The After-Party: How DJ Colly T’s VIBE Helped Save Nightlife on Henderson Ave.

FrontRow presents a new series focusing on dance music.

The After-Party is a new series in which FrontRow contributor Michelle Ofiwe focuses on the intricacies of the North Texas dance music scene. Dallas has a history of internationally-relevant dance music culture, and while that will also be acknowledged, Ofiwe seeks to explore the current and often dynamic state of the genre in the region. For instance, dance weeklies are an often overlooked yet integral part of local nightlife, and they’re just one of the aspects that Ofiwe will spotlight. We begin with an interview with rising Henderson Avenue star, Colly T. — Christopher Mosley

For the average regularly-employed DJ, the repertoire must extend far outside of music. There are a variety of concerns that can trip up the time-sensitive process, and old-fashioned problem solving is just as essential as finding the balance between popular and obscure dance tracks. Luckily, solving problems comes easily to Colin Theall. Even as DJ Colly T, Theall is used to finding means to an end. After all, his interest in DJing first sparked during the hunt for a substitute DJ, compelling him to step up to the challenge; several years later, he speaks about his first residency, “Vibe,” with the same amount of determinism.

“One of the other things I’m focusing on with ‘Vibe’ is exposing people to the vast array of talented DJs and producers that are doing something different in Dallas,” he says. Since “Vibe” has played host to some of the newest members of the DJ scene, it seems that success is on the horizon.

Describing his weekly spot at the Beauty Bar as a home for “the darker side of dance music,” Theall spins a mix of house, disco, and drum’n’bass to the same “little niche” that congregates on his dance floor every Thursday night. His approach to “Vibe” is encouraging, not pushy—but ultimately, Theall just wants to make you dance. At the very least, he claims, he’ll be satisfied if you’re simply tapping your foot. If you’re looking to add an extra haunt to your Thursday night rotation, you might find seek out “Vibe.” 

We caught up with Beauty Bar’s newest attraction to talk about his residency, the Dallas DJ scene, and his future in Dallas.

D Front Row: How did you become interested in DJing and when did you first start DJing?

Colly T: I’ve liked dancing for as I can remember—everybody loves dancing. I think that as far as making the connection with DJing that came in college. I was a sophomore, and there was this Valentine’s Day party that some friends were trying to throw, but we didn’t have a DJ. We were trying to find somebody who would do it for free, and we were out of luck. So finally I was like, “Well, I’m gonna get a program and see if I can do it.” I pirated some really early version of Traktor, like the 2001 version or something.  They ended up finding a DJ but the interest stuck with me and I kept with it. From there I started getting into dance music and all the different genres and equipment. That was in 2009.

FR: When you’re not DJ-ing, what do you do in your daytime?

CT: I teach little kids gymnastics; it’s a lot of fun. I work at the Little Gym during the day,  and then when I’m not doing that I’m going out to support other DJs. There’s just a lot of things going on in a different night, and I try to plug into my scene as much as possible.

FR: Describe the first show you ever DJ’d by yourself.

CT: It was for a Dropclock show, for their one –year anniversary party. I had practiced in my room with my friends but I hadn’t actually played at an event or anything like that. It was actually a cool party. I opened up the night and had a blast and played for thirty something minutes or something like that.

FR: Is “Vibe” your first residency?

CT: Yeah, it’s my first weekly residency. Definitely a different experience.

FR: How so?

CT: It’s a lot of fun, but seven days is such a short amount of time. In that time you have to make sure your guest DJ is gonna show up, you have to make sure you have a flyer, you have to make sure the flier’s being disseminated, you have to make sure your photographer shows up. My weeks have gotten much, much shorter ever since I started doing “Vibe.” And I’m having a blast, and I knew I would, but I didn’t realize what it takes to keep up a weekly. I think a part of that has to do with the fact that I’m new to this and I’m learning as I go, but I don’t ever think it’s gonna be where I reach an equilibrium. I don’t think it’ll ever get old.

How do you put together playlists for “Vibe?”

CT: I’m usually pretty busy; I don’t have a whole lot of time to spend digging for stuff on the Internet like I used to. What I do these days is I download DJ mixes and I have it synced up to my phone and I’ll listen to all of that while I’m driving around, while I’m working. And I rate it, to say if I can play this or not.

