All photos by Bradley.
Kristina Gray and Maegan Wood want to bust through the vinyl ceiling and bring DJing to the masses.
The duo is offering a set of instructional classes, workshops and salons to bring DJ skills to DC’s ladies, many of whom may feel discouraged from pursuing DJing simply by virtue of their gender. This Wednesday, Gray and Wood will be joined by female Seattle hip-hop duo CanarySing at Dodge City for Ladies Salon: Women, Hip-Hop & DJ Culture, a workshop and panel discussion.
The hosts have a wealth of experience to draw upon. Gray (aka K La Rock) started in 2002 when she inherited Wood’s old turntable set. Even though she has DJ’ed at clubs up and down the east coast and at private parties and boutique openings here in DC, she describes her favorite experience as DJing for the Girls Rock! DC camp (which both she and Wood help to organize).
“You have not lived until a little nine year old girl hands over her flash drive to you and says ‘Play Miley Cyrus track number seven’ and the party gets crunked,” says Gray.
Maegan Wood (aka Junebullet) has been DJing for ten years, since her penchant for collecting house music in college turned into a passion for spinning it. She now DJ’s several parties every year and plays two regular DC gigs: She.Rex at Chief Ike’s and You Ain’t Slick at The Looking Glass Lounge along with K La Rock.
Though Gray and Wood share nearly two decades of experience in the DC music scene, they were inspired in part by their own initial forays into the DJ world when they attended the (original) Ladies Only Intro to DJing class at the now-defunct Matatracks DJ studio.
In 2002, the two co-founded the First Ladies DJ Collective, a network of female DJ’s devoted to inspiring, promoting, highlighting and creating opportunities for lady DJ’s in DC and beyond. In the dimly lit backstage of The Black Cat, these women would gather once a month for five or six years to bring in guest artists, and would host 90’s parties, hip hop nights and crotch rock nights (the antidote to cock rock).
They returned to those roots last month when they ran a Ladies Only Intro to DJing class at The Black Cat. Participants gathered around two Technique turntables and a Gemini mixer and passed around Wham!’s Make it Big to feel the edge and check out the grooves. Kristina discussed the origins of the ones and twos, and dissected the anatomy of the turntable. Using the Just to Get By instrumental and Slick Rick’s Children’s Story, Maegan walked the group through the elements of the mixer and the difference between a direct cut and phrase matching. Eventually everyone got their turn on the tables.
This Wednesday, Wood and Gray will expand on these classes and their work with both the First Ladies DJ Collective and Girls Rock! DC to focus more on how to make DJing accessible to everyone, especially women. The session will be more Q&A-focused, offering budding DJ’s and other creative folks the opportunity to meet each other and find out how to break into the DJ scene, as well as discuss the tougher issues of race and gender on the dancefloor.
“We want to talk about things like why aren’t there more women DJ’s and MC’s?” says Gray. “Do we even need to be labeled as “women” DJ’s and MC’s? How can we create community and more inclusive spaces in these scenes? Why do I have an existential crisis every time someone requests Lil Wayne?”
Gray and Wood stress the welcoming vibe they are trying to achieve. In what is often a fragmented city, they are hoping the night will attract folks from across the spectrum: music lovers, vinyl nerds, b-girls, aspiring DJ’s and MC’s, and even guys who are curious about DJing.
So if you’ve been harboring a burning DJ desire and want to know all the answers, from how to book a gig or make a cut to how identity politics play out in the music world, head to Dodge City Wednesday night. Just bring an open mind… and maybe a cool idea for your DJ handle.