This week, the column celebrates Pride weekend by profiling S.F. local DJ Starr, whose multicolored hair often mirrors her multifaceted DJing style. As the production manager of the Indie Oasis Stage this year, she has been working to curate a community experience showcasing an inclusive mix of indie, electro, and pop remixes.
As a DJ for almost two decades, her own musical tastes are rooted in ‘80s/new wave and goth and industrial, but recent years have found her branching out into indie and dance territory. We chatted with DJ Starr about growing up with the misfits, her ideal artist lineup, and why SF Pride means so much to her.
SF Weekly: You’ve been DJing since you were 17. Tell us how that came about.
DJ Starr: For as long as I can remember, music was always my no. 1 passion. As a child, I was more interested in getting my Cyndi Lauper vinyl than most toys. I was more interested in dressing up and dancing to music as a child and bothering my neighborhood friends to join along. One of my first long-term jobs was working in a record store, where I managed the goth/industrial section and did in-store DJ sets every week. From there, I moved onto house parties and eventually clubs when I came of age.
SFW: How did you get into the genres you’re interested in?
S: My mother was a weird one — in a good way! She introduced me to a lot of new wave as a child. I recall Duran Duran, Madonna, and The Cure records. My Aunt Robin educated me in an array of alternative music. At a young age I was already listening to things like Underworld and Bjork while my friends were still stuck on NKOTB. Growing up, I was always hanging with the weird kids, the freaks, and misfits. I remember we would always share music we discovered. Skinny Puppy, Switchblade Symphony, Sisters of Mercy. Later in life, I grew a love for so many different genres, spinning anywhere from my roots of ‘80s/new wave, goth, and industrial to minimal techno, indie, and electro. I appreciate having such a wide palette and being able to spin to different crowds at any given location.
SFW: Describe your DJ style.
S: My DJ style is…that’s a hard one to answer since I spin a wide variety of genres. I’d say I’m a DJ that plays to the crowd. I tend to avoid creating playlists before events and just spinning where the flow takes me and the dancefloor. It all depends on where I’m DJing. One night, I might be spinning goth and darkwave, another night I’ll be getting goofy with ‘80s pop and new wave. Two nights later, I’m spinning indie remixes to an entirely different scene.
SFW: You’re also bringing back Club Impulse, the ‘80s/new wave party of the East Bay. What excites you about that?
S: Club Impulse had a home at The White Horse in Oakland for many years when management decided to revamp the music format, so a lot of our nights were taken off the rotation. Which was a shame because Club Impulse had a huge following as one of the only regular ‘80s dance parties in the East Bay. We have tried to find the right fit for a while and when we were finally settling into the idea that it might not find a home again, Radio Bar contacted us to bring it back! It’s a smaller venue, but Oakland’s night scene is thriving and we’re excited to be part of it. As far as we know, there’s no other regular monthly ‘80s party in the East Bay. We’ll be at Radio bar on fourth Saturdays!
SFW: The ‘80s had some pretty unique music videos, many with unique aesthetics. Which is your favorite?
S: When I was a kid, MTV was born. You know, when MTV was actually all music videos and concerts and not 95% reality shows. It was a great time to be growing up with music being visually introduced to you and be at an age to comprehend it. You really had to be original as artists back then, they were responsible for paving the way. I think as a child, one of the first videos I fell in love with was the Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams.” I was in love with Annie Lennox’s aesthetic and challenging gender normatives in fashion. Plus, who didn’t love that song? I mean, who still doesn’t love that song?
SFW: If you could put together an ideal night consisting of three of your favorite artists, who would they be?
S: That’s a hard one. I’d say: Chelsea Wolfe, Chvrches, and Underworld. None of these three have anything to do with each other. They’re not even remotely related genre-wise. But if I had a dream concert with my three top artists, this would be it. I would have a hard time deciding what to wear, that’s for sure.
SFW: It’s your first year managing and producing the Indie Oasis stage at S.F. Pride. How has that challenge been?
S: I would say the most challenging part is realizing just how much marketing and prep work goes into making a larger production stage happen. I have a newfound appreciation for marketers and designers, and I’m grateful for the help I’ve received from our team. Everyone has done their best to chip in on duties, design, marketing, and promotion. This, while working full time and preparing to move to a new home, has been challenging when it comes to time management. And just when you think you don’t have anything left to do, you find a couple more tasks. But I have no doubts it will pay off!
SFW: Personally, what makes Pride special to you this year?
S: Well, I was terrified at the idea of taking on the challenge of managing and producing the Indie Oasis stage, but ultimately, I can’t imagine S.F. Pride without it. I’ve been working with the stage for close to a decade. And no one else was in a space to take on the job. So, here we are! Ready or not! We have such an amazing team of DJs and stagehands. The S.F. Pride staff is so well organized and supportive. I almost don’t like the title of production manager because let me tell you, it takes a village. Not only that, we’ve had great support from other venues and events, like our wonderful friends at Fringe S.F. and DNA Lounge. It’s a really special thing seeing the whole thing come together. Come Sunday, seeing the magic that Indie Oasis provides for so many Pride attendees will be the ultimate reward. Seeing all the smiling faces and dancing bodies, seeing diverse cultures and a mix of all those that span the LGBTQIA+ communities and their allies dancing in the streets in unity, and being responsible for a huge part of it? That’s really special!
SFW: What makes S.F. Pride different from other cities?
S: San Francisco’s Pride history dates all the way back to 1970. It’s one of the largest and longest running Pride events in the nation, if not THE longest running Pride festival. San Francisco is rich in its LGBTQIA history. We’ve so many to thank for paving the way and so many to thank for their continued fight for equality, right here in our lovely home of the Bay Area. People come from all over the world to be in San Francisco for Pride weekend. Our city may be losing its weirdness, but it will never lose Pride!
SFW: Which indie/electro artist never fails to cheer you up or get you dancing?
S: Underworld. I’ve seen them seven times in concert. There’s not an artist I know that keeps me dancing from the first beat to the very last. Chvrches is bubbly and poppy and you can’t help but fall in love with them. Royksopp makes it to the top of my list these days, having seen them with recently with Ionnalee. Royksopp is one of those artists with a wide range of music, all of it being good. The Knife and Fever Ray, Crystal Castles, I love darker unique sounds when it comes to electro. Metric, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Empire of the Sun — a few loved indie artists that are guaranteed to have me and others dancing and singing along. Too many to name, to be honest.
SFW: Where can we catch you hanging out after a gig or when the bar closes?
S: Honestly, with a few good friends at our local greasy spoon diner in Alameda or tacos next door to Cat Club. Or if the stars align right, I’ll be hanging out with my BFF talking and laughing until the sun comes up. All depends where the night takes me, but let’s be real, most of the time the night lands me in bed face first into a pillow.