Every night in Tulsa, we've got a plethora of musical options to choose for our entertainment. While Urban Tulsa often focuses on live bands, the total musical package offers much, much more.
People love to dance and have a good time; and if dancing is what an audience wants, they usually can't go wrong with a dance club that has a great disc jockey.
Granted, what makes a great DJ is subjective and debatable. Yes, playing songs is part of it, but just because you've got a turntable or a laptop and a great collection of songs doesn't make you talented.
The best of the best go beyond simply playing tunes and beyond the dated stereotypes of "scratching" to segue between songs, though that can certainly still be a part of the process when used appropriately.
The DJs who truly stand out, however, develop their own style, identity and flair for making the songs that we've heard repeatedly become fresh and new by throwing something different into the mix. From seamlessly transitioning between tunes to radically remixing song structures, the jocks that truly catch our ears and our loyalty find a way to infuse their personality and taste into the mix.
Along the way, they also influence our taste as they expose us to new artists, new songs and new styles. That influence extends beyond our ears whether we realize it or not. Speak to any club owner or promoter who works with our premier DJs, and they'll tell you that the best of them can work the room and affect the mood and vibe of the evening. It's a gift that most DJs acknowledge, even if humbly, crediting it to being able to read the audience and feed off its energy.
Even so, they often realize their influence and consider it their responsibility to make sure everyone has a good time.
While many of our best local DJs are now playing the clubs on regular occasions, whether in a weekly (or nightly) standing gig or with semi-regular "club parties," their roots often didn't take hold in the club scene.
Instead, many of our more established, premier players such as DJs Moody, Robbo, Demko and the beloved but recently departed Chron were initially grounded in the underground and DIY scene of the '90s, a movement that fostered creativity, originality and camaraderie within the DJ community.
Chris "Sker," a longtime promoter, not only witnessed the evolution of Tulsa's underground DJ movement but became an active player in it.
According to Sker, he had been hanging around the scene peripherally for a couple years but was hooked when DJ Snap (Michael Eng) gave him his first mixtape in 1991.
"In my opinion," Sker said, "DJ Snap is the Godfather of Tulsa's DJ scene. I think most people, at least from the old school crew, would agree."
It was about this time that the local DJ scene started to break off and grow its own identity. Previously, DJs had really only been prominent in a club capacity, but the local DJ scene started to separate itself, taking on an independent, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach and developing its own identity.
Houses, warehouse space and even hotel ballrooms were the primary outlet for independent parties. Planners and promoters in that time had to bring in everything for performances--from lights and sound, to the tables and chairs for the doormen to the coolers, water, juice and ice for concessions.
As such, those within the community developed a type of camaraderie, often teaming up and sharing equipment, from turntables and mixers to power amps, speakers and lights in order to make each party go off smoothly.
In 1992, a club called Oculus opened at the corner of Boston and Brady in the location that now houses Club Majestic. At this point, however, it wasn't a full blown nightclub but rather a warehouse space hosting dance parties that featured primarily techno music.
Opened by Marc Matthews (who now runs Crystal Pistol) with input from Michael Eng, Oculus was one of the first -- if not the first -- clubs of its kind in Tulsa, catering to the DJ and techno music scenes. Open semi-regularly as a club, it hosted some of the best parties of that period and frequently hosted touring artists, including a 1992 tour stop by Moby.
The Oculus location also became the site of the original Thing 1, which was separated and built off in a corner of the warehouse space, one of the first techno music record stores in Tulsa.
Originally starting out with music, Thing 1 extended its reach by catering primarily to the techno and DJ scenes. It carried DJ equipment such as turntables, needles and mixers, the most fashionable clothes within the scene at the time and even smaller items like graffiti markers.
Thing 1 expanded its reach to a location on Brookside in 1994. By then, it had become a focal point of the local DJ scene and provided not only a one stop shop for DJs and scenesters but also became a meeting point for networking within the scene.
Perhaps most importantly, however, was the man behind the counter, Michael Eng. Not only could he educate you on the latest in music, but he also knew the equipment and was key in spreading local mixes.
