How does one bridge Lundi Gras all-nighters and bleary-eyed early morning Mardi Gras parties and parades? For starters, don't sleep. Joey Buttons — longtime DJ, producer and musician behind several niche-filling New Orleans proto-disco and obscure funk outfits — continues an annual tradition of DJing for 24 hours, at least, long after the parades have ended, starting as soon as Lundi Gras parties start to wind down.
"It's 6 in the morning and people are asking, 'Where do we go?'" he says. "It seemed to make sense to do it."
His 24-hour set begins at 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16 at One Eyed Jacks, where Bywater garage-rock maestro Quintron and Miss Pussycat reign over their annual Lundi Gras show. New Orleans bounce icon Ricky B and Goner Records garage punks Nots also are on the bill. After the bands, Buttons continues spinning through Mardi Gras night.
The marathon was partially inspired by weekend-long parties throughout club-cultured Berlin (where his wife Kathi grew up) and routinely tested at his frequent DJ nights at The Saint, which have lasted until 9 a.m.
"Once you do that for a few years, six hours becomes nothing, really," he says. "I'll want to keep going. I have more songs to play. I haven't had a chance to play something. ... If I don't play certain things it's because the crowd hasn't gotten there. During Mardi Gras, especially over 24 hours, there's more of a chance to get there."
Buttons' unpredictable sets — intended to keep the dance floor full without just hitting play on a laptop — span forgotten Italo-disco, Afro-funk, synth-heavy future funk and other unsung dance artists lost to time.
"If you knew what was going to happen and it was totally predictable, it wouldn't be fun," he says. "I get the most joy when someone comes up to me and I can tell this is not what they were expecting."
Note: Don't wave around the Shazam app.
"People should expect 24 hours of stuff that, for the most part, they've never heard of, because that's what I'm into — artists who are overlooked," he says. "It's highlighting these artists and supporting them, even if it's just playing their music."
So how does one stay awake?
"It's rough when you're really getting into it, when your head's bobbing or your foot's moving — all those little movements over a 24-hour period take a toll on the body," he says. "I can easily do it without any drugs or anything, but, you know, it's Mardi Gras."
Buttons also is one half of the duo (along with longtime collaborator Mike Mayfield) behind the fully analog New Orleans electronic outfits The Buttons, ((Pressures)), Pink Fink and Creeper, among others, drawing inspiration from icy, minimal synth pop and analog synthesizer-driven disco — more often than not surrounded by smoke-machine clouds obscuring their racks of vintage synths and drum machines.
Those bands make up the bulk of the label Disko Obscura, which itself began as a DJ night.
"Before the Internet, we grew up in our own little bubble of what we were exposed to, then people started posting stuff from all over the world — stuff that was so amazing and I never knew existed," Buttons says. "I became obsessed with collecting these records, stuff that was overlooked and underappreciated."
The label streams its releases on its website (www.diskoobscura.com) and produces vinyl versions, and it now has a storefront at 1113B St. Mary St., which it shares with Tchoup Industries and DVRA. The Disko Obscura racks also offer releases from like-minded artists and labels. Disko Obscura's next release is from the John Carpenter-esque, horror soundtrack-inspired Creeper, due out later this month.
He admits the "24-hour" tag is a bit of a gimmick — he'll more likely shoot for 27 hours to make up for the lost time between the first needle drop and the end of the concert sets.
"It's not about the length of time," he says. "If that's what you're focused on, you obviously don't get it. It's a good way to promote it and make it a 'thing.' I could easily do more if I wanted to. The record is totally untouchable, unless you want to go clinically insane."
(The Guinness World Record belongs to Polish DJ Norberto Loco, whose set lasted 200 hours — more than eight days straight — at The Underground Temple Bar in Dublin, Ireland last November.)
"But who wants to stay up and play a bunch of crappy songs?" he says. "It's about 24 hours of a super quality set, killer songs one after another, all day long."