Post-pandemic party people

DJs bring global underground to the Prairies

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Jason Aniceto’s band to take a hiatus, he discovered a love for DJing and electronic music – and he’s not alone. (Supplied photo)

To many in Winnipeg, DJs are alternatively associated with bass drop-laden EDM, ’80s, ’90s and ’00s throwback nights or classic disco and pop at a local wedding social.

While all these forms of dance music have their place – almost everyone has sung along to “Sweet Caroline” at least once in their life – a new crop of DJs is slowly emerging in the city. Pulling from the sounds of underground electronic music, they’re bringing something different to Winnipeg.

One of these DJs is Jason Aniceto. After quitting drumming after his band Ivory Waves officially stopped playing music during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Aniceto became enamored with a new way of performing music live.

“Everyone was obviously at home and one thing that, by happenstance, I stumbled upon was all of these underground scenes around the world,” Aniceto says.

“The techno scene in Japan started to emerge because people couldn’t congregate,” Aniceto says. “They started posting (their sets online) so that people could watch the livestream.”

Aniceto is not alone in discovering electronic music through the internet. The popularity of online radio stations such as NTS or Boiler Room has increased dramatically during the pandemic.

Electronic music has its origins in underground DIY spaces. The internet is now an avenue where DJs can present new and exciting tracks and remixes without requiring the stamp of approval from a mainstream venue.

It was through similar DIY channels that Aniceto began performing for live audiences. He started playing guerilla-style setups in a local park during the summer following the first few waves of COVID-19.

“Everyone was hanging around (the park) when COVID started to whittle down, and we were thinking we should have a dance party,” Aniceto says. “It kinda became this tradition. We started doing it once every month at least for the past two years.”

Moving from playing the drums to turning knobs, Aniceto was surprised by the musicianship that goes into DJing – especially when it comes to playing for a crowd.

“When I first started, I didn’t really get a feel for it, but now that I have got more experience under my belt, it feels very similar to how it was when I was playing shows,” he says. “There’s this communicative part about it ... you watch people’s reactions in the crowd and play to that.”

Aniceto was clearly not the only one watching livestreams, as he has witnessed the appetite for dance music dramatically increase since these initial shows in the park.

“I’d like to think, for the most part, it is resonating with people for a reason,” Aniceto says. “When I started DJing a year ago, there didn’t feel like there was much space in the scene that I was a part of, but now there’s a lot of crossover.”

Aniceto understands that he is not starting something completely new. Organizations like Full Blüm have been going for years. Nonetheless, he’s excited about the increased appetite for dance music in the city and feels as if Winnipeggers’ definition of DJing is widening.

Published in Volume 77, Number 13 of The Uniter (January 5, 2023)

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