Eng's own (DJ Snap) mixtapes were of particular interest, too, not only because he was so prolific in getting them out but because he was one of the first people (locally, at least) to label them. So listeners could identify the bands and songs they were hearing. Before long, Thing 1 became the site where other local DJs could sell their own mixtapes, and a level of notoriety and identity started to grow for key players within the community.
Also of particular importance was the fact that Thing 1 became the location to get information on the latest, up and coming parties. Seeing as this was before the widespread use of the Internet and e-mail, much less networking sites such as Myspace or Facebook, flyers were the lifeblood of the community and the primary source of spreading information.
Thing 1 became a central point to leave flyers for your show and the best way, aside from working the other parties, to share information. With a focal point and a hub for information exchange, the dance parties grew.
In 1993, Sker stepped in and got involved on the local scene by renting a hotel ballroom and throwing his first party. By enlisting help and equipment from others, hustling to promote the show and featuring a handful of the top DJs including DJ Snap and DJ Ed Crunk, he knew he was onto something when he was able to draw 175 paid patrons to his first weeknight event.
Sker's second and third events moved to the Brady Street Studios (previously Tucca) and drew more than 600 people as he also brought in DJs from Oklahoma City and Dallas. In a relatively short time, Sker was well on his way to being a primary promoter, working under the UAT Parties moniker. Even after moving to Norman for work, he continued to promote shows in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and by 1995 he was renting lights and laser rigs from Dallas for his events.
"The best thing about the scene was that it encouraged participation," Sker said. "Once you got in and started contributing to the scene, it involved a lot of networking and making business connections. One guy might pop up and pool his money to buy a PA and now you've got someone else you can go to for sound..."
At this point, the promoters and parties were starting to separate themselves into tiers, but there was room for everyone and parties of all sizes and at every level--from the young and inexperienced just breaking into the field to the more experienced and thoughtful who were by now hosting huge events.
The vast majority of these parties were after-hour raves and according to Sker, "The rave movement really was a reaction against the club scene. People wanted more than the clubs were offering. They wanted more house and techno music and a different vibe.
"The parties got wilder and crazier, but it wasn't destructive--at least to most people. The scene really attracted the movers and shakers and encouraged motivated, free-thinking, creative types. As a whole, it spawned some really successful graphic designers, producers and sound engineers as well as just successful business people in general."
The DJ and rave scene continued to grow with some of the largest parties in the state occurring in the mid- to late- '90s, including the biggest rave in Oklahoma history--an event attended by more than 1,700 party-goers at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds. One of the key players in organizing that event was Jeremy Dawson, an incredibly popular techno and trance DJ who not only became a key player on the rave scene, but later moved to California and found Shiny Toy Guns with another Oklahoma native, Chad Petree.
Mixing It Up
The development of the rave and party scene can be discussed at length, but one of the primary by-products--and a focal point for those attending, was a steadily developing group of DJs. No longer just playing the Top 40 status quo and catering to club audiences, DJs were allowed to expand, incorporate their own taste and develop their own styles.
Whereas more hip-hop oriented DJ-ing incorporated "scratching" and other effects as part of the mixing process, while the house and techno styles revolved more around combining songs and beat transitions.
Each has had an impact on our current DJ movement, which has been further advanced by the onset of new technology--digital mixing, fading and effects--all of which have been incorporated by many of our hottest local DJs, even as they each develop their own styles.
Perhaps what is most interesting is that as the most creative DJs of the local movement separated themselves from the established club scene in the early to mid '90s, many of those DJs have worked their way back into our mainstream clubs and are infusing a bit of new life into the club scene.
Granted, there are still some great independent parties going on, but most of those have moved into established club locations. Sker stated emphatically and unapologetically, "The rave period has ended."
While there is still an independent scene that is thriving, many of the parties have moved into established venues and are experiencing an open-minded audience.
