Community rallies around DJ after house fire

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Posted by on January 28, 2010 at 10:51:30:

Community rallies around DJ, family after house fire

The acrid smell of burnt plastic hung in the frigid air Wednesday afternoon as Mike Carlson surveyed what remained of his turntables and collection of more than 10,000 vinyl records.

Somewhere in the charred crates in his basement was the longtime local DJ's first dance record, Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," and the first albums he bought in high school, such as Kraftwerk's 1977 album "Trans-Europe Express."

Records stored in the center of some crates may have been spared, the fire inspector told him, but most are fused.

"They're gone forever. If I get anything, it'll be a complete surprise," said Carlson, 44. He got the phone call Tuesday afternoon from a neighbor while working at his pro DJ equipment shop, MC Audio.

"Your daughter's here and your house is on fire," the neighbor told him.

Rachal, 13, was home alone in her room practicing drums when she smelled smoke in their four-bedroom house on Madison's North Side and ran to the neighbor's house for help.

Now the drum set is a "melted goop pile," said her father. A cigarette discarded earlier Tuesday in the basement smoldered and then flared into a blaze that ravaged the house, according to Lori Wirth, spokeswoman for the Madison Fire Department. No one was hurt in the fire, but the house is a total loss with damage estimated at $250,000.

Carlson and his wife, Jen, have home insurance, but money can't replace a record collection built album-by-album over 30 years.

"It's like losing a library. When something like that is lost, it's lost," said Nick Nice, another local DJ.

Carlson graduated from East High School and got his start spinning dance parties in the early '80s at frat parties and at the now-defunct club Teasers. He's one of a handful of full-time DJs in the Madison area.

Support for the Carlsons in the music community grew as news of the fire spread.

Matt Fanale, a DJ who goes by the name Eurotic, planned the first of what he hopes will be many benefits for the Carlsons on Wednesday night at Club Inferno. The night before, hours after the fire destroyed their home, DJ Wyatt Agard was collecting donations for the family as he spun a dance party at the East Side bar Jolly Bob's.

A half-hour after Fanale put out word on Facebook that Rachal Carlson lost her guitar and drum set in the fire, he received several offers of replacement instruments. The outpouring of support was heartening to Fanale.

"It ballooned really fast. I've been in near tears all day out of sadness and happiness," he said. "These people who barely know Mike have donated stuff."

Carlson and his family are staying with his mother until they're able to rebuild the house. Stunned by the loss of his home and thankful that his family is safe, his savaged record collection is the least of his concerns, he said. He'll still be able to DJ using the vinyl-emulating software Serato.

The only time he cracked a smile Wednesday afternoon outside his destroyed home was when he remembered the most important possessions he was able to save from the fire: the watch he gave his father 10 years ago for his last birthday, the clay carrot his son Jacob, now 15, made in elementary school, and a hat his daughter made for him.

Carlson is DJing Thursday at 10 p.m. at Segredo, the new boutique bowling alley and nightclub Downtown on University Avenue.

"Why not? I still need to make money. I can't let it throw me that hard," he said. "Maybe I'll throw in a little ´┐ŻBurning Down the House,' (by) Talking Heads."

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