Listen: Transport to 80s and 90s Fire Island with These Long-Lost DJ Mixes

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday July 19, 2022
Originally published on May 4, 2022

Listen: Transport to 80s and 90s Fire Island with These Long-Lost DJ Mixes
  (Source:Fire Island Pines Historical Society)

With the warm weather on the horizon, it's almost time for Pride season. And there might be no better way to celebrate this year than with a trove of forgotten LGBTQ+ anthems that soundtracked some of the biggest nights on Fire Island in the 80s and 90s during the peak of the AIDS crisis.

The project is called "The Pine Walk Collection" and is available for free streaming on Mixcloud, a popular website that hosts and distributes DJ mixes, radio shows and more. The description for the page reads:

DJ Sets from Fire Island Pines & New York City (1979-1999). These tapes were found in a recently purchased house on Pine Walk. There are over 200 tapes in total and they have been carefully digitized and remastered and offered to stream for free here on Mixcloud with permission from all of the living DJs we were able to contact.

The New York Times recently caught up with the duo behind the project — Peter Kriss and Nate Pinsley — who talked about how they came to discover the mixes, which include a range of music (everything from obscure Donna Summer remixes to some of the biggest hits of the day) as writer T.M. Brown describes: "The tapes, which were accumulated from 1979 to 1999, capture the sonic evolution of disco into more modern house music — often on the very same night. More than a catalog, the tapes are the soundtrack to a critical juncture in gay history as the AIDS crisis emerged and a new generation of activists fought for their rights and survival."

Kriss and Pinsley moved into their two-bedroom beach house on Pine Walk in Fire Island last summer and while cleaning it discovered a crate full of cassette tapes, including commercial releases from Whitney Houston and Queen. First they thought nothing of it but looking further into the box they found tapes with "hand-drawn inserts with the names of legendary Pines nightclubs and venues — the Ice Palace, the Pavilion — and more of them had neatly written labels spelling out names, places, and times in thick black ink."

"The tapes laid out a who's who of DJs: Robbie Leslie, Michael Jorba, Richie Bernier, Michael Fierman and Roy Thode, whose performance at the Ice Palace showed how shimmery, guitar-driven disco slowly gave way to the driving bass of house music," Brown wrote. "Wanting to ensure that what they had found would be properly archived, Mr. Kriss and Mr. Pinsley reached out to their friend Joe D'Espinosa, a software engineer and DJ, to ask about the best way to digitize the collection. Judging from the names and places scribbled on the cassette cases, it was clear to Mr. D'Espinosa that his friends had unearthed a cache of long lost classics."

Since July 2021, D'Espinosa "spent countless hours remastering, editing, digitizing, and uploading" the mixes to Mixcloud.

"The tapes captured occasions that could never be recreated, like Terry Sherman's summertime performance under the glittering chandeliers of the original Pavilion, long before a fire destroyed the building in 2011," added Brown.

The piece also tracks the history of the tapes, including their origin, how they circulated in the 80s and 90s, and stories from Fire Island during that time period. Click here to read the full story and click here to check out "The Pine Walk Collection."