Even Sker has scaled back, especially after relocating to California and then returning to Tulsa. He recently retired the UAT title with his last Boombox party at the Marquee this past January--an event which drew roughly 500 people and acted as a reunion of sorts for many within the '90s DJ and rave scene. Now, Sker promotes under his own name and focuses primarily on monthly events.
"The scene is much smaller than it used to be, but as a promoter you have to know and understand the scene," he explained. "The 'DJ scene' was really more about people who cared about the music and were unsatisfied with what was being offered." As such, independent events and parties have continued, only on a smaller scale -- and as the proper opportunities arise, they have moved into established venues, turning into "club parties."
Even as many of our local DJs have transitioned with the movement to club parties, that exposure has also provided enticing opportunities for some of our better local DJs to take on DJ spots at our local clubs.
While some might argue that it goes against the independent and DIY nature of the '90s DJ scene, it has also opened doors and added some fresh and innovative blood into the club scene as well.
If we are to discuss Tulsa's DJ community strictly, there are many players in the mix, but a few obviously rise to the top and represent our upper tier of talent. Just within the past few months we lost one of Tulsa's most beloved, DJ Chron--an artist who was well respected and liked by nearly all within the DJ community. (Check out "Music Tribute" on urbantulsa.com.) One of the true DIY DJs in town, he was always on hand and willing to help--influencing both established and young DJs alike with his open heart and dedication to his craft.
Continually active and consistently prominent, DJ Demko is a staple in Tulsa, acting as a professional commercial jock on The Edge from 10am-3pm every weekday. He also plays a variety of events and parties and bridges the gap between the two sides of his job with the "Edge Essential Mix" every Sunday night from 10pm-midnight. And in case you miss it or want a copy for yourself, each week's mix can be downloaded (along with the playlist) at HYPERLINK "http://www.djdemko.com"; www.djdemko.com.
When you're stepping out and into the clubs, however, who are the names that are drawing the crowds and making (or in many cases, continuing to build) a name for themselves?
Ask anyone in Tulsa who the main players are on the DJ scene and if one name is consistent, it's DJ Moody. Jon Moody has been doing shows for the past 10 years and has continued to build his popularity and reputation. Starting out in the underground and warehouse party scene, Moody moved up the ranks and built an impressive resume.
Along the way, he has played parties and corporate events, worked with other local artists such as Rewake, PDA, Citizen Mundi and Eye Candy Burlesque; he even appeared on Up Late with Ben Sumner.
"I started out listening to indie-rock records with my one turntable," Moody said. "Then I listened to a mixtape from New York and decided this is something I want to do."
With more than a decade of experience under his belt, Moody is adept at playing all styles of music and is known for playing a bit of everything - from older hip-hop to deep funk to rock to electronic music, as the gig and the evening's vibe permits. While seamless transitions between songs are crucial to his craft, Moody is one of the few in our upper tier to make a small confession.
"I love to scratch and manipulate sounds," Mood said. "Even if I'm playing Top 40 stuff in a club, I try to put my own mix and spin on it."
When manipulating those sounds, Moody isn't relegated to only scratching for effect. "I try to find the little thing--a sound or certain words, or even an effect to transition between songs," he said. "Sometimes I even end up copying some of my DJ errors."
No matter what the night calls for, however, Moody always keeps things interesting and the audience on it toes.
"I can mix two records together all day, but it gets boring," he explained. "That's why I started segueing between songs.
"Part of it is also wanting to show off a little," he said. "I like to think that's part of why I keep getting booked and stay busy."
That showmanship certainly doesn't hurt as witnessed by the fact that Moody won the 2008 ABoT award for Absolute Best DJ.
Part of what keeps Moody in the game, however, is his flexibility. Not only is he musically eclectic, perhaps playing an all funk set one evening, then tapping into rock the next, he's also proven adaptable to the technology at hand.
Within the past three years, Moody has begun incorporating laptops and digital interfacing. He finds software that allows the mixing to feel fairly organic and close to manipulating vinyl.
