Jonathan Toubin: The NYC DJ should you know

Toubin goes for an air-swim. Credit: Alexander Thompson
Toubin goes for an air-swim.
Credit: Alexander Thompson

Jonathan Toubin’s New York Night Train parties are synonymous with NYC nightlife. He took the boring old formula of a DJ spinning songs for jaded twenty-somethings at a bar and created an all-out dance party that runs on soul 45s, adrenaline and style. And he’s well-respected in the biz too: Last year Toubin became the first DJ to have an entire night at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing, and he was the first DJ to have an entire official SXSW showcase . He moved his Soul Clap & Dance Off party from Glasslands to Brooklyn Bowl, toured Europe, spun in Australia and has continued to grow his parties more and more with time. By incorporating a variety of talented guests like hula-hoopers, visual artists and go-go dancers into his shows, he keeps his parties exciting and new. Did we mention he’s also a really nice guy?

Toubin got his start as a guitar player in Austin, Texas. After moving to New York he began spinning at Motor City Bar weekly, with special guests like Bob Bert of Sonic Youth/Pussy Galore and Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, quickly earning a solid reputation in the industry. Before long he quit his day job to fully embrace his newfound career. In years since Toubin has featured guests like legendary NYC No Wave artist James Chance, The Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, party machine Andrew W.K. and more.

Not bad for an artist whose first gig made him feel “very lucky.” “I got paid $35 and [got] free beer,” he says. At the time he considered himself more of an “anti-record collector” with no aspirations of becoming a DJ. Now, well into his DJ career, he has chosen to strictly spin 45 records. “I decided that I would try to become the kind of DJ I would like to see, hear and dance to the most,” he says.

Toubin’s nights can be characterized by the creaking floorboards beneath the dance shoes of every attendee. The sounds of ‘50s and ‘60s soul permeate — music he was turned on to at a young age when his stepdad gave him the first two 13th Floor Elevators albums, Love’s first record and Pink Floyd’s “Saucer Full of Secrets.” He bought the first two Nuggets punk comps and sought out records by the little-known ‘60s bands on them. He got into blues and soul music by watching the “Blues Brothers,” “Animal House,” and Eddie Murphy’s “James Brown Celebrity Hot Tub” Saturday Night Live sketch.

“I think it’s fitting that John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and Eddie Murphy introduced me to soul music, as the aesthetic of the Soul Clap and Dance-Off parties has always been none-too-precious,” says Toubin.

From the ashes

In December 2011, Toubin was the victim of a freak accident at the Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon. At about 11 a.m. a cab driver went into a seizure and crashed through the hotel into Toubin’s room, pinning him under the car. He suffered a host of injuries including a punctured liver, crushed lungs and fractures in his skull, but made a quick recovery and was back behind the decks in May of 2012.

“It gave me a lot more perspective and I gained back my abilities and my focus and I think after some time, I surpassed myself on every level,” he says.

If you go

Jonathan Toubin can be found spinning on almost any given night. His signature Shakin’ All Over Under Sideways Down parties weekly at Home Sweet Home, his monthly Soul Clap & Dance Off parties at Brooklyn Bowl and numerous other events are listed on his website


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