Don't look now, Richmond, but our disc jockey scene is what's up.
Crowded scenes have sprung up the last few years, particularly at such places as Cous Cous, Ipanema Cafe, New York Deli, deLux, Babes of Carytown, and now Balliceaux, among others. Restaurant and club owners realize that a unique DJ can be of paramount importance to a vibrant nightlife.
The diversity of local styles represented is impressive, as well as the feeling of camaraderie and support within the scene. “We're like a family, which is very unusual for a bar DJ group,” says Tracy Keats Wilson, founding member of the female collective Cherry Bomb. “The really cool thing is that it is [often] free. Bigger cities charge 10 to 25 bucks for nights like these and they aren't intimate — those are usually crappy, faceless nights without that family feeling.”
Style Weekly has rounded up a short list of some of our favorite local DJs. This brief list spans different genres and formats, includes relatively inexperienced DJs alongside veterans who have been spinning for 20 years. Whether you like to shake it on the dance floor or rest hips and flex lips, these DJs are known for a reliable good time.
Or as local musician, Rei Alvarez aka DJ Rattan puts it: “Two things a DJ should always have: good taste and good transitions.”
Gigs: DJs with Cherry Bomb collective at Cous Cous and has an irregular psych night with Greg Darden also at Cous Cous. Check Web site for nights.
Musical styles: 1960s and early '70s, French pop, Motown soul-girl groups, garage and psych stuff
The vibe: Positive and fun; these popular ladies draw a large group of their young friends and friends of friends. Cherry Bomb has definitely made a splash in the mostly male-dominated local DJ world. The collective includes founding force Tracy Keats Wilson, Sarah Pratt, Vilkas D'Angelo-Horvath and Talia Eve Miller.
Backstory: There are five active DJs in Cherry Bomb, Richmond's “all-vinyl, all female collective” headed by founder Wilson, but for space purposes we picked the first member we ran into while shopping in a record store. Live, Cherry Bomb trades off between DJs who all have their various specialties — from punk to French pop. “We all have each other's backs,” says youngest member Gossett, who moved to Richmond in 2006 after graduating from the University of Mary Washington. The collective is showing a few local lady record collector friends the DJ ropes and adding them to the lineup in rotating guest spots.
What do you look for in a DJ? “I really appreciate it when a DJ knows how to read a room and can fit the environment. You can really dictate a lot of the vibe.”
Eileen, “Ces Bottes Sont Faites Pour Marcher,” a cover of Nancy Sinatra's “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, “Motoring.”
Miriam Makeba, “Pata Pata.”
The Golden Daw, “My Time.”
Delphine, “La Fermeture Acclair.”
DJ Rattan (Rei Alvarez)
Gigs: No regular gigs, but solo DJs the Roots, Rock, Rattan show at Cous Cous and works with No Richmond at Balliceaux; also DJs with Amazing Ghost on occasion when he's not touring with Bio Ritmo or Miramar.
Styles: International lounge, '60s, '70s, '80s, roots, reggae, Brazilian, post punk; uses both vinyl and cassettes.
The vibe: “I cater to the music lover. ... My main purpose is to complement and embellish every mood or setting I'm in,” he says. The name DJ Rattan comes from all the rattan furniture in his childhood home that for him evokes the “tropical, international, breezy, open-window kind of thing.”
Backstory: You know and love him as a longtime frontman for Bio Ritmo (as well as newer group Miramar), but Alvarez seems to eat, sleep and breathe music of all kinds, as long as it has heart. He grew up in Puerto Rico, fascinated by his mom's records and turntable, and moved to Richmond in 1986.
What do you look for in a DJ? “I listen for the transitions … the big picture, not just playing requests. You gotta think above the people tugging at your sleeves and consider the entire room. You are the mood setter.”
The Heavy Hitter DJ Lonnie B
Gigs: Saturday Nights at Paradise Lounge 10 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday nights at the Q Club 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Also plays other special parties. For specifics, check his Twitter feed (twitter.com/djlonnieb), which has nearly 3,000 followers. Radio shows on Ipower921.com (Monday-Friday, 5-6 p.m., the Hard Drive at 5; Sunday 7-10 p.m., Sunday School, classic hip hop and R&B).
Styles: Hip hop, R&B
The vibe: Hard partying but deeply thematic. “My style is I connect the dots. … I put a lot of thought into it. If you don't pay attention, it'll go over your head. I'm a rapper as well so I like to dig and find original samples — then loop the samples and let people know where stuff came from.”
