Ladies Choice :: The Dinah 2012 DJ Line-Up!
The Dinah got its start back in the days when women’s golf was known as being particularly lesbian friendly and big band singer and TV personality Dinah Shore sponsored a tournament in her adopted city of Palm Springs. The Dinah split with Girl Bar Dinah to create its own weekend of events some time ago. But for the past seven years - even before the break-up - DJ Amara has been rocking Dinah Shore Weekend. Every year, the veteran has observed, the parties just keep getting better and better.
The Philippine native’s family moved to L.A. when she was only 8 years old. As a DJ, she travels extensively; locally, she has a residency at the PYT parties; and had one at the East West Lounge until it closed down several months ago. She has made a name for herself playing some of L.A.’s big charity gigs for the HRC, as well as nearly all the big local women’s events.
Amara considers herself an "open-format DJ"; that is, a wide variety of styles, from Top 40 to electro to House, with Old Skool R&B and hip-hop thrown into the mix. She’s encouraged by the new House music she’s been hearing lately - and playing. "There is a more soulful deep house scene in L.A., but it’s not as popular at women’s events," she said. "I still love playing popular commercial stuff, but I love it because I love all musical formats." Her eclectic playlist allows her to play for different age groups, ethnicities and gender orientation.
In her experience, the boys want the deep House beats while the ladies like peppy pop and Top 40 - although she’s acclimating them to House-influenced electro. In her planned Dinah sets, she aims to please - and hopes her veteran status will afford her a prime slot in the DJ booth.
Amara is another Chaka Khan fan and is looking forward to hearing the dance-soul legend perform live. Last year, she opened for Salt-N-Pepa’s reunion. "I can’t wait to find out who is opening for Chaka Khan this year," she said. "I am crossing my fingers on that."
At a recent Sunday L.A. party, DJ Amara managed to squeeze in some classic Chaka for a crowd that had women old enough to recognize the tracks. Afterward, she overheard several people anticipating hearing 10-time Grammy winner at Club Skirts: The Dinah.
Then again, Amara is constantly amazed by the marquee names that producer Mariah Hanson snags every year to perform at the Dinah. She recalls the knockout double bill of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. "Mariah has a knack for picking talent that hasn’t quite blown up yet," Amara said. "What great intuition to book [Lady Gaga] before she became what she is now."
For her, the Dinah is "one of those events where everyone is in a good mood; the crowd is always fun and friendly." She looks forward to it as a chance to meet people from around the world and sometimes, develop lasting relationships. Past gigs opened the way for Dinah pre-parties gigs in Vancouver, Canada, and Hawaii.
Above all, Amara plans to cranks up the energy level. "I really enjoy the House party vibe," she noted. "It is very different from a club vibe, more fun and friendly, and more at ease. You get to hear music you don’t hear quite often, and it puts you in that happy mood. That’s the kind of feeling I like to leave people with after my set. Even if I’m playing a prime-time slot and spinning Top 40, I’ll throw something in there that makes people say, ’Oh my God, I haven’t heard this song in so long!’ At the end of it all, I’m grateful to be there and to be partying with the ladies."
DJ Lisa Pittman
Another longtime Dinah veteran is Las Vegas native DJ Lisa Pittman. Pittman began as a drummer when she took on a job as a performing bartender, which eventually led her to the turntables. She has been an "open format DJ" since 2004, which for her means all genres, adaptable to many rooms, and any style. Such adaptability has served her well in her many years with Club Skirts: The Dinah.
"I was with Mariah from the onset of the Dinah split, so this is my sixth year," said Pittman. "There’s nothing that can capture the energy of Dinah; it is the pinnacle. If I could capture it in a bottle, I would. It’s the feeling you get when you’re around a ton of women who came to party, who are in a good mood, who left their troubles behind. It’s much different than your local gay bar. It’s like lesbian New Year’s."
Pittman counts among her influences DJ Vice, and A-Trak, who is Kanye West’s DJ. If she had to pick a favorite genre, it would have to be indie electro. "I don’t get much of a chance to play it, but every time I play a small room or somewhere in L.A. where I’m opening for another DJ, I put that in there," said Pittman. "It’s different and people don’t hear it all the time."
She currently spins at Marquee, a top Vegas nightclub. Pittman doubles as a promoter. She’s just started hosting an appropriately named weekly brunch dance party called "Munch." Her monthly Bootybar party routinely draws about 700 women. Every September, she puts on "Shedonism," where women take over an entire hotel and put the "she" in hedonism.
Closing Lady Gaga’s set at the Dinah several years ago remains her dream gig. When Gaga left, Pittman was facing 10,000 women who knew they had just seen the Next Big Thing. Somehow, she managed to hold that energy for two hours. "It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had at the Dinah," she said. "I don’t know if anyone will ever top Lady Gaga. They couldn’t settle down, they couldn’t sleep, and that was the best party they ever had. You can tell when you’ve captured the crowd, and you can tell when you don’t. And that set - every song was great; it was the best party of their lifetime."
When she was only 18, this native of suburban Orange County, south of L.A., moved to San Francisco and promptly began sneaking into clubs to experience the music. She now divides her time between L.A. and San Francisco every other week to play clubs in both cities. "I was exposed to great talent right off the bat," she recalled. "I had always collected classic rock ’n’ roll records, and I decided to see what I could do with it."
A friend gave her a crash course in the art and science of beat mixing, and after years keeping her roommates up while she was practicing until 2 a.m., she found her style. Her background led her first to rock and punk, then House and electro, and from there to hip-hop. Saratonin now takes it all across the board, choosing songs that reflect her own personal favorites.