"I like turntables," he admits, "and I wouldn't use it if it didn't work as well." Once he found the right software, it became a tool that he feels helps him doing things like find his markers and transition points more quickly and easily, without making him lazy.
As a full-time DJ, Moody works anywhere from four to six nights a week, including Monday nights at Eclipse and hosting a monthly party known as Dance Revolution at Soundpony. Having just recently celebrated its second anniversary, Dance Revolution is an event where Moody shares mixing responsibilities with DJ Just Jon and occasional appearances by fellow DJs like Speedbump and DJ El Nino.
Dance Revolution might be one of Moody's most enjoyable gigs, if only because the Soundpony audience is open-minded enough to let him do whatever he feels like, he said. No matter where he's playing, however, Moody said, "The best part is having the audience in your hands. I have no real goal besides getting people to bob their heads and dance.
"As a DJ, you should be thinking about your crowd, not yourself," he said. "I'm a crowd pleaser, mostly, and I'm still just trying to move that crowd."
Another name that's consistently on everyone's hot list is DJ Robbo. Rob Robertson got started deejaying in late 1996 at dive bars and underground venues such as Roadkill and Underworld, primarily spinning underground and '80s tunes. Within a short time, he also started a Sunday night gig focusing on industrial and dark-wave music.
"I really had no idea what I was doing," Robbo explained about starting out. "I just liked the idea of playing music with people."
Once he got started, however, he quickly built his skills and found a place within the scene. A couple of years later, he ended up on an eight-month tour with Apocalypse Theory. After returning to Tulsa, Robbo owned and operated Club DYM at 18th and Boston (formerly SRO as well as 18th Street Annex, which is the current location of Rehab), which he ran for nearly two years. During that time, he started "Retro Wednesdays" and focused on primarily house and electro music at the club before going back on the road.
In 2004, Robbo booked the majority of Shiny Toy Guns' first national tour, a "30 dates in 30 days" affair that shot the band (and Robbo) across the country and back.
Eventually, Robbo relocated back to T-Town and started performing at locales like Deadtown Tavern and the final, downtown IKON location, bouncing from little bar to little bar.
Before long, Robbo began a standing Thursday night gig at The Venue, which consistently drew between 200 and 300 people every week for a night of electronic influenced indie dance rock or what he says "people call electro, even though it's really not..."
Eventually, Robbo started the weekly Mixtape series at Exit 6C last September and continued until it closed in the spring. Mixtape then moved to the Crystal Pistol on Wednesday nights, but it quickly outgrew the club's limited space. This influenced bar owner Marc Matthews to knock out a hole in the wall and build it into the back portion of the room next door, where he already had an option. Together with his wife, DJ Lynn K, Robbo has become a local staple, not only with his Mixtape series, but also tapped for multiple parties and award ceremonies as well as planning and promoting their own special events.
In fact, Robbo and Lynn are behind one of the year's most popular dance parties, the annual '80s Prom, which sold out the Blank Slate complex with roughly 850 people in attendance this past spring.
Robbo isn't only a DJ, however. His love of electronic pop has kept him involved in many aspects of music, including his own band, Recorder, with which has seen a good level of independent success.
"It started several years ago, when I was in Florida, and a buddy and I kept in touch, sending songs back and forth," Robbo explained. "Eventually, I realized I had collected about 30 songs and planned on releasing it as Project Birthday Boy..."
Once Robbo put the music together and posted it on Myspace (as Recorder), he held a contest to create a video for it and gave away some music and a free shirt as the prize.
"This guy made a great video," he explained, "so I entered it into an international contest on Famecast. It went to the top 1000, then top 500, 100, 50, 20, then Top 10.
"If it gets to the Top 5, they fly you to Austin to perform in front of judges, which felt kind of weird, because it had all been written on a computer."
When the group did make the Top 5 cut, Robbo only had two weeks to figure out how to pull it off live, and he enlisted his wife, Lynn, to help him.
From there, Jeff Whitlatch, from the Nightingale Theater offered to help with some projections and effects for the performance, but it turned into Whitlatch doing keyboards and helping in programming, according to Robbo.
