Starting from scratch

Vinyl, bitches.
Vinyl rules.

So you think you can DJ? Maybe you’ve wanted to learn, but don’t have spare Technics turntables lying around the house. Or perhaps you’re a seasoned pro willing to share your knowledge. Both are welcome at the Lab DJ class, which kicked off at Beauty Bar on September 15, giving anyone interested some time behind the tables.

“The whole concept is to cultivate the DJ culture in Vegas,” says Beauty Bar GM Joe Garcia. Hailing from New York City, Garcia got his start DJing at just 16 years old. Hauling around eight crates of records, Garcia was playing at legendary spots such as the Tunnel by 18.

Garcia says he’s noticed a lack of young DJs pounding the pavement in Vegas, however, and his peers now stay at home and have babies. “I haven’t seen a DJ that’s 21 years old show up here and ask to play,” he says.

That’s where the Lab comes in. But don’t worry, it’s not just for the newly legal drinkers, and it won’t cost you anything (save for the PBR you order): Tell your grandma, if she wants to learn to DJ, Downtown is where it’s at. Garcia is ready to give attendees hands-on training, and local DJs will drop in to share their skills, too. Garcia is even helping popular local electronic duo Afghan Raiders to spin. “It’s always better to learn from multiple people,” Garcia says. “This is not a formal thing. You don’t go to college for DJing.”

Beauty Bar will open early Tuesdays, around 8 p.m., to give more people the opportunity to absorb the knowledge and beats in case they have a regular 9-to-5er in the morning. And nocturnal electronic-music fans can stop by before hitting the clubs. “The most important thing, like anything in life, is showing up,” Garcia says. “That’s the hardest step sometimes.”

Setting up various stations inside Beauty Bar, DJ hopefuls can learn the basics of spinning vinyl or CDs, or using programs like Serato. Other DJs/instructors will periodically stop by to introduce the newest technology, such as Traktor, Ableton or the brand-new Numark ITCH, which DJ Info brought by for the first week.

Garcia—who has spun everything from rock and house to gabber and trance—says people wanting to learn to DJ any genre are welcome at the Lab. “The thing with DJing, it’s not specific to the music,” Garcia says. “The primary function of the DJ is to get people dancing no matter what the music is.”

But could a new DJ be born from the once-a-week meet-up? And where do they start? “At this point, we’re providing the basics,” Garcia says. “If somebody shows a desire and want, I can pull them aside, or they’ll meet someone else here that’s willing to share what they know.”

Garcia’s personal opinion is that newbies should first know the ins and outs of the equipment, and then learn on vinyl. “The other stuff around is conveniences—and they’re awesome and I use them—but you should learn how to use the real deal first,” he says. One of his biggest pet peeves: Some new DJs are only learning to spin with the aid of a laptop; they stare at the screen for entire sets while beat-matching.

“The most important thing fundamentally is to train your ear to know what’s going on,” he says. “Using vinyl teaches you that, because you don’t have that visual aid in front of you the entire time. You have to hear it … It’s like when you were in third grade and they give you that music test for who gets to play in the school band? Not everybody can do it.”

Garcia is hoping Tuesday nights will go well and he can expand to other aspects of the DJing world, such as sound engineering, lighting and new product demos. “If you build it, they will come,” he jokes. “I know there’s a lot of people here dancing around who love music. Maybe I can entice them to come to the dark side.”

(Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly and at LasVegasWeekly.com.)

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