DJs engage musical warfare

By Justin Moran

In a raging fury, the DJ scratches his vinyl on the turntable as if to scratch out the competitors’ eyes with a pounding bass line. Fists lack the sonic strength of speakers and the only harsh words exchanged between parties can be heard lyrically. No blood is shed in this musical bar fight, but the sweat from dancing patrons flows incessantly.

On April 17, a lineup of five Chicago-based DJs—S@INT, Trmnl Freq, DT, Jamraz and DJ Lecks—battled in musical warfare to win the title of “Fall Out” champion at Bar Forza, 2476 N. Lincoln Ave. But after a full day of severe thunderstorms and relentless rain, two of the contestants couldn’t handle the heat and dropped out, leaving S@INT, DT and DJ Lecks to fight throughout the night.

Every Wednesday since April 3, five local DJs have competed at Lincoln Park’s Bar Forza from 10 p.m.–2 a.m., fighting for the chance to play on a main stage at the Lincoln Park Arts & Musical Festival in June, according to Alex Carr, the bar’s general manager.

The competition will last until the end of May and ballots are distributed at the door for the crowd to vote with at the end of each battle for which two DJs will advance to the semi-finals at the end of each night.

By the ninth week, Carr said the top two DJs will each bring their best set of club-bangers to battle in hopes of winning over the crowd with their mixing talent.

“We got this started for up-and-coming DJs to show their individuality and get their name out,” Carr said. “People haven’t left the bar until it closes because they want to hear more.”

DT, or Darko Todorovski, was the first competitor to fire up the crowd. Although the bar was nearly dead when the event began at 10 p.m., perhaps because of the ceaseless rain, the space slowly filled with prospective voters as Todorovski fought through his set of speaker-blasting house music.

While the space was devoid of dancing at the time, an unfazed Todorovski continued to mix, blend and transition between electro house beats for nearly an hour, which he said he hoped had emitted an uplifting spirit and soul.

“[I play] Laidback Luke, Hard Rock Sofa, Fedde le Grand and various underground artists that are still coming up in the scene,” Todorovski said.

However, he said he thought his performance wasn’t strong enough to win the crowd’s votes because he committed one of the worst DJ sins.

“I messed up a couple times as far as playing the same track twice, which is probably the worst thing you could do as a DJ,” Todorovski said. “I don’t think I’m going to move onto the next round.”

He was the first DJ to show off his abilities, and the fate of the competition was unclear.

With a head of platinum blond hair, Matthew Slegel, under the name S@INT, readied his turntables to outdo DT’s deejaying. Slegel said he approached “Fall Out” with a dark and aggressive setlist.

“I tried to take it from the mindset of what I’d want to hear if I went out to a more mainstream venue that was a little different in order to stand out [from competition],” Slegel said.

He took control of the Lincoln Park bar, which was busier with restless locals when he began, playing a range of chaotic remixes that appealed to the more eclectic patrons, including a lone woman dressed head-to-toe in black who freely danced throughout his set.

Reworking songs by Marilyn Manson and Icona Pop, Slegal mixed industrial, hard-hitting metal with electro house music beats. The crowd fired up with excitement when Slegel worked an eerie sample of Vincent Price chanting from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” into his set.

Up next was Alexa Zajdel, known as DJ Lecks, showing off what she called her female perspective. In keeping with the common sound of the two previous DJs, Zajdel spun electro house beats and remixed them with current Top-40 hits, which her competitors both shied away from.

She rivaled her predecessors with a remixed medley of “Titanium” by David Guetta and “Sweet Nothing” by Calvin Harris. The dance floor became packed with voters who sang along with the familiar lyrics of Zajdel’s pop-heavy set. The room’s energy was at an all-time high as she fought to prove her place in “Fall Out’s” final bracket.

But unlike S@INT and DT, she said she had an advantage in the competition because she spun later in the evening.

“I think the time you [spin] plays a role in if you win or not, unfortunately,” Zajdel said.

Zajdel also said she had an added edge, regardless of her set time, because as a woman, she was confident she knew how to excite a female audience.

After Zajdel, the Bar Forza crowd rested their feet to determine which dance floor commander deserved to move onto the next round. And, just as she suspected, Zajdel took the evening’s crown with S@INT reeling in the second most votes.