All hands on decks

A national lineup of DJs will come together in Halifax this weekend to raise money for breast cancer research. Johnston Farrow gets the goods.

photo Darryl James

A dance floor filled with throbbing, sweaty and pink dancers.

No, it’s not a case of food colouring exploding under the disco ball. It’s what organizers of the Chicks with Decks event want to see this weekend at Club Rain. The bill features the best female DJs in Atlantic Canada as well as national talent from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver spinning in support of breast cancer research. Pink is the colour associated with the fight against the illness. Clubbers are encouraged to wear the colour to show their support.

“It makes us look a little more respectable in the community rather than people who just set up turntables and hire a big DJ to come in,” co-organizer Sean Hill says. “We want to give a little bit back. And hopefully through these events, we can slowly re-educate people to what’s going on here with a new approach.”

At first glance, the name “Chicks with Decks” might seem like a way to cash in on the fact that it’s an all-women show. But the show carries a deeper meaning. Part of the ticket proceeds will go toward breast cancer research.

Both Hill and co-organizer Joe MacEachern have been affected by the disease. MacEachern came up with the idea for the show after his grandmother dealt with breast cancer. Hill’s father passed away from cancer when Hill was eight.

Chicks with Decks is also a great way for diehards and novices to hear a lot of electronic music from a large, eclectic bill. Headlining the show is DJ Mini from Montreal, playing her unique mix of German-inspired electro; DJ Amtrak will lay down the funky house beats and Isis showcases techno from Vancouver. Represent-ing the east coast, Fredericton electronic veteran Sound Syster plays her mix of garage and techno; Cyn L from Moncton dishes out funky house beats; and 420 Jenny gives a taste of the local drum ‘n’ bass scene.

“It’s nice to have female talent from all across Canada,” says Jenny Carmichael, AKA 420 Jenny, who’s relatively new to the Halifax scene. “I don’t even know if I’ve been to a show with all females before. It’s nice to support the event and have all girls out there, but I’m just so excited about having so many different genres of music and so many different tastes and styles from across Canada.”

Not coincidentally, most of the DJs on the bill have directly or indirectly dealt with cancer. Statistics from the Canadian Cancer Society say that breast cancer is one of the most common forms in Canada. It is estimated that 21,500 women were diagnosed with the disease in 2005 and 5,300 will die.

“I don’t have anyone in my immediate relatives that have had it and I’m really thankful for that,” says Tabatha Daigle, AKA Sound Syster. “But even if I didn’t know anyone who had it, I’d still be just as happy to step up to work together on this because it affects us all somehow. It’s not so much that it’s an all-female event, but it’s just a way for us to stand up for each other and help each other.”

This is far from an event where women DJs prove they are just as good as the men. It’s more a case of there being enough resources and talent in Atlantic Canada to fill a lineup with women DJs who wish to contribute something more than the soundtrack to another club night.

“I’ve been finding that the more we do these sorts of parties, it stimulates the younger girls to get involved and start doing stuff,” says Evelynne Drouin, AKA DJ Mini. “It feels like we’re showing them, OK, this can work, you can do this, so don’t be shy. But at the same time, if you’re a DJ, you’re a DJ. It’s not about the fact that I’m a girl.”

As a bonus, Chicks with Decks brings together young, ambitious DJs who have produced and/or are working on material as a way to inspire others with new forms of music, all while maintaining a vibrant Halifax scene.

“It’s a good chance to come out and hear some really good music, socialize—there’s going to be a lot of positive vibes,” says Daigle. “And it’s just to know that part of the money you’re spending at the door is actually going right to breast cancer research. It’s good to have that in your head when you’re coming out to the show.”

Chicks with Decks, February 17 at Rain, 1661 Argyle, $15, at Revolution, 5189 Prince, and Mary Jane’s, 1549 Grafton

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