DJs pump up the beat in Dinkytown

Some also joined the DeeJay Association to share their love, and tricks, for spinning.

Amber Schadewald

The beat thumped relentlessly Saturday night as DJ Chris Martin inspired students to let loose their last weekend before finals.

Martin, a biology senior, spun a mix of new and classic dance hits to the crowd at DownTime, a bar in Dinkytown.

Martin has been a DJ for three and a half years, typically playing at formal gatherings and weddings. This was his third gig at a bar.

Martin also spends time spinning records in his bedroom, anything from Top 40 to techno, and experimenting with new sounds and techniques.

This fall he started the DeeJay Association, a student group for DJs on campus to meet and share techniques. DJing is considered an art form to the group to explore the boundaries and interaction of musical styles.

The Association has about seven core members, each with different music styles and skill levels.

Martin said the group gives him a chance to rave about the latest DJ equipment and techniques to people who care about the hobby as much as he does.

“Some of my (non-DJ) friends got really sick of hearing about DJing,” he said.

First-year student Matthew Ferrara has been DJing (or spinning, as it’s commonly known) for

four years. He joined the DeeJay Association to both get active on campus and to collaborate with other DJs.

Ferrara considers himself more of a bedroom DJ, someone who mostly just likes to play around with music at home.

Most members of the group, like finance and entrepreneurial management senior Drew Knoechel, are not professionals, but spin for fun.

“And it’s cold in the winter here – what else am I gonna do?” he said.

Knoechel started DJing more than two years ago with a set-up that consisted of two portable CD players hooked to a mixer, a TV receiver for power and some bad speakers.

“It shorted out a couple times,” he said. “But it didn’t matter because everyone just wanted to have a good time.”

Once Knoechel’s speakers blew out while DJing at a Halloween party, cutting off the music mid-party; an embarrassing moment that goes along with trade.

Along with money for the expensive equipment, which can cost at least $500 for basic gear, the hobby also requires a lot of practice time.

Martin calls DJing “a labor of love,” and other association members agreed DJing is all about the crowd.

“You could be crappy, but if the crowd wants to have a good time, it doesn’t matter,” Ferrara said. “Well, unless you really screw up.”

A lot of people don’t realize how hard a DJ is working behind the tables, Knoechel said.

“People just think you’re up there doing whatever,” he said. “But there’s a lot to think about.”

DJs have to focus on keeping the technical aspects running while keeping the crowd moving.

Martin said a lot of people will come up to him and ask to touch the equipment, often holding their drinks right over the gear, which makes him nervous.

By midnight on Saturday, about 50 people sat at tables or outside by the bonfire, listening and occasionally dancing to Martin’s music.

Located under the Dinkydome, DownTime opened in September in place of the restaurant Mangia.

Bar representative John Nicklow said a lot of his customers are regulars, fraternity members from down the street and University faculty and staff.

Each Saturday, DownTime features a DJ, and Nicklow said he’s still looking for more late night entertainment.

Nickelow said Saturdays can be a “hit or miss”, and that night was a bit “more chill.”

Kristine Gaustad, communications and Spanish junior, came with a group of friends to see Martin’s DJ skills, and said she was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more people there.

“It’s just not as popular as the Library or other bars yet,” she said.

For DJs, playing what people want to hear is key, and stubborn crowds can be hard to please. Knoechel said it’s disappointing when a crowd only wants to hear radio hits.

But for Martin, playing a song that gets people on the dance floor and moving is what it’s all about.