No bullshit: DJ Sara T. on how to throw a dance party
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A dance party’s success isn’t just about how many heads walk through the door—and master party thrower Sara Thurston, better known as DJ Sara T., knows this well. Since 2001, Thurston’s epic soiree Danceotron has brought good music—and an even better, all-inclusive attitude—to multitudes of venues throughout the Denver area. The latest edition brings the transplanted Los Angeles resident/ex-Coloradan back to her semi-home state this Saturday at the Hi-Dive. Thurston took a few moments pre-party to share with The A.V. Club exactly what it takes to keep the hands in the air and the bullshit off the dance floor.
Have a positive attitude
Sara Thurston: It starts with good intention. To me, as a DJ/promoter, if your groundwork is based upon something to make you look good or to glorify yourself, then you’ll have a very shaky foundation. But if you set your personal goals and set the intentions, you’re never compromising and always available to grow. People can build themselves up on something that is always changing; if your whole identity is based on just being a promoter or a DJ, when that’s not going well, you don’t have anything.
ST: I use this word a lot, but it’s really fundamental to my life: relationships. Relationships are what it’s about. In “club-land,” in general, there is such resistance to maintaining basic, healthy, communicating relationships. Or maybe that’s just in life in general. [Laughs.] Promoters in L.A. have started adding me on Facebook. I’m thinking, this isn’t MySpace, why are you doing this to me? [Laughs.] You don’t know me. You don’t care about me. There is nothing between us. There’s been no acknowledgement or kindness or consideration. If you’re treating people like numbers, it’s disheartening. I don’t think any city needs another numbers-focused, selfish, ego-driven party. In terms of relationships with club owners or bartenders or door guys, it’s the same thing. If you walk up to a bouncer and act like you own the place, you’re kind of overlooking the fact that an event space is a working ecosystem. Everyone talks to each other, and everyone is related.
Don’t make promises you can’t deliver
ST: A lot of party fliers have promises and girls and flashy logos and all this shit—then you show up and it’s nothing like that. [Laughs.] I’d rather just keep an event really simple with quality content, and have incredible DJs who are valuable and don’t have huge heads. I look for people who are kind and believe in the “no-bullshit” philosophy. It’s not too much to ask.
Pick DJs that will play to the crowd, not themselves
ST: I say out loud what I’m looking for—I definitely believe what you say is what you manifest to a certain degree. There are times when I’ve built relationships with DJs where they will play again and again with me, and the relationship often starts with word of mouth or if I see them DJing. Some just want to come in and play, but have never been to one of my parties. That’s kind of the biggest insult. [Laughs.] If people approach me just to get something, the first thing I ask is, are they nice?
But what I’m excited about is the DJs who have developed as time has gone on, and who understand the sound of what the party is. If I feel someone isn’t as skilled as a DJ and hasn’t quite figured out how to keep a dance floor going, but I like their content and their intention is good, I might have them go on a little earlier in the night. The content of the music they play is really what’s important. It’s very obvious to me when a DJ has created a set with no relationship to the audience, and is really just about glorifying themselves. It gets old and is very unnecessary to me. I’d rather have a DJ who may not necessarily be able to mix well, but who’s engaging the crowd over someone who’s running with a 10-deep entourage and can create a perfect mix.
Plan a party that you would want to go to
ST: The reason I created Danceotron was because I wanted to remove the obstacles that made me frustrated to go out, which was dealing with obnoxious promoters and door staff—people who just didn’t want to connect. It gets more complicated when you add drugs and alcohol, and this whole idea of what it means to go out and dress up. So, I created an environment I desired. Anyone can do that; you can create the reality you desire.