Head Spins: Johnny Strokes

The hip-hop heavy marks a year of Exposure.

Monday-night clubgoing has always been for a particularly hearty breed of night crawler. Most venues are closed, which frees the industry insiders from their usual spots behind the bar, in the booth, at the door, or in the back office. And because it's the beginning of the workweek, there's very little chance an amateur is gonna venture out and about. So the society outsider is much more likely to make the scene too. Naturally, neither caste will want to hit a joint that's not 100 percent hipster-approved, which puts the fakers and the fly-by-nights out of the game from the get-go.

All of this means that the makeup of a Monday-night party will be generally limited to the keenest, most discriminating, and least inhibited among us. And if you're going to succeed in throwing such a thing, you better be pretty keen, discriminating, and uninhibited your own damn self.

DJs and promoters Andrews Lorenzana and Rafael DeOnate know this, and so do White Room owners Luis Fonseca and Rene Rigau. That's why, one full year ago, the first pair brought its weekly Exposure party to the second pair's club. Monday nights haven't been the same since.

Johnny Strokes spins his mind.
Johnny Strokes spins his mind.

In fact, Exposure is about the maddest indie-sex-sleaze-glam blowout in town. It's furiously fast, uproariously frenzied, and belovedly out of control. And much of that action comes on account of a cat named Johnny Strokes, who takes over the outdoors at White Room and gives it the kind of gritty city beat best pumped from the barrel of a diamond-racked shotgun.

Strokes stumbled upon his moniker the way all happily mad men do — by trying to come up with a bad-ass tag for his first-born. That the kid wasn't even in the picture didn't matter, but envisioning the kid did. "I thought Johnny Strokes was the perfect name for a rambunctious, smart-ass little skater kid... and possible future porn star," Strokes says. "Needless to say, the name stuck and here we are today."

Indeed. After seven insane years of cohosting a party called Spiderpussy, Strokes knows all about sticking. That fete jumped through four venues before finally finding its place at the old Soho Lounge. And the party still strikes a sort of spark in Strokes, even though it's long dead. "That was where I started spinning in the first place," he says. "We couldn't really afford DJs, so me and Andrews did it ourselves. You know, the whole DIY punk approach, put to party-throwing."

Those days were also marked, for Strokes, by an open-format residency at Mynt, as well as one-offs at just about every joint on South Beach. But Strokes is the kind of DJ who spins his mind, and in these more nervous times, very few club owners have the courage to see eye-to-eye with a cat like that.

So Strokes now goes it on his own, creating the kind of place he'd go to himself. And he does it either alongside longtime partner Andrews or in venues that are happening enough to have him.

The latest additions to Strokes's DJ line-up are the Thursday-night party Shake at the Vagabond and the Sunday-night party Joy at the Catalina. The Vagabond spot gives Strokes an opportunity to further enforce his brutally fun brand of hip-hop. Which is to say that — as at his Monday-night throwdowns — you're as likely to hear Cool Kids and Yung L.A. as you are to hear Gang Starr and Nas.

At the Catalina, though, Strokes is on to new disco, a kick that includes the likes of 2020Soundsystem, Crazy P, and Dance Disorder. This being South Beach instead of the mainland, things are best kept sunny and bright, even if it is in the dark of night. But Strokes puts a nice, dirty spin on all of that glistening.

Still, it is for Exposure that this head spinner is now best known. And to get the vibe of that party, picture the Players Ball from The Mack all done up in indie credibility. Or imagine The Last Days of Disco stripped of all the artifice and seen through a decidedly downtown prism. Better yet, rest upon the notion that those who crawl by this night are just the kind of cats and kittens you're looking for. Whatever you do, however you see it, just move. And remember that when you do so, Johnny Strokes is the DJ driving it all home.

DJ Johnny Strokes's top five hip-hop tracks:

1. "F#ck the Police," Jay Dee

2. "Hustlin'," Rick Ross

3. "Hip-Hop," Dead Prez

4. "Int'l. Players Anthem," UGK feat. OutKast

5. "Next Level (DJ Premier Remix)," Showbiz and A.G.

 
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