By Chris Woodard
A crowd gathers on the dance floor of Midtown’s Flamingo House on a breezy Sunday night. Its floor is missing the usual bass and the loud, awkward attempts to speak over bumping music. Instead, partygoers are donning headphones that light up in three distinct colors, one for each channel. The group on the red channel seems to grow excited as it hears a transition to a new song. Then, one by one, headphones across the dance floor go crimson – and smiles stretch across everyone’s faces as they return to their groove.
Controlling that red channel is Patrick Coe, one of the DJs on rotation tonight. Or, at least, that’s the 28-year-old’s stage name. Outside the cub he’s Patrick Coe Johnson, a music enthusiast turned table-man who’s been finding success lately in Sacramento’s nightlife. Johnson has played more than 100 shows in the last year alone.
“Patrick’s music taste is the size of an encyclopedia,” says his longtime friend, Arturo Barron.
Johnson was always the guy his friends would pass the aux-cord to during hangouts and car rides; they used to jokingly call him “DJ P.J.,” Barron and Johnson remember.
Johnson didn’t think much of his status as the group’s vibe-controller back then, not until he entered his 20s and took a bigger interest in various musical genres. As his taste grew, he considered making an investment in his first round of DJ gear.
“I remember sitting on the porch with my mom,” Johnson says. “It was $250 for the entry-level controller, and I was trying to get her, or someone to just say, ‘Go for it!’”
Mom gave Johnson the green light.
At first, Johnson was self-conscious and kept mixing in his room. He took refuge in the privacy of his headphones. Eventually, he found inspiration from Soulection Radio co-founder Joe Kay, who started his career with a radio show at the student-run station at California State University, Long Beach. After transferring to California State University Chico, from Cosumnes River College, Johnson created his own show at KCSC Radio called “The Sample.”
“[KCSC Radio] helped me get into the niche that I’m in right now,” Johnson recalls.
Today, the performer is particular about where he DJs, trying to only accept gigs that allow him to maintain autonomy over selections.
“I’ve had jobs that sucked the soul out of me,” he admits. “I don’t want this to become one of them. Like the artist Joey Bada$$ said, ‘If it don’t hit my spirit, I don’t go near it.’”
Johnson particularly enjoys editing worldwide genres like South African amapiano and baile-funk from Brazil with a modern twist. It’s a style that Sacramento residents have noticed.
“Patrick is really great at bringing modern music together with older R&B with a unique EDM feel,” observes Rebecca Miles, who enjoys catching Johnson DJ at locations like Darling Aviary and Flamingo House. “It’s a very chill vibe, and everyone around starts moving their bodies a little bit more.”
“Not every bar or club is the right environment for creative experimentation,” Johnson reflects. “I’m trying to educate people on music and show them something new.”
After finding success in the nightlife scene, Johnson felt it necessary to pursue sobriety to get better access to himself. As a result, he just celebrated eight months alcohol-free.
“Last year, I think I had like 130-something gigs – I was putting down drinks every time,” Johnson mentions. “I’ve been lucky enough over the past year to pay all my bills through music, and I’m not trying to fumble the bag.”
Now, Johnson feels he’s in “a really good place” with his mindset — and the roadmap he has created for his future. He’s hopeing to release more original content sooner rather than later.
“One thing that COVID taught me is DJing is not forever,” Johnson says. “Making and putting stuff out is the next move.”