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In 1971, the Tea Dances at Fire Island’s Blue Whale were settling in as ritual and David Mancuso’s infamous “The Loft” parties in NYC, which are the genesis of the Saint parties, were just getting started. Being born in the music-rich environment of Nashville, Tennessee would be a harbinger of things to come.
For Brian Norwood, being born in that era would greatly impact his career. Having influences from established DJ’s of the old guard and importantly DJ Buc, his music interests blossomed during a time that the gay community had lost, and would continue to lose, many of their great artists. In the early 90’s, Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, would open its arms to Brian. This move to a more urban environment and being within the twinkle of NYC skyscrapers, was an important transition not only in geography, but of musical awakening. In ’93, after attending a seminal Saint-At-Large White Party with all its intendant revelry, he felt an overwhelming drive to cultivate music and learn to mix. Vinyl was still the preferred medium for DJ’s, which gives Brian the unique perspective of being among the younger DJ’s still spinning today who teethed on vinyl. After coming back to Philly from the White Party, he bought his first set of turntables and honed his mixing skills as a bedroom DJ, and after nine months he felt ready to move on to a club setting.
In ’94, Brian caught the attention of the organizers for the Blue Ball Recovery Brunch, a soft landing event following the headlining Blue Ball party. It was at this event that Brian knew his path was the correct one. At the culmination of his set, his mentor DJ Buc was among the first to applaud and everyone rose to their feet. The dye was set and Brian would headline this event for the next three years. It is here that he would establish himself as a circuit class DJ and in ’98 received the nod to play the premier Philly event, The Blue Ball. This event segued into a residency at the Philly mega club, Shampoo, of which he held reign from ’98 through 2000.
The new millennium was a decade of self discovery, purging, and enlightenment. His mentor Buc passed away during this time and personal issues separated him from his love of playing to a live audience. He continued to play music when the opportunity arose, but Atlanta and Brian himself were changing. Midtown Atlanta, for years a gay mecca, was being transformed by the city into a mini-suburb (emphasis on sub) and lost its longstanding 24 hour licensed club, Backstreet. The opportunities for a DJ in Atlanta were nonexistent and the days of acquiring a residency were gone.
In 2010, a move to Chicago was reinvigorating, and Brian started a podcast shortly thereafter. It was energizing to see his listenership grow exponentially and it got him noticed by promoters.
His Sophisticated Morning podcasts continue to be a major asset to his career and something his fans await with eagerness. These sets are just as their name implies: percolating, hazy, gently rising to an alert state. However, to those unfamiliar with his breadth of music, it would be unfair to characterize him as a morning music only DJ. His podcast of “Filthy” is likewise aptly titled. It is erotic: choking, biting, shortness of breath, and orgasmic in its build up. In both cases, it is unlikely that you would have heard music and music mixed like this anywhere else. Brian had a Circuit mentor in DJ Buc and the influence of playing unique, obscure and ethereal songs is unmistakable. These two sets of music selection and mixing give indication of a true artist that isn’t stuck in a genre, who can play for long sets and adjust to a crowd. This was evident in being selected to play the benchmark event, Evolution of a Dancer in 2015. It is a crowning achievement to be invited to play this event. Only the very best are chosen to play for this demanding crowd.
Followers of the EVO series are hardcore dancers and flaggers who pay for a chance to hear DJ’s that are considered the best in the world in state of the art clubs. The DJ’s are usually the old guard, but allow a newer DJ who understands the histrionics of the EVO parties to showcase his craft. The reaction to Brian’s set was overwhelmingly positive, in a group of DJ’s that have resumes littered with names like “The Saint”, “Studio 54”, “Pavilion” and with a very picky body of dancers.
In closing, it is difficult to express with words something as nuanced as music by a sublime DJ. But to paraphrase an old saying, you know it when you hear it. Go to johnbriannorwood.podomatic.com to hear for yourself and to truly get the whole picture, go hear him at a live event. It is there you’ll experience the morning, sleaze, classics, anthems and circuit music genres that makes Brian unique among his peers.