If you're a popular local DJ with thousands of records at your disposal, many of them difficult or near-impossible to find with just a mouse click or two, you might think losing them all would be about the worst thing that could ever happen. For Jason Puffer, known as Psychedelic Sex Panther, that turns out not to be the case at all.
Puffer is one of the men behind Reverberation, perhaps Houston's grooviest DJ team. Their weekly nights at the Big Top Lounge are full of psych, garage, R&B, exotica - everything but go-go boots and Russ Meyer movies, basically, and sometimes even that.
But the evening of June 6, Puffer and his girlfriend were asleep in their apartment above Montrose resale shop Vintage Oasis, where he worked a couple of nights a week. Sometime after midnight, a fire of unknown origin broke out and burned the place to the ground. According to KHOU, the fire was reported at 12:45 a.m. and the flames took some 60 firefighters to control. The converted house two blocks east of Dunlavy was a total loss.
"Thankfully our neighbor heard the fire," Puffer says. "It was so big that he heard it and ran as fast as he could, and started banging on our door and told us to get out. Pretty much I owe him my life. If he wasn't up drinking with his back door open, we probably wouldn't be here."
The couple escaped with the clothes on their backs and whatever they could carry, but the fire tragically claimed the lives of their cats. Firefighters were able to recover one of the bodies, and determined it had died of smoke inhalation. Puffer says that cat, who he had had five or six years, is now buried at his dad's house.
"It was awful," he says.
Puffer, also front man of the local garage-rockers Psychic Palms, says he still has his turntables, which he had stored at Reverberation HQ the Big Top Lounge. He had also left a few of boxes of 45s were over at a friend's, and managed to grab some framed records by the likes of Archie Bell and Roy Head the night of the fire. Other than that, the vast collection of vinyl he had been collecting for about ten years and using to program his sets, is gone.
But, and a big but, he admits that the heartbreak over losing his pets has put all that in perspective.
"Honestly I had been kind of slowing down on [DJing] anyways," Puffer says, though he won't even cop to being "semi-retired" as a DJ. "I've been getting more into spending time with my girlfriend and being not hung over at work, things like that. I'm not too worried about it. I still have a day job. I'm kinda just going to focus on that for now."
But Puffer's friends have been quick to rally around him. Sunday, the Continental Club is hosting a benefit featuring an afternoon and evening of Reverberation-friendly music, and in fact headlined by Bell and Head themselves. The Allen Oldies Band, Little Joe Washington, American Sharks, Brandon West & the Black Hats, duneTX, Key Bumpz, Mikey & the Dragz, Young Mammals, Picture Book, Modfag, Paris Falls, and standup comedian Christopher Dood round out the stacked bill. Puffer's brethren Black Slacks, Senor Jukebox and assorted Reverberation and Fistful of Soul DJs will be on hand as well, plus a raffle and silent auction.
"It's unbelievable," he says of the support he's received since the fire. "It's for real. It makes me glad I've been a decent person in my community. It really pays off to help people when they need it. Shit comes around."
Puffer and his girlfriend have already found a new apartment, a place on the east side near a bayou that affords easy alligator-gar fishing. He says not long ago a man rode by on his bike and as they got to talking, told Puffer that his place had also burned down about three weeks ago, except now he was living in a box.
"We've got all these friends and family," Puffer says. "Somebody's always got it worse."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Doors open at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Continental Club, 3700 Main. Minimum donation is $10.