After thumbing through one of his 30 or so milk crates of vinyl records, Jonathan Graham slips one of the discs out, slides the jet-black vinyl record free of its sleeve and pops it on his turntable.
It doesn't matter which record he chooses—Graham's heard all the songs before. As DJ G, he's played them before too. And most of the crowd who comes to Hailey's on Thursday nights have heard the songs before, as well.
Yet hundreds of people show up every Thursday night, some of them dressed in their best Reagan-era outfits, to shake their asses on the dance floor to music from the '80s.
"There's '80s music, and then there's good '80s music," Graham says. "To me '80s music is not just a novelty. It's a nostalgic kind of thing, yeah, but it's celebrating good music. Some of the music seems dated, but a lot of it doesn't. A lot of the good, timeless music came out of that era. People still connect with it."
Last week, about 450 people connected with the era at DJ G's latest show. Expect a comparable crowd on April 9, as Hailey's celebrates the fifth anniversary of its '80s Night event.
But DJ G wasn't the first person to spin '80s tracks for Hailey's; the night grew out of Glen Farris and Paul Peffer's Axis '80s Indie Dance Night. On one of those nights, Graham approached Farris while he DJed in the sound booth. "I told him, 'I've got these records, I've got to do this'," Graham recalls. "'You want someone like me to do this.'" His enthusiasm and brashness paid off. Plus, it helped that Farris was sick of the endless requests for Tiffany and Kenny Loggins.
The crowds were pretty small at first, according to Graham, but before he knew it, there were long lines out the door and into the street as people waited to get in to the club.
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"Within a few months, there would be 400 people coming through the door every week," Farris says of DJ G's work. "It's paid the bills for Hailey's for a long time."
And Graham is the one who has maintained the night's popularity, balancing the '80s staples he knows the dance floor wants to hear with "forgotten songs that slipped through the cracks." As such, he's just as likely to spin Madonna or Duran Duran as he is D. Train or Bauhaus.
"But it is a job," Graham adds, "and there's a bit of customer service to it. I always try to make it exciting for me."
And it still is, he says. Next week's show should be quite the party—and Graham even has a few tickets to the Morrissey show the next night to give away. Fitting. —Daniel Rodrigue