In L.A., she plays mostly boy parties. She especially loves spinning at Mr. Black L.A. with the biggest lesbian DJ headliner in the world, Samantha Ronson, along with Sam Sparro. In San Francisco, she spins at Rasputin and Trigger. "Right now Rasputin is my favorite, because I get to really experiment," said Saratonin. "These days, parties are a lot of effort because people can’t afford to pay the cover and get drinks, so clubs don’t have a way to pay for the night. But somehow these guys have found a way to keep it fresh, like an event every night, not just a club night. It makes you want to change up your music, to make sure you’re keeping it fresh and new."
She finds that in San Francisco, guys actually like to dance to hip-hop music. The new L.A. girl parties like Dollhouse on Thursday night prefer House and electronica.
DJ Saratonin is looking forward to another Dinah, where she has DJ’d for the past seven years. For her, it’s more like playing for family. "It feels like camp in a weird way," she said. "There are people who work at the Dinah who live in Montreal, Toronto, or New York, and I don’t get to see them often, so when Dinah happens we all get to hang out."
She cherishes those friendships and can count on event producer Mariah Hanson to lend a sympathetic ear in times of trouble. The staff gathers for a dinner after each year’s event, and Saratonin admits, "That’s the part that I really appreciate. I don’t party as much at Dinah as I used to, because I’m working and older now, so I can’t keep up. I enjoy hanging out with old friends I don’t get to see often."
In the past, Saratonin has played after headliners like Natasha Bedingfield and Luciana. For her, it’s all part of participating in such a huge event and being able to drop tracks for thousands of dancers.
This year, she’s planning another of what she hopes will be a memorable set. "I want people to leave still singing, like when I used to spin for PYT and at last call, I would throw on the theme song, and people went crazy," Saratonin said. "I want people to be able to keep feeling what they experienced. I want them to be kicked out and still be singing that last song."
Born and raised in Los Angeles, DJ Lezlee describes herself as "a little girl in love with music." She always knew she would work in the music industry. At age 24, she began immersing herself in spinning, especially female DJs. Like many aspiring DJs, she got her first gig through a stroke of luck: Another DJ cancelled playing for a friend’s birthday party. The equipment was in place, so Lezlee stepped in, and she was on her way to her chosen career.
DJ Lezlee likes all kinds of music, but especially loves party anthems, House, electro, hip-hop and Old Skool - as long as it’s high energy. In L.A., she’s in residency at Juicy; at KYSS, where she spins with DJ Asha; and at the Catwalk Club. She also plays smaller parties like "Push," a bimonthly girl party, and the huge club Marquee in Las Vegas. Her favorite gig by far is Juicy. Since it’s held only monthly, "people are ready to party," she said. "You can throw anything at them, and they’ll love it."
This is DJ Lezlee’s third year spinning at Club Skirts: The Dinah, where she has spun early morning sets. She admits she’d love to play the Sunday afternoon pool party. But any time slot is fine with her, because, she said, every event is so much fun. "I want them to have the time of their life," she said. "People come out to spend time with me and Club Skirts, and I want them to leave satisfied and happy, having heard all their favorite songs, old and new. I’m a DJ, so when I’m out at the club and hear the DJ play something I haven’t heard in years, I love it. With that in mind, I will play a little bit of everything."
DJ Kidd Sysko
Growing up in Stockton, Calif., Kidd Sysko made the trek to nearby San Francisco every weekend for two years before he finally figured out a way to break into the scene there. He started as a bar back at the Café as a way to get to know the local promoters. One day, the scheduled DJ didn’t show up for work, and he got his shot.
"It was an ’80s party, that and electro," he recalled. "There were so many different genres in play in San Francisco at the time, I had to learn really quick. I started getting some breaks, and being friends with people, was more likely to get booked."
One of those friends was Briana Stockton, with whom he used to work at the Café. On her recommendation, the ladies at The Dinah gave him a shot. This is the sixth year Kidd Sysko will spin at Club Skirts.
He currently spins at the Café, the LookOut, the Crib, and the Cat Club. Unlike some gay DJs, he loves spinning for women because they’re more open-minded. "Guys want pop or Circuit music, and I’m not really into that scene," Sysko said. "But with girls, there is so much more of a variety of music. As far as at the Dinah, you can’t play one genre or cater to one crowd; you have to jump around."
Sysko remembers his first year at the Dinah, when he opened the Saturday morning pool party. He walked in, chuckling at the people still wearing their outfits from the White Party the night before. Sysko thought the early morning party would attract a small crowd. However, by 8 a.m., there was a line to get into the pool area, which didn’t even open for another hour. "I thought it would be a mellow day, but these girls don’t sleep," he said. "It’s their last day, and so you get your second wind. It is ’Girls Gone Wild’! By the last night, you know you’re not going to see your friends anymore, so it’s ’Let’s go crazy!’ It’s pretty awesome."
This year, whether he spins for the pool party, the night party, or for headliner Chaka Khan, he is happy enough to be part of the scene. "I just want them to be thinking that it’s an amazing party, because they came to have fun," said Sysko. "It’s not just about the music, but about reuniting with friends they haven’t seen for a while. Everyone’s dancing and having fun, and we’re in the background. As long as they walk away with a smile on their face, I will have done my job!"
Club Skirts: The Dinah Shore Weekend is taking place from March 28 - April 1 in Palm Springs, California. For more info about Club Skirts: The Dinah visit www.thedinah.com