Backstory: Mentored by DJ Drake when he was coming up, Lonnie B is a longtime Richmonder who's been DJing hip-hop parties since 1990. Not afraid to adapt and use digital technology, he grew up collecting records and has watched new DJ generations start with one computer program and copying someone's hard drive. “With new technology, what's changed about DJing is there's a whole new breed of cream-of-wheat DJs: Just add water, headphones, and now you're a DJ.”
What do you look for in a DJ? “A good DJ is not scared to take chances. … Anybody can hit the Top 40, but that's a jukebox. You gotta take it a step further these days. If people don't like it, you know how to recover from it.”
Young Money, “Roger Dat.”
Rihanna, “Rude Boy.”
Red CafAc, “I'm Ill” “Remix feat Ryan Leslie.”
Usher, “Hey Daddy” feat. Plies.
B.O.B., “Nothin on You” feat. Bruno Mars.
Gigs: Mercy! is a soul, funk and boogaloo 45 rpm dance party at Cous Cous, every first Saturday; also No Richmond nights at Balliceaux (check Web site for schedule). Murphy also has a radio show, “Mellow Madness” (soul and funk) on WRIR-FM 97.3, Sundays 1-3 p.m.
Musical styles: Soul, funk, Brazilian, reggae, psych, international
The vibe: “It's a crowd interested in good music, not your average bar event. People not looking for hits; mix of younger and older.”
Backstory: Started as DJ Sleek in the '90s, spinning for hip-hop group Infectious Organisms. Later, he and partner, Jason Hamlin, inherited the Mercy! night from the legendary Scorpio Brothers, who are leading collectors of Virginia funk and soul 45s. Check out their popular blog, Funky Virginia, at funkyvirginia.blogspot.com.
What do you look for in a DJ? “I wanna see someone who can work the crowd, someone who's exciting to watch and looks like they're having fun.”
The Jackson 5, “I Want You Back.”
War, “Me and Baby Brother.”
All the People, “Cramp Your Style.”
Maggie Thrett, “Soupy.”
Brief Encounter, “Get a Good Feeling.”
Gigs: Soulpower is every second Saturday at Balliceaux (partners with Andrew Felty); Midnight Soulstice radio show every Friday night on WRIR-FM 97.3 Richmond Independent Radio, 11 p.m.-1 a.m.
Styles: Funk, soul, jazz, Latin
The vibe: “Really interesting mix of dinner crowd and our crowd from the soul parties over the years. … People are talking about Richmond now, it's got a good reputation in the soul scene in the U.S.”
Backstory: Born in Germany, Pari started DJing at 15 and moved to the United States at 19. Well established in international soul circles, Pari has done production work (writing and arranging) for soul greats Marva Whitney, Gwen McCrae, Lyn Collins and burgeoning Japanese funk group Osake Monarail, which does a '69-styled James Brown show. He even toured as an opener for the Godfather of Soul himself. “Amazing, I learned so much every night,” Pari says.
What do you look for in a DJ? “He must play interesting stuff I haven't heard before. If you can do a whole night and play songs nobody on the dance floor knows, and they dance to it, you know you've done a good job.”
The Natural Four, “I thought You Were Mine.”
Sir Guy, “Funky Virginia.”
The Gaturs, “Gator Bait.”
Kings Go Forth, “One Day.”
Little Oscar, “The Funky Buzzard.”
Gigs: Bollywood night at Cous Cous the second Saturday of the month; random nights at Balliceaux; Indian weddings. Serves as host of “If Music Could Talk” Sundays on WRIR-FM 97.3 from 7-9 p.m.
Style: Bollywood and Bhangra, from '60s classics to modern
The vibe: Eclectic and enthusiastic; with newbies and more versed fans who often make requests. (Carlito was recently stabbed in the cheek while DJing in Washington by a wildly gesticulating Bollywood dancer who'd dragged him onto the dance floor).
Backstory: Richmond native Carl Hamm aka. DJ Carlito lived in New York in the late '90s and soaked up the cosmopolitan culture, stockpiling cassettes from bodegas. When he came back home, he got involved with WRIR and started DJing at the 17th Street Farmers' Market before moving into restaurants. By day he's the multimedia technician for T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond.
What do you look for in a DJ? “It's difficult to be original and keep the audience interested. … A good DJ can keep people's ears open and segue into something they haven't heard … even if they're playing, God forbid, Black-Eyed Peas, they can mix it into Bhangra.”
Shaan, etc., “Deewangi,” from the film “Om Shanti Om.”
Sunidhi Chauhan and Sukhwinder Singh, “Beedi,” from “Omkara.”
Rahul Dev Burman, “Mehbooba Mehbooba,” from “Sholay.”
Lehmber Hussainpuri, Kaka Bhainiwala and Miss Pooja,
“Gerra De De.”
Tunak Tunak Tun, “Daler Mehndi.”