What do you consider to be “Vibe’s” appeal?

CT: “Vibe” is really cool to me because when I started it, I wanted to start a cool, maybe-underground, but not necessarily popular for darker, deeper dance music that I was hearing a lot. I wasn’t hearing a lot of music I wanted to hear and I was given this opportunity, so I just took it. The interesting thing is watching it evolve into something big on its own, not just because of the music, but because of the people who have shown up. The absolute characters that have latched onto “Vibe” has just been so overwhelming. It’s really cool to see the kind of people who come out and support and say “This is our thing.” It’s developed into its own little niche and I love it. That’s cool for me to see. But yeah, I guess like my elevator pitch is: yeah, we have an unusual crowd, and there’s a darker music scene and we all love to dance.

FR: What do you spin in terms of genres?

CT: At “Vibe” I spin a lot of what I’ve just been calling “bass house.” A lot of it is just a bastardization of modern UK garage, but it’s not nearly as testosterone filled as what happens to dubstep. I spin a lot of Justin Martin, a lot of Dirty Bird stuff. A lot of Disclosure.

FR: When you’re invited to do a guest spot, is the music normally the same?

CT: It depends. If I sense that someone’s booking me because they like what I play, then I won’t change up my style. I’ll play what I like playing if that’s what they ask me to. But I have a wide array of taste as far as dance music goes, but if there was a disco night, I’d take an opportunity to play disco. It depends who I’m playing with, what I’m playing, what they’re looking for.

FR: Would you say that you have a specific style with DJing?

CT: I have goals but it kind of depends on who’s listening, for one. I  do want to be a tastemaker and I do want to have an original playlist. On t he other hand, I’m not going to subject people to a brand of music or something that just isn’t working. I’ve tried doing that before. You can keep trying to push it, but you could miss your crowd. I think as a weekly DJ you have to be adaptive, and I definitely pride myself on being adaptive.  As far as what I’m trying to be as a DJ, I’m just trying to maintain an original vision.

FR: What are your thoughts on the dance scene in Dallas?

CT: The dance scene in Dallas is flourishing. What I didn’t realize is that there’s a lot of different dance scenes—there’s the bigger venues that attract huge mobs of people  but only once in a while; there’s the Uptown crew; there’s the Knox-Henderson crowd. There’s some crossover there. It’s flourishing, but it lacks a couple of things, like credibility in other cities. I love Dallas, and I’m gonna be here a long time and I’m making it my personal goal to bump up Dallas, but I do think we’re sort of seen as a joke to other artists or other labels that don’t come here. We’re just sort of glazed over when it comes to tour dates. I think that can change and there are people I see doing a lot to change that and I respect them a lot and want to be part of them. Another thing that I can see changing some is just…a little bit more unity. And I don’t mean in a corny way—I mean we should talk about when we’re booking shows so we don’t have 5 things going on at once, cause that tends to happen a lot.

FR: I want to get back to what you said about the Dallas dance scene lacking credibility with other artists. The part about Dallas getting glossed over for tour dates: does that happen a lot?

CT: I mean, we definitely take a backseat to Austin as far as being seen as a musical or cultural haven of sorts. But I see the things that are going on Dallas and I see the people that are working to push that scene. I want bigger labels to see what I see. To do that, it’s gonna take a lot of work and a lot of thinking about how you want to make the right decisions with booking, with who you’re going to collaborate with. There’s a city of people here that support dance or that support cutting edge music. We’re not quite in that place yet, and I’m hoping to get some opportunities that will help that image, but I’m still on the up.

FR: What are you working on besides DJing?

CT: I’m starting to learn how to produce; I have Ableton and I’m messing around with it.  I’m also working on collaborating with a bunch of different DJs on shows. I’m really excited for this year because so many big things are coming together.

FR: Where do you hope to go with DJing?

CT: I don’t necessarily want to make a career out of DJing in and of itself. If I ever start producing, I could see myself doing that. I do know that I’m gonna be part of the dance scene for  a very, very long time. I enjoy being part of that scene, I enjoy helping it grow. Whether I’m a DJ or just a supporter I know I’m gonna be a part of that for a while.

VIBE is every Thursday night at Beauty Bar. 10 p.m., no cover, 21+.

Image: Colin Theall, at Sundown at Granada, February 2014. Credit: Blake Ward.