Photo by Ingrid Alm for Lunchboxx.org
Shannon Blowtorch is the kind of person that if something is in front of her, she's going to learn how to use it. That's what happened to her back when she was the entertainment director at Pi Bar. There, she just started teaching herself how to use the DJ equipment that was in the space.
After Pi's brief lifespan (2007-2008), Blowtorch began DJ-ing around town, and was so successful that she does it full time now. This week she's got two events. The first is BOMP or Bust!, a dance party that started in Bedlam's old space, and moved around quite a few times before settling at Ground Zero. The second is at Hell's Kitchen's Grown & Sexy: A Way Gay St. Paddy's Day, a happening catering to the LGBTQ community.
We talked with the Blowtorch, the mastermind of some of the best parties in town, to find out about the upcoming events and what she's been up to lately.
How long has BOMP been at Ground Zero?
We've been there for a few months. We did a couple of trials, and it worked out. We're slowly growing it back up. I think Ground Zero has a reputation for being one type of nightclub, but it's really all about what party you're going to, no matter what club you go to. Who is playing can completely change the atmosphere and the vibe. Ground Zero is one of those clubs that has one of the best dance floors. It's got a lot of space. It's perfect for BOMP.
And who are the DJs right now for BOMP?
It's Jimmy TwoTimes, Plain Ole Bill, myself, Jonathan Ackerman, Slam Dunkifer, and then once in a while we'll have guests. For this BOMP we're gonna have Kid Vicious do a guest spot.
When you have a bunch of DJs, does it affect what you're doing, depending on who you're spinning with?
I think having a super-hero group of DJs like that playing at BOMP it just makes you work that much harder to tighten up your sets, tighten up your skill set. Also, working with DJs like that, working with a party like that, we get to do things that we can't do at other parties. We get to play a lot of music. For instance, Jimmy and Bill are well known for Get Cryphy, but they might want to play something different than what they're playing there, and they have that outlet to do so at BOMP.
The thing with BOMP is that you can get away with a lot of newer music that if you're DJing a normal dance party, people might not get down to. But these kids stick with you because they research new music. They're on the cutting edge of music. They're paying attention to it, and they're following the DJs.
And Grown & Sexy is an older crowd, right?
Yeah, with Grown & Sexy we kind of gear it toward the GLBT community, and that's completely different business partners.
So how would you describe the vibe for Grown & Sexy?
Grown & Sexy is more adults, anywhere from an age range of 21 to 40 something. It's at Hell's Kitchen -- unless it's Pride, then it's at First Avenue. It's just geared toward the GLBT community, and people who also enjoy good burlesque. We've also incorporated some drag. We have members from Dykes do Drag in the cast sometimes, members of Sequin Sundays from the Town House, and then we try to bring in out of town performers instead of just recycling the local burlesque.
We're trying to have something for everybody. So for instance, for Pride this year, we're bringing in a pretty decent national performer that's probably more geared toward boys. So we're trying to keep it very open in that sense. It's not geared toward one angle of the GLBT community, but more for everybody. I think the music reflects that, too. The music is going to be all over the place.
Could you give an example?
The music could be some old soul and funk, to a little bit of top 40, to some electro, to some pop. Maybe some bounce music, some '80s jams, and '90s. I'm the only DJ for Grown & Sexy, so I feel like I just kind of vibe with the crowd and read off them. And then sometimes there's a performer on, and it's like, 'Oh, they just went there.' Well, my set's now going to go here.
I get really inspired by the performers, too, and whatever vibe they were going for. You can get witty as a DJ if they play something funny or they do something funny. There's usually a counteraction to that, with a song that represents that as well. To keep it smart, I kind of like to do that as a DJ.
After the jump: Shannon Blowtorch on transphobia in the Twin Cities, preferred DJ equipment, upcoming projects.
And what do you think about Hell's Kitchen as a venue?
I love the space, it's one of my favorite venues in the Twin Cities. I know it's a restaurant during the day, but at night, they accommodate their space depending on your event. They do live music there as well, so if it's a live show it's going to be a different vibe than when I come and do a pop up dance party. They're going to clear out the tables and the chairs, and make a dance floor.
One thing about the Hell's Kitchen staff is they have a lot of people from the GLBT community working there. They're huge allies of the community, so I feel like it's also a safe space to hold those kinds of events at. I have had experiences -- I definitely don't want to say names of venues -- where I have thrown GLBT parties at other venues where the regulars were not so forthcoming of the demographic that would be attending that party. We've definitely experienced some homophobia and transphobia, even though it's 2013 and I don't fucking get it.
Does that happen very often?
I would say more often it doesn't happen. Minneapolis is a fairly progressive city. It's pretty liberal. I feel proud of our area. I feel like when things do happen in the city that -- you know, we're in Minnesota so we've got that Minnesota Nice bullshit -- you can at least have a conversation with somebody usually. So I don't see it too much. I have run into it recently. It was not the venue -- I knew the venue was very supportive -- it was just some of the regulars that were like, 'What the fuck are you doing at our bar?'
They did some property damage so certain people couldn't go to the restrooms. It was absolutely uncalled for.
Do you have specific equipment that you use now?
I'm able to play on absolutely anything, including new school Serato controllers, 2 Tech 12s, 2 CDJs -- whatever. I feel like I should know how to play on everything. My roommate has one of those new school Serato controllers. I would never purchase something like that, but it's at my house. So if it's looking at me, I'm going to get on it and be like, 'Huh. What do I like about this? What don't I like about it?' I prefer two record players and a mixer, though. That's my preference. And I play real vinyl sometimes, too.
Is there a particular kind of record player that you like to use?
Tech 1200s, Technique 1200s. They don't make them anymore. So they're like diamonds to DJs right now. I have seven of them. When you find them, you pick them up. They're worth money now, because they're workhorses and they last forever. And they're expensive to make, which is why the company quit making them. So now you can only get really cheap shitty turntables.
What are the other gigs you're up to lately?
The main things I'm really working on right now are my Pride events coming up. I've had Pride booked since July of 2012. So now I'm tightening up all my Pride events. We're getting ready at Grown & Sexy this weekend to announce who our national headliner is, and I think the crowd is going to love it. My goal is to sell out that room this year.
And I'm really trying to push BOMP back up there right now, because I really love the crew of DJs we're working with. I really don't know how you get a better crew of DJs than that. It's pretty much the best of the Twin Cities coming together.
King Otto and I also have a new night, called Jellies and Jams, every second Friday in the record room at First Avenue. He's one of my favorite DJs to work with because he is a smooth operator.