There you are, lying helpless, completely unscathed and dressed to the nines in the trunk of a ’94 Lincoln. Dancing shoes rest comfortably on your feet—not a worn-out sole on them. It’s pitch black and the sound of James Brown’s “Doing it to Death” escapes the speakers, echoing its way through the cab. The urge to dance falls over you, and just as you find a cramped groove to that classic beat—the car stops. Footsteps slowly make their way around to the back—the trunk pops open … Payback.
Now you might not know it, but on the second Saturday night of every month DJs spin 45-inch vinyl records for a dedicated group of folks who can be found gathered and all dressed up, bustin’ a move to classic oldies from the “golden age” of music.
It’s a night that has remained relatively undiscovered, and for two years running Andrés “Dre” Adauto and DJ Emmett White have been bringing the Payback—Flag’s most indelible dance party and the easiest night to look sharp, let loose and get down, period.
The night was first visualized by White, who was looking for a way to play an older style of music that wasn’t being played elsewhere in town—a “real loose” style he says that is almost like a different art form that demands more of the DJ, requiring some creative mixing approaches because it’s an era before drum machines and click tracks.
“I remember listening to a mix by Philadelphia-based DJ Cosmo Baker [back in 2008] recorded live, and man, those are some vibes,” White says. “It’s three hours long, and the mixing isn’t perfect because it can’t be, but the way he does it shows so much love and respect for that music. I felt inspired.”
After hearing Baker, along with inspiration drawn from years of watching his good buddy and talented fellow DJ De La Mar mix older records, the principle idea was born.
From that moment on the mission was to set it off.
“I wanted it [Payback] to be different, to push people a little bit—to ‘raise the bar,’ so to speak,” White says. “I love Flag, but we get pretty comfy here. I wanted to take people out of their element and show them they could have a great time doing something different … not just another night at the bars.”
He decided it should be a dress-up event—to get people in the mood—so he needed a host to hype it up. For that, he approached Adauto, who, he says, is the key element to Payback’s success. Without him the night would not have popped off like it did.
“I went to Incahoots and pitched the idea to Dre,” White says. “He loves old music, soul and stuff, dresses his a** off … he was down immediately. So, I walked a half block over to Charly’s. Since nobody had done DJ stuff there before it was like a blank slate, and I thought the ambience fit our theme. I introduced myself to Matt Bial, the general manager, told him what I did around town and my idea of doing this thing on second Saturdays, and he was like, ‘let's do it.’ I walked out of there in less than five minutes with three months of our new party booked!”
“The best deals go down on the streets,” Adauto remarks.
Since that day the two have put together an impressive throwback evening full of simple, honest good times matched with some of the best oldie tracks spanning from the ‘50s through the ‘70s—songs like “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals, “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue” by Dion, and James Brown’s “Doing it to Death,” which White considers Payback’s theme song.
However, Adauto admits it wasn’t easy at first.
It took a while to come up with a moniker, attendance was on and off, people didn’t show up until midnight and they weren’t really into the idea of getting dressed up. But after more and more nights and the word spreading, it began to pick up steam. Now people get there early, regularly dress for the occasion and make a full night of it.
“Flag needed a reason to get all their swank clothes off the hangers, wear down the soles of their shoes and dance to all the soul and funk that is timeless and fun,” Adauto says. “It asks a lot. The demand is high, but the reward is there.”
As Payback rolled out, White and DJ buddy De La Mar were the first at the helm, and over the course of its two- year life has seen a number of talented guest DJs and classic music aficionados bring their own style to the table.
DJs like the Flag native Portillo brothers (also known as DJ Nomad and Mr. Ugly), a couple crazy diggers with intimidating record collections who play purely vinyl; classic music and vinyl buffs Zoe Whitehouse and Marc Matera; Flag native and now-Los Angeles-based itinerant DJ Jason “Screamin’ Jay” Moore along with a number of established local DJs such as Reflex, Soe, Acidisco and Jahmontee have all contributed.
DJ Smite, another hardcore vinyl head and talented DJ has also made his mark at Payback by sampling and remixing on the spot, and playing what DJs call, “deep crates,” meaning he's always got hot tracks crowds have never heard before.
And when it comes to the music, it’s an era that hits home and holds a certain familiarity. Sure, songs are classic and old, but in the same accord, timeless. A song previously never experienced can be heard for the first time and people connect with it. It’s a shared cultural heritage.
“You may only hear that particular song once, and you may not hear it again for a month, but you absorb it,” White says. “It’s a familiarity that never gets old.”
In the end, it’s simple. Payback is, for one night, a special occasion for kindred spirits to come together and break free—to feel good. A sort of shared transformative experience full of energy, good times and paying respect to some of the most classic tunes ever put to record. Or as Adauto so eloquently puts it, a night to “dress impeccably, dance remarkably and drink irresponsibly.”
Come out and get yours this Sat. Oct, 13 during Payback at Charly’s, 23 N. Leroux. Music kicks off at 9 p.m. with DJs Emmett White and De La Mar, who is returning for one night following an extended break from the Payback. Dress swank or pay the bank. Free admission for the dressed up and $5 at the door for the dressed down. For more information, dial 779-1919.
To read recent Flag Live cover story features, see www.flaglive.com/index.cfm?section=cover.