More than music: Rodi's quest for meaning

Mike Rodi has a gripe. "We regularly pack people in here beyond my expectations," he says of downtown fixture Rapture and sister club R2."The numbers are all good."

Good news, right? Well, maybe for your average businessman, but not for Rodi. Somehow, despite being entirely wrapped up in pop culture personally, Rodi still finds himself frustrated by the degree to which it seems to permeate his club.

"Sometimes I feel like I built a really cool club in order to host the world's biggest MTV karaoke party," he sighs.

It's all rooted in his own musical experiences. Rodi started spinning in New York in 1989 and has spent a good chunk of his 20 guitar-playing years as a member of local rockers Clare Quilty.

"It comes from being a musician and a DJ," he says. "I have a vested interest in music being more than just what large corporations tell people it should be."

He fully admits that he's at least a part of the problem, though. "I'm the biggest top-40 hip-hop whore there is," he says. "The fact that I'm a pop whore doesn't bother me at all. What does bother me is the fact that, week after week, I can count on having an audience for that."

That's not to say that R2 is always a slave to the countdown. "I have DJs who know how to turn people on to good music," says Rodi. "It's awesome to see a line from the side door all the way to the Mall, turning people away at 11pm, without Usher's 'Yeah' or Beyonce's 'Crazy In Love.'

"I'm in it to pay the bills and pack the floor," he says. "I'm not in it to educate people."

But the forlorn tone of his voice gives him away: clearly, he wishes he were. Rodi speaks with passion of his club's pulsing soundtrack, his own DJ sets, and even the background music pumped through the restaurant. He's like an under-appreciated all-night radio show host.

With one major difference: "The obscure 2am DJ has the freedom to play whatever he wants for the really dedicated listeners," he laments, "but I'm in the position of straddling, having to do both.

"For the long term health of the community in which I want to establish roots, something more than 'Crazy In Love' is needed," he says. At the end of the day, all he really needs is a house packed with warm bodies and loose wallets. What he wants, however, is a house packed with open minds.

Age: 36 this Friday

Why here? Ended up here to do my PhD at UVA and ended up loving it

What's worst about living here? People are too spoiled and take what this town has to offer for granted.

Favorite hangout? Duh...

Most overrated virtue? I think honesty is important, but I think the daytime talk show advocacy of full disclosure of everything all the time is more of pathology than a virtue. I don't care what the president does with cigars, and don't think that your lover needs to know every thought and feeling you have.

People would be surprised to know? I'm a nerd.

What would you change about yourself? I would give myself superhero qualities.

Proudest accomplishment? My son, Miles. He's the best thing I've ever done by far.

People find most annoying about you? Depends on the person, I suppose. Ask around.

Whom do you admire? My employees

Favorite book? I've been a big reader my whole life; picking one book above all others would be really hard. White Noise by Don DeLilo, Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson, The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker would all make a short list.

Subject that causes you to rant? Recently I've ranted a lot about the ways in which Downtown is being strangled. It's the goose that laid the golden egg, and instead of feeding it and keeping it warm, it seems that everyone's set on cooking it. That Downtown thrives at all seems miraculous.

Biggest 21st century thrill? I'm not sure.

Biggest 21st century creep-out? Definitely the increasing power of the media to sell us anything, especially on the political front

What do you drive? Volvo

In your car CD player right now? My iPod, on shuffle

Next journey? Italy

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? I got caught shoplifting (a Kinks cassette) when I was 13 or 14. I'm sure I've been in worse trouble since then, but I don't think I ever felt like I was in bigger trouble.

Regret? I spent too much time in my 20s being a grown-up.

Favorite comfort food? My New England Clam Chowder with fresh-baked bread and butter

Always in your refrigerator? At least one thing that should have been thrown away ages ago

Must-see TV? I don't watch TV.

Favorite cartoon? My son has the first season of Samurai Jack on DVD, which is badass. (Original Bugs Bunny cartoons are still the best.)

Describe a perfect day: It's 75 degrees, sunny, dry. My son is off from school, and I don't have to go to work, so we play all day. Then we read together before bed.

Walter Mitty fantasy? Assuming that I'm not already living an unspeakably glamorous life filled with adventure and romantic entanglements– I guess see the Superhero comment above...

Who'd play you in the movie? Maybe John Cusack

Most embarrassing moment? Why the hell would I want to have that in print?

Best advice you ever got? My high school English teacher told me that I should let my father know how much I care about him now, not when I'm rich and famous and can buy him his dream car. He died fairly young two years later, and I was glad I listened to her.

Favorite bumper sticker? Dear World, We're sorry. We tried. – Half of America

Mike Rodi