As such, Whitlatch officially became the third member of the group.
Although Recorder competed against a handful of other, more established artists like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, the group ended up winning the competition. Amongst the prizes were $10,000 in cash, music gear and plane tickets to fly to California and meet Chris Vrenna from Nine Inch Nails and Gnarls Barkley.
Naturally, this made Recorder take off, and the group did quite a bit of touring before things calmed down.
When back in Tulsa, besides working on new material for Recorder, Robbo stays busy deejaying with Lynn K and has remained one of Tulsa's favorite party-vibe DJs.
Although he started out with CDs and spent a little time getting into vinyl, Robbo has transitioned to the digital format and works with MP3s as well. He uses a new digital mixing board and a software application that allows him to do everything he could with vinyl or CD and more.
"The thing is, everybody's a DJ now," Robbo explained. "In the mid 90's there were only a few of us, but with the new technology, anybody can be a DJ--or at least call themselves one. I met someone just a couple weeks ago who introduced me to a new guy who's becoming a DJ. Now there are hundreds of them."
When asked who the real players on the scene were, however, Robbo said, "It's still kind of the same guys that it's been over the past five or ten years. It's a steady group that are the main players -- both DJs and promoters - people like Demko and Moody and even Kylie."
Part of what sets Robbo apart from his peers is his firm grasp of '80s new wave as well as current electronic and indie dance-rock.
"Most of what people call 'Electro' now really isn't," he said. "It's really just dance rock with a heavy dance beat." Even so, Robbo sets himself apart by knowing the genre and excelling in it.
While many local DJs prefer to remix heavily or use a lot of effects, Robbo prefers to keep it simple.
"I keep the effects minimal and try to keep it close to what the dancers are expecting, try to keep it true to the songs they know," he said.
Another reason why audiences love Robbo is that his ego is firmly in check.
"I don't try to showcase the DJ; I try to showcase the audience," Robbo said. "For a lot of other people, it's more about a DJ show and playing what they want to play.
"I guess I look at it completely different. Some people look at it as this is an art form and people are there to watch them. We were joking the other day, though, that we're not the artist - we're playing music from the artist."
Either way, Robbo's got a certain demeanor and way of presenting the music that makes him a local favorite year after year.
Although DJ Spin is only 28, he's been an active DJ for 12 years and has risen to the upper echelon of Tulsa's scene by winning the 2009 ABoT award for Best Club DJ.
Known as an innovative and exciting mixer, Spin has his own perspective of his role as a DJ.
Spin, known outside of DJ circles as Jon Gaudet, came into the scene from a different perspective.
"I was a speedskater and was always at Skateworld at 69th and Lewis," he said. "They used to have 'jam-skates,' and I was infatuated with the mix, how they went from one song to another while keeping the beat. I just had to know how they did it."
Now, Spin is one of the top club DJs in town, playing 4-5 nights a week, holding down Wednesday nights at Fishbonz and Thursday/Friday/Saturday at Pink. Part of his success can be contributed to his tremendous drive and the other with his audience selection.
"I'm a crowd-getter," he said. "I pick the guy in the back of the room that's bobbing his head, and my goal is to get him out on the dance floor."
While that goal might be the same for most DJs, Spin's attitude and take on his position is a little different.
"The DJ is the show," he said. "You can't get caught up in the partying and after hours, though. You've got to look at it past that and be ambitious in what you're trying to do."
For DJ Spin, the key is feeding off of the audience's energy, then giving back and getting involved, which is part of what makes him so popular in the local clubs.
Over the Texas/OU weekend, however, Spin had the opportunity to take his act to Dallas and play at Mantus. His energetic style struck a chord there, too.
"I went down there and made an impression," he said. Admittedly, he was a little nervous playing to a new audience in a new city, but his focus was still the same.
"Regardless of where I am, I'm going to put on a show and try to interact with the crowd," he explained. "That's my high: I get into that -- interacting with the crowd."
