "As a teenager, records were cheaper than CDs. Now it's flipped," he told New Times. "I'd shop at Uncle Sam's and Larry's. A lot of stores have closed down and then reopened, like Radio-Active, which started out as nothing and now has become the main hub for records here."
And you're all wondering, why the name? "I'm anti DJ names," Dewey explains. "I wanted a name that wasn't DJ something-something. I laughed when I thought about James Brown's sweat, and I thought it looked cool on posters." Dewey got his start DJ'ing when designing fliers for promotions company Slammie Productions in the early 2000s. Now, since he spends his days running the vintage furniture company Modern Historic, he DJs only occasionally as "a way to play a lot of fun music and to get a bunch of people dancing and hanging out."
Many other local collectors of pressed wax will be throwing James Brown's Sweat a "rum-soaked" birthday party at Mai-Kai on Saturday. Among those manning the turntables will be Dee Jay Sensitive Side, Mikey "Killer" Ramirez, Action Pat, and Big Money T, as well as the birthday boy himself. There's a late-night half-off happy hour, and the sounds will range from soul to garage to punk.
His musical tastes, as his name suggests, run toward the sounds of yesteryear. James Brown Sweat's collection specializes in rockabilly and '50s R&B. "I buy LPs mostly. My most valuable ones are probably Elvis Presley's second LP. I picked it up at a garage sale in pretty mint condition. I got an old Gene Vincent-signed LP and some girl group stuff like the Ronettes that I found sitting behind a store's counter," Dewey says. "My best score recently was some Blue Note jazz I found at a little no-name shop."
Though the DJ tends to go for the older stuff, there are a couple of exceptions. "I'll buy Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys' new stuff. He's the most authentic current rockabilly artist," he says. "And anything put out by the Norton record label."
He was pretty excitable when talking about his record collection, which made us wonder how large it actually is. Coming up with an answer gave him pause. "You know, my wife could tell you better, since I call it collecting and she calls it hoarding. Maybe 1,800 LPs and 500 45s. It's enough to not walk around easily in the house." But when asked if he had the largest stockpile among his friends, he quickly said no. "Mikey [Ramirez] owns Radio-Active Records. But even without the store, his house is like wall-to-wall records. Instead of wallpaper, he has records."
James Brown's Sweat. Rum Soaked Birthday Bash with Dee Jay Sensitive Side, Mikey "Killer" Ramirez, Action Pat, and Big Money T. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, January 10, at Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. No cover, and happy hour is 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Call 954-563-3272, or visit maikai.com.
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