The Warehouse District of Minneapolis empties its many bars and guests out onto the city streets. Sandra Collins and Kristina Sky have just finished performing at the Lumber Exchange Center’s third floor ballroom. The venue’s name harkens to olden days of industry in the middle of a modern nightlife hub where plaid is perennial and good manners cost nothing. As evidenced by the sequined tops, rainbow tutus, sci-fi t-shirts, and steampunk gentlemen with top hats, a wide variety of costumes and guests are all dressing up for the same party: life.
An all-female DJ night might not be as foreign a concept to EDM fans in New York City or Los Angeles, but Minneapolis-Saint Paul (MSP) lacks the draw of a nearby Bonnaroo or historical significance that “Music City” Nashville has, the party in the desert vibes of Electric Daisy or Coachella, or the taste-making proximity to historical music hubs in NYC or L.A. Regardless, this Middle American metropolis, nestled on both banks of the Mississippi River, is a fly-over home to artists of all genres and genders (RIP Prince).
Despite its large following, EDM is still fairly underground as a music scene in the Twin Cities, which may explain why most shows have taken place in basement levels of clubs or entertainment centers. Dance Agenda kicked off its campaign to bring EDM to the various venues throughout the Minneapolis corridor on April 14th with “No Boys in the Booth” (NBITB). Falling on the host’s birthday, NBITB showcased Dance Agenda’s mission to bring the spirit and sounds of EDM to the Twin Cities, sharing the unique experience of an electronic music show in one of the eclectic mix of musical performance spaces throughout the metro area.
NBITB shared the love of EDM with two of the industry’s biggest female artists, Sandra Collins and Kristina Sky. When DJ T first mentioned the idea of organizing NBITB she wanted to have “some cool people, who happened to be women” come play in Minneapolis. More importantly, T stressed she wanted the artists to “wear sweatpants or whatever” made them feel comfortable behind the booth and provide an occasion where Collins and Sky wouldn’t have to worry about hustling for a spot from male colleagues. These ladies are often openers for other acts, but NBITB was a carved out avenue to let them “do themselves”.
Sandra Collins, “the Techno Goddess”, could very easily be your best friend’s cool mom, which she most likely is for some in her home of Los Angeles, California. Sandra went to bed “early” at around 4 am for an international flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico leaving at noon the next day. She was not too excited, so over the spring breaker vibe that had gotten too request-heavy instead of relying on the artist’s skill and style.
But Sandra was all about good vibes and the translation of that energy. We discussed how those lost to us are never truly gone. We talked about David Bowie and Prince, two beloved musical artists who passed away last year into the ether, and how Prince had kept his music “safe” from sampling and overwrought marketing during his lifetime. Just four blocks away from the Lumber Exchange, his star still reigns over the entrance to First Avenue.
Sandra and T discussed what it was like to prepare for an event, the stress you carry with you before you play. And then, how with that first touch of the decks, it all goes away. You hate the work and the planning going into it, but once that moment begins you never want it to end.
And as much as you want to keep on raging and power through the after party, you have to be responsible. You need to rest for tomorrow’s show. So you set the bedside alarm clock, a second alarm on your phone, and request that the front desk also remind you to wake up for your Southwest flight tomorrow – or is it technically now “today”?
Like T, you might prefer to be done for the night, go home and relax with a feline friend or two, but the people want to continue celebrating.
A quick refresh at the hotel and Kristina Sky was on her way to the after party. After trading Netflix show recommendations with each other, we discussed how one male fan’s girlfriend “was not having him” talking to Sky at the show, even though the guy was obviously a big fan only asking for a photo. Sky stated that “if I was a guy, that wouldn’t have happened”. Maybe if the girlfriend was more aware of Sky’s significance in the EDM world she would have understood the boyfriend’s reverence. She was clearly not one of Sky’s many Minnesotan fans from previous shows, including the rooftop and pool parties on last year’s Groove Cruise.
At many of the venues hosting EDM acts in the Twin Cities, friends and family come out to support artists or promote events, creating a spirit of community and positivity that flows through the music. During the opening set of the evening, the birthday girl grinned and greeted guests as they pushed their way up to the booth to say hello. No one who’s been around her can deny the infectious energy or passion T has for music, let alone for this event. People I talked to were mostly there in support of T, but were just as stoked to see Sandra Collins and Kristina Sky, two major forbearers of artistry in EDM.
Bringing shows above ground to places like the third floor ballroom in the Lumber Exchange Center is evidence of Dancing Agenda’s goal to share EDM with audiences in unique locations in the Twin Cities. What events like NBITB are doing is elevating women in this male-dominated industry, giving them an opportunity to share their gift with fans and family. Part comic con, part festival, rebels and outcasts banded together to celebrate DJ T’s birthday through music at the first of many No Boys in the Booth shows.
After the venue closes, Sandra Collins stands in an April drizzle to sign a fan’s ticket from the night. There’s no Sharpie to be found, only a ballpoint pen, and the precipitation is gaining mass. Suddenly, a fellow attendee appears with a gold permanent marker. Ink smudge averted.
Article by Jessica Helmers, Social Media Writer for Dance Agenda.
Jessica is a ‘90s kid History nerd who transplanted to the Twin Cities in 2014. Her interests include: tuneage, tacos, and social justice. Contact: jhelm4845@gmail or follow on Twitter (@messicah).