He's so Unusual
Lono Brazil revives the spirit of the Loft in Bucktown.
The most reliably tasteful dance party in the city, Disco Unusual Social Club, has been running for just over a year now. Indie kids pack the compact Danny’s Tavern floor to the distinctive bass lines of disco edits while DJ Lono Brazil blows whistles and passes out tambourines. Things get a little nuts.
“I’ve been lucky. Most of the things I’ve dreamt about, I’ve been able to do,” says fortysomething Gold Coaster Brazil without exaggeration. Raised in the South Shore/Windsor Park section of Chicago, Brazil spent much of the ’80s as a downtown New York personality, throwing parties with Pete Rock and Red Alert for Russell Simmons and Def Jam Records in New York, England and Tokyo. At the suggestion of his chums the Beastie Boys, Capitol-EMI hired him as a marketing director, then label executive. When he wasn’t exploring the dance halls of Kingston with Mad Cobra or working in the studio with Foxy Brown, he was picking up prominent DJ and modeling gigs.
Brazil’s latest venture, the monthly DUSC at Danny’s, comes out of his life as a fervent clubber—which began at Tree of Life Health Spa’s disco on 95th and Jeffery in 1981. Brazil worked his way to the Warehouse (U.S. Studio) where Frankie Knuckles was making electronic-dance history. “That did it for me. I found my place and my music,” Brazil says. In mid-’80s Manhattan, Brazil stayed up all night at the Loft and indulged in dance marathons at the Paradise Garage.
Over the course of the ’90s, Brazil was a resident at Tokyo megaclub Gold’s and hosted the popular Global Village radio show, bringing Fela Kuti and Nuyorican Soul to Los Angeles listeners on Monday mornings. Yet, he considers deejaying only a sideline.
Back in Chicago, Brazil returned to party throwing with the Urban Renewal Project at Sonotheque, focusing on Afro, Latin and nu-jazz. Burned out on hip-hop a decade ago, he’s based DUSC on a passion for the free-ranging underground sounds of his early club years. He even sports a David & Nicky & Larry & Frankie T-shirt celebrating his DJ muses.
It’s not just disco music; it’s the disco era he’s after. Brazil cites David Mancuso, the curator of seminal ’70s spot the Loft, as a role model. “I don’t say I’m a DJ; I say I’m a music host—the music, the place, the people are all a part of it,” he says. Like Mancuso, Brazil looks for an eclectic mix of music-focused people, not the look-at-me crowd that fancies bottle-service joints. At boho neighborhood joint Danny’s, he’s found his niche. The vinyl-oriented programmers there even allow Brazil to use his Serato and laptop rig.
Paradise Garage great Larry Levan’s free-ranging style provides a stylistic sonic template—Brazil spins vintage dance music, mostly pre-’84 material, not just disco but also Italo, mutant disco and classics from the Prelude and West End labels, along with disco edits and nu-disco from Lee Douglas, perhaps with an Obama speech layered on top. Like Levan, he doesn’t fuss over beat matching. The night’s overarching mantra comes courtesy of Mancuso himself, says Brazil: “Disco just means come ready to dance.”
Sweat it out at Disco Unusual Social Club on Saturday 13 at 11pm at Danny’s Tavern.