When she was 12 years old, Jamie Crouch got hit by a car. The doctors put metal plates in her arm and now she's bionic--DJ Bionic. Standing 6 feet 1 inch, and pulchritudinous to the extreme, she flows into a room like electricity through an open circuit; she is wholly ecstatic.
Watch her dismiss pleasantries and perennial poor health to talk to you at breakbeat speed, epiphanies dropping like iron-poor ravers at 8 a.m. Now she sits down for a second--only a second--and rifles through her bag, pulling out enough pharmaceuticals to supply a hockey squad of Hunter S. Thompsons. And then the anecdotes begin: A line like "This thyroid thing started a few years ago" bumps up against "I lived in the woods for a month with all these hippies--it was just this crazy kind of alternative experience" bumps up against "The first time I played a jungle set in Minneapolis, I broke it down and played Sade, and the people went nuts!"
Bumps up against reality. On a dank Wednesday night at the Front, Crouch--the only female DJ in town with a regular gig--is breaking the beat down, but no one is going nuts.
She hunkers over her Technics 1200 turntables, trying to pull off a brazen mix: a DJ's triple axel, triple-toe loop, so to speak. Her crossfader shifts from right to left as a slow, flat hip-hop track rubs up against a skippity-wicked jungle groove.
You can do it with her. Put one foot on a 10-speed bike and the other on a Greyhound. Do jumping jacks all the way to Des Moines.
And do it as she does, wearing the least user-friendly DJ attire this side of scuba gear: a red leather miniskirt that could make Nancy Sinatra shiver and a pair of knee-high, Pam Grier riot-gear boots. She wobbles above her record, damn close to taking a 6-feet-1-inch tumble.
And for what? The club is cold and empty. The crowd is a lackluster assemblage most easily designated "Friends of the Next Band." Bionic could play "Cat's in the Cradle" and none of the assorted 15 in attendance would fuss. Some would even laugh at such a juicy juxtaposition: Ah irony, sweet sweet irony.
No worries, though. Bionic stares a hole in her left turntable as she gingerly fades out the rap track, and the jungle record goes from minuscule to monolithic--not exactly smoothly, but surely. Smiling as she pulls it off, she wobbles over to her record crate and quickly finds another record, then wobbles back and slaps it down on the wheels of steel.
About three people understand what's happening. One of them even applauds.
Though she won't admit to it, you can tell right away: DJ Bionic wants to be massive. Massive you say? What is this, this massive?
Massive means Massive.
Massive means it's 4 a.m. and she's headlining a stadium-sized warehouse rave in some beautiful future she can barely conceive. Five-thousand red-eyed, baggy-pantsed, lysergically fueled flower puppies are going out of their flower-pickin' minds, popping plugs in their ears and leaping like lemmings against backstop-sized speakers so loud they beat the kids down like Chilean storm troopers.
Massive means they fly her to Germany.
Massive means the monitors actually work and she doesn't have to bring her own fucking power strip. It means that she gets more than 10 lousy bucks a set, and it means no more 10-hour-a-day temp jobs--like the one she has right now at the corporate lair of the Doughboy. Massive means masses. Massive means love.
It means the Tuscaloosa-born, Duluth-bred, "25-going-on-19-year-old" daughter of journeymen computer-science professors is gonna be in the fathermuckin' house and she's gonna stay in the fathermuckin' house, and you're gonna pay to go see her there.
And it's going to happen. It might be 10 months from now when Bionic gets her own club residency. It might be three years from now when she stockpiles enough savings to get the right equipment together, make her own tracks, and put out a record. Sure, it might not be this Sunday when the only junglist in the now-and-again bunglist DJ gaggle, the Groove Garden Collective, does her regular gig at the 400 Bar. But it is going to happen.
After too much hard work and way too much bullshit in a rave scene that's about as comfortable around women in power as it is around plain-clothed DEA agents, it will happen.
And those Pam Grier jackboots might come in damn handy the deeper the way-too-much-bullshit gets. "People have a thing for female DJs because nobody ever sees it happening," she says. "But I play to that. I'll play records with lines like [humming à la the soul diva] 'You Know You're Gonna Be Mine!' It makes these people go crazy! And that's what I'm there for, to make them go off. If I serve that purpose, that's fine because I'm doing it musically. Anything else is secondary to that."
Which is, of course, a part of the problem. Musical know-how aside, "You Know You're Gonna Be Mine" isn't exactly the toughest sell in the world when nine out of 10 testosteronies wanna be hers before she ever drops a beat.