Although interaction and having fun is a key ingredient in Spin's performance, the first thing he emphasizes is developing his skills.
"The craft comes before the money," Spin said. He has consistently worked to stay ahead of the curve. As such, Spin works solely with digital files and claims he was the first person in Tulsa working with vinyl manipulation software.
As far as pre-planning sets or where to inter-mix songs, Spin takes a strong stance against it.
"You can't build a playlist, because you don't know who's going to be there or how the night will go," he said.
He admits when certain songs or beats come to him, though, he has a prepared folder in his software, and he'll put 5-10 songs in that folder before a gig--if they feel like something he might use. Once the night is underway, he'll often refer to that file, find a beat or grab a sample from the folder and drop it in on the fly.
Spin's explanations of how he mixes on the fly make it obvious that he's incredibly knowledgeable with the software he's using, and that expertise is part of what has thrust him to the cutting edge of the local club scene. Not only is he known for his mash-ups, combining beats from one song with lyrics from another, but he is also one of the first in Tulsa to start mashing and mixing videos, using MP4 files along with audio.
When used in conjunction with the additional video effects that he can apply, as seen on the flat screens at Pink, it's another impressive step that will likely be followed by others within the club DJ scene.
Kylie Lowells is now in her tenth year of deejaying and is the one of the few female DJs (aside from Robbo's wife, Lynn K) excelling within the local DJ community. Not only that, but she's the only Tulsa member of "Dance Robots, Dance!", a collective of 10 DJs, primarily based out of Oklahoma City.
Similar to the DJ Crews that formed in the mid-90's, Dance Robots, Dance! joins multiple DJs to spin together and network both within the scene and between cities.
Key members in the Oklahoma City crew include B, as well as John Bourke and Ed Crunk, both of who were vital players as the DJ scene grew during the '90s in Tulsa and OKC.
As part of Dance Robot's Dance, Kylie travels to Oklahoma City once a month for the group's weekly standing gig at KAMPS, Robotic Wednesdays. She is a staple of the group when it performs on a monthly basis at Soundpony, where the collective is a consistent favorite.
Kylie also stays busy locally, though, playing every Wednesday night at Rehab and every other weekend at Majestic, with a potential third gig waiting in the wings as the old Templ Lounge is slated to reopen as Candy Bar in the near future.
Kylie's introduction to the DJ scene came from yet another perspective.
"I was always into dance music and '80s hip-hop, but I got into it when I was dating a DJ, and he showed me the basics.
Throughout time, Kylie has become a premier DJ in Tulsa based on her knowledge of music and ability to work new and fresh songs in with more established material, while keeping the audience happy and involved.
"I'm pretty eclectic and play anything from '80s to rock to electro to Metallica," Kylie said. "Basically, I just play whatever I feel like and I hardly ever play something I don't want to."
Kylie's major forte is introducing her audience to new music. She spends anywhere from two to four hours a day online, perusing music blogs and Web sites, looking for new music and songs that she believes will mesh well with what's already in her library or on club playlists.
"Tulsa can be a hard crowd," she said. "It's hard to entertain people. If I can play something popular, then something that sounds similar, people will usually respond with 'OK, I like that too...'
"Even if I don't necessarily like a song I might still use it if I think it will mix well with something that sounds like it. If I can expose people to somebody new and different and people ask me who that was, I feel like I did my job. I want people to know there's more than just what's on the radio."
Reflecting on 10 years in the local DJ scene, Kylie shared that she feels like Tulsa has come a long way, and people are starting to realize that there are now some good DJs who can draw a crowd. In her opinion, however, the real strength of the current scene is the number of DJs around town and each with their own style.
Relatively new to the scene, Dillon Hargrave came into the game from yet another perspective. As part of a live, electronic jazz duo, Hargrave started doing more programming and listening to electronic music and saw deejaying as an outlet for his creativity that would allow him much more independence. Now, roughly two and a half years later, Hargrave has become one of the premier up-and-comers on the local scene as DJ Dilation.
