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Paul Vallette and Matt Porter: Lost DJs

By Staff | Mar 11, 2008

Vinyl can be a handful for music listeners who are used to buying CDs and pirating music online.  It’s not always easy to find a decent deck for an acceptable price, and even then the worry of the needle breaking and collecting dust wears on the psyche.

It’s also not easy for vintage lovers to find anything in this area in the way of shops.  Rocked Records didn’t even last a year before succumbing to its own bad business strategies.  Now it’s nothing but a pile of rubble by the police station.

Well, break out the strands of horsehair, because the emergence of a real live DJ night at 123 Pleasant St. in Morgantown has become a reality. And if you know nothing about vinyl or the purchasing thereof, DJs Paul Vallette and Matt Porter could give you a history lesson.

Both take pride in borrowing the best aspects of DJs from the distant past, while still maintaining their proud progressive roots. If there’s a chance you haven’t had a strong dose of Reggae, Afro-beat, or old-school Disco, then you need to seriously consider going to Duck and Cover Tuesday nights at 123.

Not your average club DJs, Vallette and Porter understand the glass ceiling many college kids face in Morgantown in terms of discovering those rare vinyl gems. Embracing what’s new isn’t exactly on their agenda. As a duo, they absorb at least 10 to 20 vintage recordings from eBay a week.

“My mailman probably thinks I’m crazy,” says Porter.

Starting as a monthly gig two years ago, house sound technician Paul Vallette decided that 123 desperately needed a DJ night that acted as MayDay! dance night’s relaxed counterpart.

Not humdrum by any stretch of the imagination, Duck and Cover plays to an immediate crowd of local faithful, and both Vallette and Porter sometimes find themselves in fits of self-indulgence due to the shows unique intimacy. All that’s open is the lower bar, which pretty much deletes an entire three quarters of legroom from the already claustrophobic space. There’s not much room for dancing, and it requires more attention to detail than most “dance” nights.

They make the best of it.

“We’re both unnaturally crazy about music,” says Matt Porter, who signed on to the project later in its lifespan, being close friends to Vallette. 

The two agree on many aspects of music. This isn’t limited to overall pickiness, or opinions, but also musicianship. Both used to be bassists in area bands in the past, but for various reasons, decided spinning records had its merit.

“We definitely incorporate these elements of musicianship into our music,” says Porter.  “You can’t just be a jukebox.”

Vallette’s best estimation of what to expect at Duck and Cover is “Afro-beat and beyond.”

“Sometimes we play top 40, but there’s always a subversive element. It’s always good to mess with people’s minds,” says Porter.

Duck and Cover first began shortly after local success story Librarians first made live dance music an accepted part of 123 club life. Vallette saw it as a perfect opportunity to introduce a DJ night that didn’t act like a DJ night. And so it began.

“For the last couple of years people have wanted dance music,” says Porter. “When things are bad culturally, people just want to have a good time.”

Vallette tried a similar approach with a night of electronica, but with mixed results. The fanfare wasn’t there, but it also gave little room for the two to show off their record collections. They probably have a couple thousand between them, but only a sampling of these records will get the spin treatment on any given night.

Any recording from the past 50 years is fair game. If it has a soulful, retro vibe with lots of drum and bass, chances are they own it. And they’re especially fond of requests. From James Brown’s “Reality” to Carly Simon’s entire discography, it’s all there.

A typical night at Duck and Cover starts out slow, with the volume low, lulling the hardcore patrons into a timeless banter. A few hecklers yell out obscenities—”Play something good!”— and a few toe-tappers sit in the corner, idly repeating the beats in their heads.  This is the effect they look for.

“It should be a seamless night,” says Vallette. “It’s not about records as much as it’s about creating a fun environment.”

Once midnight comes and goes the volume creeps up a few notches, shaking the foundation of the bar. A dub-step record, featuring an incessant stream of drum loops, crescendos into the night, as Vallette twists knobs and attacks his Moogerfooger, enhancing the music and making it sound like a soundtrack to a space adventure.

“We’re not there to be technical DJs. If that happens, it’s just sort of on the fly,” says Vallette.

Whether it’s happenstance, or purposeful, the artistry cements itself, and two of the best DJs in Morgantown have no need for modesty.

Catch Duck and Cover every Tuesday night at 123 Pleasant St.

Contact Patrick at pdolan@graffitiwv.com