Fan fave DJ Theo gets the party started
Related mediaDJ Theo at the Neptune Beach Club
DJ Theo is in a groove. His head is bopping. His right leg is pounding. He's spinning a catchy, 1970s-esque dance tune that blasts through the speakers with a robotic voice announcing periodically: "Barbra Streisand."
And the crowd of 3,000 beachwear-clad revelers at Neptune Beach Club are right there with him, hands in the air. Never mind that most of them are too young to know who Babs is.
It's just another Saturday afternoon in the Hamptons, where DJ Theo -- as in, Theodore Pisani, 37 -- has been leading the popular all-day beach party for 16 years, making the Commack resident one of the Island's most in-demand DJs.
"Theo is like an institution," DJ Tommie Thunder shouts over the music. "All these people will follow him wherever he goes because of the way he plays."
WORKING THE CROWD
Watching Pisani spin is like watching a symphony conductor. One arm crosses over the other as he turns dials that adjust bass and treble between glances at his MacBook Pro screen, mixing board and digital turntables.
"Hands up!" a song booms. Pisani coaxes the pitch to increase steadily, piercing at a climactic moment that overtakes the club-goers.
"He's playing chess with the crowd," his friend and designer Chris Kenny, 34, of Bay Shore says later. "He's three steps ahead of them. You can see where he's going and then there's an eruption on the dance floor."
Pisani does it all between smiling quickly for photos and saying hello to a caravan of friends and fans granted access behind the DJ booth's red velvet rope by a security guard. Like the clearly intoxicated woman who asks for a kiss. Pisani, who is married and has a 23-month-old daughter, responds democratically with a high-five.
That endearing, guy-next-door quality is quite the contrast to Pisani's "Mr. Cool" image. Tall (6-foot-4) and tan, he's got shaggy brown hair and a perfectly groomed beard. He wears hip sunglasses and color-coordinates his clothes with his shoes.
"He takes the time out to connect with every single person who comes up to him," says Kenny. "A lot of DJs don't do that. They don't want to be bothered."
"He loves his fans. He makes everyone feel like they know him," says clubber Amanda Day, 21, of Levittown. "He doesn't act like he's a celebrity."
But celebrity he is, at least in these circles. Pisani has DJed everywhere from Ibiza, Spain, to Miami's South Beach to the Las Vegas Strip. He's had radio mix shows on WLIR, Party 105 FM and DJ residencies at Pacha NYC and the former Posh Ultra Lounge in Garden City, to name a few.
BEHIND THE SCENES
"It's a lot of fun when you pick a record that you think could be big that someone's never heard of," Pisani says. But channeling that fleeting moment involves hours of prep work listening to new music from record labels, searching online and day-long sessions experimenting in the studio.
"I think people come to have a good time and they expect me to do my homework," he says, refering to $30 cover charges, $20 parking fees and $15 drink prices that are de rigeur at places where he spins.
It's all a far cry from his early DJ days in his parents' East Islip basement, counting the number of beats per minute in each record he planned to spin at backyard parties and bar mitzvahs. The goal: Keeping a consistant flow from song to song.
"I would spend hours recounting it so I was right," Pisani says. "You always try to be 100 percent right."
He earned his cred in the '90s by introducing crowds to electronica -- when it wasn't popular. "He's a solid, hardcore music fan," says Andre Ferro, a radio personality who worked with Pisani. "I think he believes that no DJ is bigger than the actual music itself."
That love of music has not been jaded in the club industry, where some solicit DJs to play their music for a price, says Scottie Campbell, owner of Dublin Deck in Patchogue.
"He never sold out," Campbell says. "If he liked it, he played it. If he didn't like it, he didn't play it. There was no bribing him."
Brian Rosenberg, owner of Sugar Dining Den & Social Club in Carle Place, describes Pisani as a "what you see is what you get" kind of guy. "He turns down more gigs than he takes," says Rosenberg. "He doesn't just take it for the money. It's gotta be right."
Not that money isn't a concern.
A good pay, Pisani says, is $7,500 for a three- to four-hour set. "Now that doesn't happen a lot. I'll be honest with you."
THE NEXT FRONTIER
Although Pisani has his summer gig in the Hamptons and a Sirius/XM radio show on the Electric Area channel, he's still working to break through to an audience outside the metropolitan area.
"The crowds and the songs and the venues keep evolving very quickly," says Michael Weiss, president of house music label Nervous Records, where Pisani is signed and has his fifth mix album due out in the fall. "He definitely is a street-savvy, industry-savvy individual. . . . The only way you last is by having the big picture."
THEO PISANI'S UPCOMING GIGS
WHEN | WHERE Noon-8 p.m. Saturday, Neptune Beach Club, 70 Dune Rd., East Quogue
COVER $10 (ages 21 and older)
Color Me Theo
WHEN | WHERE 11 p.m.-4 a.m. June 23, Sugar Dining Den & Social Club, 246 Voice Rd., Carle Place
COVER Free for women, $10 men. Ages 25 and older recommended.