This weekend, a familiar face in Lansing’s music scene will get loud behind the decks at UrbanBeat’s Pride Dance Party, albeit under a fresh stage name: DJ Whitney Who. The “who” is better known locally as Whitney Spotts, the colorful and powerful vocalist of Starfarm, the always-busy ‘80s cover band.
Spotts will spin music Friday evening (June 16) alongside Juan Trevino of the Lansing-based production duo Moon Disco. The event description welcomes all to “celebrate Pride, embrace your authentic self and dance alongside a community filled with love, acceptance and unity.” City Pulse caught up with Spotts. Here’s what she had to say.
How does DJing compare to singing in Starfarm?
Whitney Spotts: For me, it’s a very different beast because I’m up there alone, whereas with the band, I have their energy to draw upon, and we all help get the crowd going. Behind a deck, I have to read the room and find the groove that keeps people dancing.
When and why did you start DJing?
I’d been wanting to DJ for years but found it really intimidating. Luckily, I have very talented and encouraging friends, so I finally got up the nerve last August to get started. Greg Smalley, who performs as M.O., has been an amazing mentor. The timing was funny. I was super jazzed from my first session with him, and then the very next day, I got laid off from my day job, so it just felt like serendipity. I put all my energy into this new world.
What kind of music do you spin?
I love the soul of house music in all its variations, but I also do open format, which is more Top 40 and club hits. To prep for a set, I start by putting together a playlist of songs that fit the occasion — for example, for Pride, I have a playlist of about 200 songs that are gay anthems or by queer artists — and then, in my practices, I play around to see what cool connections I can find or what songs go well together. A friend once told me, “Play like a little kid. Edit like a scientist.” I love that approach.
You’re spinning at the Pride event at UrbanBeat this weekend — what can you tell us about that set?
Pride is such an important time for the LGBTQIA+ community, and I wanted to help fill the hole that was left in Old Town when Spiral closed. UrbanBeat is such a cool venue that it seemed the perfect partner. It was also a special mission because one of my first public shows was supposed to be a queer dance. Without going into too many details, essentially, the funding got pulled after homophobic pushback. It was deeply disappointing and fueled my fire to provide a safe space for my rainbow family. I will also be DJing and speaking at the Capitol for the Michigan Pride Rally on June 25.
What tip would you give someone who wants to learn the art of mixing?
Performing-wise, the most important thing I was told was that a crowd will forgive a bad transition if you drop the right track. It’s true and helps quell the nerves. As far as mixing goes, the two most important things are: first, learn how to beat-match. Don’t rely on sync to carry you; you’ll be lost when it fails you. Second, learn phrasing so that your transitions are smooth and intentional.
Is Starfarm keeping busy as well?
We are full steam ahead for the summer — lots of outdoor shows scheduled, including the 5:01 Best of Lansing event at Jackson Field on July 29. Our full schedule is on our website, starfarmband.com.
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