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Party Pics

Photographer Mike Rosley documents — and validates — the club scene.

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But when Evolve: The Richmond Electronic Music Festival closes down Broad Street to make room for its DJs June 2, it will be a family reunion.

Jesse Oremland and his fiancé, JoAnna Willey, run Turnstyle, a dance music and clothing boutique downtown. Even though Evolve marks Turnstyle's third anniversary and Oremland has been spinning records as "Jesse Split" for 12 years now, he's still had a tough time explaining to his family why all those late nights and thumping bass lines are so important to him.

When Turnstyle opened three years ago, it was the city's lone outpost for electronic music and club clothes. Oremland and Willey have worked hard to fight the drug-addled stereotype the scene has acquired and to bring the music out of dark clubs to kids of all ages.

"It's gone from three years ago, people stopping on the sidewalk and doing mock club dancing during the First Friday walk," Oremland says, "to people stopping and asking whose record we're playing." Business is going strong, and Turnstyle hosts a weekly electronic radio show on WRIR-FM 97.3.

Recently, Oremland's grandmother Eleanor, a fantastic 83-year-old who drives a pearl-painted Jaguar and was friends with Gwyneth Paltrow's dad, put Oremland in touch with Paltrow's distant cousin, Mike Rosley. A photographer at the other end of the electronic music spectrum, Rosley, 37, is deeply entrenched in Chicago's international DJ scene.

"You should really meet Jesse," Eleanor told Rosley over drinks during a layover in Chicago. "He throws those party things, too."

According to Rosley, he and Oremland have been "talking like little high school girls and running over my cell phone minutes" ever since.

Rosley and Oremland will meet for the first time this week when Rosley comes to Richmond to install a show of his photographs at Turnstyle for the party, which coincides with the First Fridays Artwalk.

"My life is a whirlwind of adventures," Rosley says. "My friend wanted to do a documentary on me, but then he started doing one on Puff Daddy, so Mike takes the back seat." The photographer also recounts a night of singing Burt Bacharach songs a cappella with Nancy Wilson, the guitarist from the rock band Heart and wife of acclaimed film director Cameron Crowe.

Rosley's one of those right-time, right-place guys. He's made the leap from getting paid "to getting super-paid" for his work, and he's photographed the Chicago Bears, James Brown, the Grateful Dead, dozens of album covers and more than 500 club DJs.

Every pop song you hear on the radio with a four-four dance beat owes its butt-shaking capabilities to the electronic innovations that came out of Chicago in the early '90s. It's a scene and a style that has had a huge impact on popular culture, and Rosley's been there to document it.

He accidentally came upon photography during his freshman year in high school in North Dakota. Although he wasn't interested in art, he needed to fill the eighth period with something, so he wound up as the youngest student in the photography class. He quickly befriended the teacher and the two hottest senior girls in the room. Rosley was also a regular at the Budget Disc and Tape Master record shop, where the local import buyer would set aside new vinyl releases especially for him. After high school he moved to Chicago to attend the prestigious Art Institute.

"They wanted $38,000, so I told them to go jump in Lake Michigan," Rosley says. Instead he started working in a camera store and became acquainted with some "über-guys that had been partyers from the '60s," Rosley says. "They just introduced me to every owner, so I was allowed into a lot of elite clubs." And so he was launched into Chicago's smoky nightlife.

DJ celebrity is a funny thing. The only people who recognize you on the street are part of the same scene. One of the most fundamental elements of your craft is playing other people's music. How you mix things together and respond to the needs of the crowd is what you're known for. It's the decisions you make and your personal style that make you famous.

That's why the scene and the business need Rosley, a point he's had to make emphatically at times. Rosley says he once threw a DJ friend up against the wall and yelled: "'When you're done playing, if I don't take your picture, you're just a f — ing memory' — and they were all like, 'Wow.'"

Because house music has come up from the underground mega-rave scene of the early '90s, it's matured and enjoyed commercial success in better-lighted recording studios and smaller clubs. DJs have new, but more controlled, opportunities to make names for themselves.

When you're selling your style, and your photographs, managing your ego can be a tricky thing.

"Remember when you were young enough to fart in line at the supermarket and not care and that you're going to be old enough to do that again," Rosley says. "It's that lightness of heart and that has gotten me several jobs." S



Evolve will take place June 2, 7-10 p.m., in front of Turnstyle at 102 W. Broad St., where Mike Rosley's pictures will be on display. At 10 p.m. the party moves to Hyperlink Cafe for more DJs and a fashion show until 2 a.m. $10. For more information call 643-8876.



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