DJ Loomer shares secrets to keeping Iowa City’s nightlife scene alive

DJ Loomer, also known as Jack Howard, shares what it’s like to be a DJ in Iowa City, and the skills that go into making a successful set.

Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

At the beginning of his career, Jack Howard could usually be found DJing weeknights at Gabe’s. Since then, he has secured a regular Thursday night gig at Iowa City Yacht Club. 

Howard, otherwise known as DJ Loomer, is a University of Iowa senior who has made a name for himself in the Iowa City music scene.

For Howard, style, stage presence, improvisation, an understanding of music theory, and DJ culture are important elements of his performances. 

“Getting people moving or dancing is half the battle,” Howard said. 

Howard said the most important part of DJing is the music itself, but selecting which tracks to play is more methodical than it may appear. 

Howard typically plays house music, which he said he finds to be the best genre for dancing because of the way the songs build over time and incorporate syncopathic rhythms. 

“It’s like a continuation of disco,” he said.

Choosing good tracks is the most important thing a DJ can do, Howard said, but putting them in an order that flows is also part of what keeps people moving. He said this is often accomplished through beat matching, the concept of playing songs with the same number of beats per minute back to back to create a seamless transition from one song to the next.

“The crowd shouldn’t be aware that they’re hearing the song being changed,” Howard said. “The more you can make that transition unnoticeable, the better.” 

This decision might give people the impression the song order is chosen in advance to ensure smooth transitions, but Howard said he bases his song choices on the crowd’s reaction.

“People don’t understand DJing is very much performing,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of on-the-spot decisions and improvisation involved.”

It may seem daunting to get started, but Howard said there are a few key things DJs can do to distinguish themselves. He said the first is developing a style. 

“The first few times I played, I just kind of played whatever I wanted … and it was fun, but it wasn’t great,” he said. “If you have your own specific style, that’s a great quality to have.”

Second, he said, knowing your audience can make or break the night.

“You have to be mindful of where you play. Gabe’s attracts a more alternative crowd, but I probably couldn’t play in Eden because their DJs play Top 40 music a lot,” he said. “After you figure out what you like to play, you should probably start thinking about what you want to name yourself, and how you want to brand yourself and promote yourself, whether that’s online or flyering around town.”

Howard hopes to DJ in Chicago for a living someday, but for now he said he will DJ at Yacht Club every Thursday for the foreseeable future — and he’s happy with that.

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