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This DJ Played for 24 Hours Straight at Mardi Gras

24 Red Bull and vodkas, one granola bar, and a slice of pizza later...
March 12, 2014, 6:48pm

Photo credit: Aubrey Edwards

The other day I was lingering the Facebook page of DJ / photographer Musa Alves because, obviously, I wanted to see what she was wearing at Mardi Gras. In the course of my lurking, I scrolled past a post about her DJ partner, Joey Buttons, in which she briefly described a 24-hour-long DJ set that he had just finished playing. Naturally, I had a million question to ask him, starting with "What the fuck is wrong with you?" So I hunted him down, and found out the secret to his success—this man drank 24 Red Bull and vodka cocktails.

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A marathon set like this is rare in times like these. Before the Ultra explosion, DJs like Jonathan Peters and Danny Tenaglia used to advertise 12-hour sets during Miamis' Winter Music Conference, and DJs at clubs in New York and Chicago in the 80s and 90s were notorious for extremely long gigs that stretched from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon. Sometimes, the sets went as long as 20 hours, which begs the question: does anyone actually dance to this the entire time? The answer is: probably. These days, festival DJs tend to play for an hour or 90 minutes—with the obvious exception of jocks like Ricardo Villalobos, who might play five songs that last all night.

THUMP: OK, first things first. Who are you?
Joey Buttons: I am Joey Buttons. I'm a musician, producer, DJ, analog synth addict, obsessive record collector, and co- founder of the Disko Obscura record label. I'm also a member of the bands ((PRESSURES)) and the Buttons.

Where do you DJ?
No regular gigs; I just DJ when I feel like it. My favorite places to DJ in New Orleans are The Saint and Big Daddy's.

What made you want to DJ for 24 hours?
It's something I've wanted to do for a few years now. However, I think it's important to stress that the idea is not just to DJ for 24 hours, but to destroy a packed dancefloor for 24 hours. There's a big difference. Anybody with iTunes and a bottle of NoDoz can "DJ" for 24 hours.

I think the idea first surfaced when I went to Berlin with my wife—she's from there—a few years ago, and went to Berghain for the first time. I was amazed there was a club of that scale that stayed opened all weekend and was packed the entire time from Friday to Monday. I thought 'I could totally DJ this party the entire weekend by myself.' That's how it all got started, I guess. However, in New Orleans we don't have the population to sustain a party on such a massive scale, but I figured I could pull it off for at least 24 hours during Mardi Gras—midnight Lundi Gras to midnight Mardi Gras—It's the only time during the year in New Orleans where one could potentially have a packed dance floor for 24 hours. Obviously, the dance floor wasn't packed the entire time like I envisioned, it but it was for a good 16+ hours.

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Another big driving force behind the idea is that I'm sitting on a mountain of killer funk records that I rarely get to play out, so Mardi Gras provides the perfect platform for me to unleash them all. I actually dragged my DJ friend, Otto, into the idea because I knew he could totally pull it off in case we had the chance to go 24. We both originally started the night DJing together at Mimi's, but we split up: I went across the street to DJ at Big Daddy's, and Otto stayed at Mimi's. We both ended up DJing 24 hours at our respective places."

What was the first song of the night?
Those Norwegians' "Dom B. Sensi."

What about the last song of the night?
Angelo Tinsley's "Get Down With Me."

Did you repeat any songs?
The original idea was that I wouldn't repeat a single song, but I repeated a few songs because I had friends that showed up later who wanted to hear certain things that I had played earlier, or people just wanted to hear the same song twice.

Did use any substances to stay awake?
I didn't want to rely heavily on drugs to get through the 24; I wanted to rely more on the music, friends, and Mardi Gras Celebration to get me through it. I only take what is offered, and I never seek them out, so I was totally prepared to go sober if necessary. However, if you're doing Mardi Gras right, someone is bound to offer you drugs at some point, so I had a little—but not enough to give me an unfair advantage. Here's the breakdown of my intake more or less during the 24:

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24 Red Bull/vodka cocktails (1 per hour)
2 crown and Cokes
1 tequila shot
1 slice of pizza
1 granola bar
2 bumps of coke
1 mushroom, stem and cap

Thankfully, my friends had the sense to throw me a slice of pizza and a granola bar, otherwise I wouldn't have eaten anything.

How many times did you have to pee?
[Laughs] Not many—I think about five times total. I was standing and moving the entire time, so I think I sweated a lot of it out. There was one really long stretch where I held it in because there was some girl on a bad trip blocking the bathroom, and she wouldn't let anyone in.

Was there a time that you thought to yourself, "Maybe this was a terrible idea?"
NEVER. In fact, I couldn't believe it was happening. In all honesty, I never planned on DJing for 24 hours when I first went out that night. It sounded as though it could be pouring rain all day, so I thought I might DJ until noon at the latest. It's important to stress that this was a completely spontaneous event; I didn't tell anybody [about it], make an event on Facebook, or really even plan for it—it just kind of happened. I knew by 5 PM on Mardi Gras evening that I was going [to do] the full 24, because the place was packed with no signs of letting up, and my friends started chanting that I was going 24 hours. The bad weather also played a huge role in making my Mardi Gras dream come true, because no one wanted to go outside. They just wanted to stay inside the bar and dance the whole time.

What did you do the second you were finished?
Hugged my crazy friends.

What advice can you give to anyone planning to DJ for 24 hours straight?
Do it only if you have people on the dance floor for the majority of the time, otherwise its just pathetic and doesn't really mean anything. Also, keep wasteoids at a distance—some wasted girl spilled her drink on the right channel of my controller, and it stopped working, so I had to DJ the remainder of the night on only one channel. I was lucky, because if both channels had gone out, then it would have all ended there with a broken controller and no story to tell.

When's the next one?
Whenever Berghain flies Otto and I over.

Connect with Joey Buttons on Mixcloud
Connect with Joey's friend Otto on Mixcloud