By MeLinda Schnyder - Photography by Aaron Patton
If you’ve been to a charity fundraiser, a bar or a community event in Wichita during the past two decades, you’ve likely tapped your toes, nodded your head or sang along to music being played by James Bobetsky.
Better known as DJ Carbon, he is hired to provide the soundtrack for events such as Zoobilee, Riverfest and Tallgrass Film Festival in addition to regular weekly and monthly gigs across the city.
“I’ve made it my goal to be the go-to for marquee events and cool spaces in Wichita,” Bobetsky said. “Wichita has been so good to me. The opportunities I get here floor me.”
Just a few months ago, he played the first private event at the new $20 million Mark Arts center and this month he’s part of the biggest event coming to Wichita in 2018. He’ll be the DJ at the official Fan Fest event north of Intrust Bank Arena on March 15 when the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship first-round games are played inside the arena.
There are two types of DJs. One simply pushes play. The other uses creativity and technical skills, matching the tempo of two songs to play them like they are one. Bobetsky is known for his deep knowledge of music and his ability to blend old and new songs that appeal to diverse audiences. He said he’s fortunate to have earned the trust of clients who hire him and let him perform freestyle, meaning there are no set playlists.
“A DJ’s job is to read and respond so I don’t want to come in with a planned set,” he said. “Every event is different and every crowd is different. I love to see where the crowd takes me and where I take the crowd.”
While he still owns about 10,000 vinyl records, Bobetsky now only has to haul a mixer and two turntables with time control vinyl records that allow him to work from digital audio files.
His father’s aviation job brought the born and raised New Yorker to Wichita as a high school junior in 1997. He had deejayed before arriving in Wichita but didn’t pick it back up until 2001, when his first gig led to a residency at the original Finn’s Lounge at First and Rock Island. Since then, Bobetsky estimates he’s held a residency at nearly every Old Town establishment past and present.
His current Wednesday night gig is at Industry Old Town, where he is joined by Willy Simms on guitar and Justin Crump on drums for what he describes as a live remix session. Bobetsky also has a standing gig on the first Saturday of each month at Carousel Skate Center, where he provides the beats for an adult skate night. The event has been selling out so in March there will be two events (March 3 and March 24).
“The skate party is the most fun I have every month because the crowd comes out for some nostalgia,” the self-professed old school funk and soul junkie said. “Everyone has music that reminds them of being a kid and going to the skating rink, whether it’s ’70s funk or the sounds of the ’80s and ’90s. I play a little bit of everything with a whole lot of throwback.”
Four years ago, Bobetsky started hosting his own events by creating a pop-up nightlife event inside the Abode Venue about every three months. The inspiration came from deejaying at formal fundraisers and wanting to offer a regular spot for a classy night out.
“Those are great events but not everyone can afford $100 or $200 for a ticket yet they want a place to dress up and dance,” he said. “We have a dress code that we enforce; most people come suited and in little black dresses.” Refresh events range from $10-$20 and attract about 150 people ranging from age 21 to 70.
He already has a themed Refresh scheduled for Nov. 9: Carbon’s Sugar Shack. The front room of Abode will be a candy shop filled with tantalizing sweet treats. At the register, you give the secret password to be led to the main room, set up as a speakeasy. Bobetsky has made his operation a family affair. His 9-year-old daughter Brooklyn will make baked goodies for the candy shop and his 13-year-old son Levi will run the coat check operation. And both children have picked up his love of music.
“Sometimes this doesn’t feel like real life,” he said. “I love music and sharing music with people makes them smile and dance. To have that impact on someone’s day is a rush for me.”