When: 8:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Club 156 at the UMC, 1669 Euclid Ave., Boulder, 303-492-2100
Cost: $5, ladies free
Aviva Sonenreich is killer DJ and a girl. So what?
“People double-take when they see me initially and people doubt me, but I couldn’t care less. I know that they just have to hear me and it’s over,” Sonenreich said. “I know that sounds arrogant, but this is what I live for and what I do, and there’s no reason why I cant keep up with the boys.”
Bingo. So even though she’ll be the first female DJ to headline at Club 156, and one of the only ones around, let’s move on. Telling her story as one of a miraculous defiance of gender expectations just trivializes it. She’s got talent, and that’s what big careers are made of.
Sonenreich grew up in Denver listening to hip hop, playing jazz clarinet and hitting concerts multiple nights a week. It’s a path many musicians before her have followed, and the same one plenty of others will take in the future, but it’s worth pointing out because you can hear it in her music. There’s a definite knack for creating beats and a sense of what will get a crowd excited.
“In terms of counting and beat, I think differently and I do it differently because of the way I was taught. But I think in the end that’ll be more of a benefit to me,” she said. “My own production will be house music with like… I like to call it electro funk.”
It also helps a bit that she’s had the chance to brush shoulders with big time talent like Derek Smith, better known as Pretty Lights.
“Before Pretty Lights was this epic, you know, he was just a dude in Fort Collins and you’d see him around and in the grocery store and at parties,” she said. “In some ways he’s a really big hero of mine but in some ways I’m going to do things differently.”
Now a sophomore at CU, Sonenreich recently abandoned her business major to focus on a certificate from the music technology program, and is considering a transfer to CU Denver to get her degree in music production. It’s not an easy choice, though, because she’s got tons of love for Boulder.
“I just think Boulder is a really, really awesome city to be doing this in. Just being that people are, a) so enthusiastic about music, and b) that it’s really small but it’s also really huge.”
She fills a lot of her time playing around this small-but-huge town, as well as Denver. Her first gigs were house parties, then she did a sorority formal and started DJing frat parties. In the past few weeks she’s been at the Fox and some clubs in Denver, like The Church, where she competed against 59 other DJs and earned a spot in the finals on December 9.
Listen to her sets, and it’s easy to hear why she can blow away competition and blow up a club. She’ll take a sparse and quiet hook and build it up until it reaches a frenzied, pulsing dance beat. She’s not afraid to get a little melodic — taking samples from modern pop and classics like Johnny Cash — and some of her drops are the kind that instantly recharge the dance floor.
“The kind of songs I play are called bangers. It’s not intense, but it’s definitely a kind of hard hitting song,” she said. “As a female I don’t put a light aspect on anything.”
OK, fine — briefly back to the gender thing. This definitely isn’t sweet, stereotypical girlie music. It’s strong and sometimes even aggressive. Sonenreich, on the other hand, is a little bit of both — sweet and humble, but also strong, confident and determined. She knows exactly what she wants and how she’s going to get it.
“I’m very lucky in terms of circumstances and people I know and my abilities,” she said. “This will be my life, at least for the next 10 years. I have no doubt in that.”