“It was a whimsical decision based on a deep love of the music,” Magee says.
Two months later, In the Cooky Jar (named after Magee’s DJ handle Cooky Parker) began running monthly at the converted Sellwood funeral parlor. Although Magee—a musician who plays with Loch Lomond and Y La Bamba and co-founded the Portland Ukulele Project—has essentially been learning on the job ever since, over the last year the night has grown into one of the city’s most popular soul dance parties. Its success is due in no small part to Magee’s beginner’s enthusiasm, which often brings him out from behind the turntables and to the dance floor himself.
“I DJ all by myself,
for five hours straight. Every record is hand-picked for the night,” he
says. “I have to run out to the parking lot for pee breaks during
records that are more than a minute and a half long.”
WW: Why soul music?
Scott Magee: I had gone out dancing to different types of music before, and by far the most fun I had was going to other DJs’ soul nights. Nothing else makes me want to stay on the dance floor for hours. So I got hooked experiencing it on the other end. I knew it was going to be difficult to get a collection together so soon. I was going to download some stuff, play some LPs and 45s, and some stuff off my laptop or iPod. I started shopping, buying LPs, but then something clicked when I started finding 45s. There’s a real magical quality to them. People wouldn’t appreciate it as much if someone was just up there with a computer.
What separates your soul night from the others in town?
One thing is the Woods. It’s a fantastic venue for dancing with a great sound system. There’s a huge wooden dance floor, and it just feels really good in that room. Also, because I’m so brand new at everything, my wide-eyed optimism for it somehow translates. In the end, I hope it comes down to my taste in the records I play. Anyone could play any number of soul records, but there’s something in the choices you make and the order you play them in.
What are some of your favorite records to spin?
“Something for You Baby” by Mary B. It’s pretty rare—I’ve seen it on eBay once. And “Stand Up Like a Man” by Bettye LaVette. That record is pretty edgy. You have to play it at the right time. The horns are out of tune, and it’s an angry song. But it’s one of the reasons why I got so hooked on the music. It’s criminally underrated. I could never get sick of that song.
SEE IT: DJ Cooky Parker spins Friday, March 4, at the Woods.
9 pm. $3. 21+.