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DJ Jonathan Toubin has an affinity for classic vinyl, but his tastes aren't stuck in a groove

Chad Swiatecki
DJ Jonathan Toubin will be spinning soulful records at Red 7 on Saturday. Toubin, who attended the University of Texas, used to play in underground rock bands.

While explaining his reputation as a foremost digger and collector of classic, hard-to-find vinyl records and how that reputation can get him miscast as a sort-of fetishist for days gone by, DJ Jonathan Toubin starts to unspool something that's more humorous than a lecture and too good-natured to be a rant.

The nut of it: It's easy for DJs to focus narrowly and show off their expertise on one specific sound, era or ethos rather than doing whatever they can to keep clubs packed and churning.

"Lots of people who are into older records aren't into any other stuff," he said. "I'm not so much into purely old records as much as I'm into finding lots of smaller subcultures and the songs in them, and figuring out how that fits into the stuff of everyday life."

The observation that he sounds like a moonlighting anthropologist is followed by a quick but pregnant silence, then an uneasy chuckle.

"Oh. Sorry."

Toubin needn't apologize. His enthusiastic embrace of music from every nook and cranny of America past and present is part of the reason the Houston native has become one of the most respected DJs in not just his now home of New York, but in many parts of the world.

His New York Night Train parties that feature him spinning 7-inch records of rock, soul and a whole lot more are some of the most well-regarded nightlife events in that city. A similar reputation follows his Soul Clap parties, the more soul-focused night he brings to Red 7 on Saturday, along with blues punks the Crack Pipes and a dance contest DJ'd by local punk rock lifer Tim Kerr.

The event will mark Toubin's first trip back to his home state since a freak accident in December when a taxi crashed into his Portland, Ore., hotel room before a gig, leaving him pinned underneath the vehicle with a cracked skull and most of his torso crushed.

He recovered miraculously fast and was back performing by April — a series of benefit shows across the country helped to defray some of his gigantic medical bills — and he doesn't belabor what he went through when asked how he's feeling. A few words about the annoyance of DJ'ing without the hearing aids since his ears have been slow to heal, but mostly he's on to gushing about the fun he's having at the two-to-three gigs he's appearing at each week.

And it doesn't take much to get him reminiscing about his early '90s years as a student at the University of Texas, where he found his musical beginnings. Those were the days when he DJ'd at UT's KTSB student radio station and played in a string of underground rock bands that would swindle their way into gigs at the folk-centric Cactus Café until more accommodating venues like the Cavity Club and Emo's opened.

"We did whatever we could because there were no choices for us and we had to figure it out," he said.

"I'm excited to have the Crack Pipes there because they were around from back in those days and the same goes for Tim Kerr, because all the bands he was in like the Lord High Fixers were part of that counterculture there that was all about throw your own party and do your own thing. That still holds up."

Jonathan Toubin's Soul Clap