As can many of our DJs, Dilation can bounce through an array of styles, touching on house music to hip-hop to '80s, but he has really established himself within the electronic music genre. He most often incorporates a house feel in his live mixes. His Sunday night residency at Soundpony has been making waves as one of the better nights of electronic music in town, and his reputation is quickly growing.
Dilation also plays Tiny Lounge on Friday nights, as well as in Stillwater a couple times a month. Plus, he is currently working on a project with Aaron Post for a potential "Electro Night" once Electric Circus officially opens in the spot that was formerly Exit 6C.
As a casual listener, what's most impressive with Dilation's mixes is his ability to add a more organic, natural feel to his electronic mixes. Although the surface usually has an electronic shimmer, his incorporation of vocals and synths warms things up without sounding particularly retro.
Dilation is another DJ who often employs both digital files and turntables, but by his own admission, he moved into the transition in a backwards manner.
Coming from an electronic music background, he started out using laptops, which provided him a more organic feel when mixing.
"I really look up to Moody," Dilation said, "because he's old school and good with vinyl, but he's adapted to the technology and allowed it to help him become even better as he uses it to its fullest extent. It shows his dedication to staying on top of the field."
Dilation's rapidly blossoming talent can likely be attributed to the fact that he keeps his ego in check and is a quick learner, not only willing, but eager to work with other DJs. As such, he's shared time with Robbo, Lynn K, Heady P, Just Jon and Moody, amongst others, giving him a well-rounded perspective on his role as a DJ.
Of his style, Dilation admits that he's all about staying in the moment, reacting to the audience and keeping things moving.
"I don't know if it's just ADD or what, but I like to switch songs every two minutes or so," he said. In turn, his mixes are active and fresh, which keeps his audience involved. As word gets out and he continues to play around town, Dilation is definitely one of the main young players to keep an eye on.
Nathan Edwards might have only stepped into the DJ ranks two years ago, but he's learned his craft quickly and has become one of the busiest young guns on the scene by working five or six nights a week.
Admittedly thrown into the job, Edwards was originally working lights for a promotion company until one evening when the hired DJ didn't show at one of the clubs he was working. At that point, the original DJ was out of a job, and DJ Ziploc was created in a trial by fire.
"I'm very critical of my own work, and I didn't know what the hell I was doing," he now laughs in hindsight. "If I could have recorded that set and heard it, oh the stories I'd have..."
With a focus on seamless mixes, creating something people haven't heard before and working in new songs, DJ Ziploc has won over a loyal audience and become one of the busiest DJs in town.
"Rob (Mason) gave me a break at The Gray Snail and let me come in here, when I got started," Ziploc said. That open door has become a house DJ spot with Ziploc playing four nights a week and filling the rest of his week with guest spots in locations such as Elephant Run, Hard Rock Casino and Pink.
In turn, with that much experience in the market, Ziploc has quickly come to understand his audience and what they want to hear.
Admittedly, Ziploc is a classic club DJ, building his sets around popular and Top 40 playlists, but he uses his mixing style to add in both new material and step back into some '90s hip-hop and rock material as the vibe and groove permit.
Probably the furthest removed from the independent DJ movement of the mid-'90s, DJ Ziploc is one of the most popular new DJs in town, and his history working within the bar and nightclub scene feeds his strength in reading a crowd and playing off its energy.
No matter what the audience or style, that's a key element that's shared between all of our premier DJ's: The ability to read its audience.
Whether controlling the tempo and vibe of the evening, creating an ebb and flow, or just keeping spirits up and the party vibe going, each of these masters knows his (or her) audience.
Yes, there's an undeniable energy with live music, but when a good DJ falls in-sync with his audience, the connection can be just as strong. And as our local pool of DJ talent continues to grow, so does the connection with the audience.
That connection also allows each of these mix-masters to infuse their own personality and taste into the evening's mix. And just as we learn to identify with each of our favorites, we often find ourselves influenced by the surprises they add to the mix, whether exposing us to new artists or opening our minds to a new genre.
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