Where in L.A. You'll Find Women on the Decks — and Where You Probably Won't
Kate "Dot" Ellwanger is one of three female residents at 808s and Heartbreaks, a monthly night at the Ace Hotel.
While there may be a gender gap at the dance music festivals across the United States, Los Angeles is a pretty good city to be a woman working as a DJ. Between the bars, dance clubs and parties in random spaces, there's no shortage of places to play, and you will find women playing everything from vintage vinyl at bars to the latest techno and house tracks inside warehouses. It's not unusual and that's been the case for a long time; even when I started going out in the mid-1990s, girls in the DJ booth weren't an uncommon sight.
There are, however, some places where you'll see the disparity between male and female DJs. That tends to happen once you hit the mega-clubs, those spots that book some of the biggest DJs in the world and the rising talent that you will be seeing on festival stages. Below, I've compiled a list of clubs and parties that have been pretty good about bringing in female talent, as well as a few that need some help.
These clubs regularly book great female DJs:
Downtown's Ace Hotel has proven to be a good spot for L.A. women with rising profiles in the club scene. Once a month, Unspeakable Records presents 808s and Heartbreaks. All three residents — Dot (Unspeakable Records, Team Supreme), Astronautica (Alpha Pup) and Suzie Strong (Unspeakable) — are female. They're joined by monthly guests. Additionally, Dig Deeper, the DJ and promotion team of Masha and Alison Swing, has been hosting monthly parties here for a while. During the summer, the Dig Deeper Daytime Edition features special guests joining the two residents.
Unity @ One666
Christi Mills and Mr. Bootsauce throw Thursday night weekly Unity in the heart of Hollywood, and its welcoming vibe has made it a hot spot for female and male house DJs alike. You'll likely find Mills herself on the decks at some point during the night. Recent guests include DJ Heather, Kelly Divan, Lacey IQ, DJ Kerry and more.
Clinic Wednesdays @ Couture
Wednesday nights at Couture bring out a lot of talent from the techno and deep house pools, and many of the DJs who play here are women. Recent guests include Chloé, Tara Brooks, Mina Lucci and Jennifer Cardini. Upcoming guests include Blancah and Julia Govor.
Cyril Bitar of Clinic Wednesdays also promotes Minimal Effort, and this massive holiday event showed excellent female representation for its Halloween and New Year's Eve events last year. Between the two events, they brought in talent including Miss Kittin, J.Phlip, Blond:Ish, Anja Schneider and many more.
Overall, the Lash has been really good about booking a diverse lot of DJs, not just in terms of gender but also ethnicity, sexual identity and even styles of music. (Disclosure: I play here once a month for '90s Goth Klub.) One of the recent additions to the calendar here is Mustache Mondays, and with the long-running promotion comes resident DJ Asmara (Asma Maroof from Nguzunguzu), who has toured with M.I.A.
These clubs can do better:
Nicole Moudaber's open-to-close set at Exchange last year was an all-too-rare instance of a major L.A. club giving a female DJ a prime headlining slot.
Honestly, Sound isn't always terrible about representing the female DJs. Miss Kittin, Cassy, Blond:ish and others have come through this influential Hollywood club in 2016. Still, if you walked in here on a random night, there's a pretty good chance you would only see guys on the decks.
Like Sound, Exchange isn't consistent about booking women. There have been some stellar moments here, like when Nicole Moudaber played open-to-close in 2015, but it's still very much a dude-centric club.
I thought that Avalon might be the most male-heavy of the three mega-clubs on this list, but it actually had more women on its July calendar than Sound and Exchange combined. (That's not saying much.) All three of these clubs need to do better, though. There's not exactly a shortage of women who are adept at handling the CDJs in Los Angeles.
Liz Ohanesian writes about DJ culture, electronic music and other subjects for L.A. Weekly. Her work also has appeared in Playboy, Noisey, Village Voice and a number of other publications. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
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