Over 6,000 miles from Northwestern’s campus, Weinberg fourth-year Lu Poteshman arrives at Ruby Room in Tokyo, Japan, ready to take the stage as DJ Lu. Her usual audience consists of Northwestern students in the basements of off-campus houses or at A&O production events, but now, DJ Lu is eager to bring her music to an international audience.
Lu is not the only woman at Northwestern spinning tracks to get the party started. Back in Evanston, SESP fourth-year Haley Hooper plays a set at her friend’s party. Bienen second-year Lucy Rubinstein assumes her stage name, r00bies4ever, in Chicago’s underground music venue The Listening Room. NBN sat down with three of Northwestern’s premier female DJs to discuss how they’re turning the tables in a traditionally male-dominated scene.
Lucy Rubinstein. (Courtesy Of Lucy Rubinstein)
NBN: What is the origin story of your DJing career?
Lu Poteshman: I was always a musician, growing up as a classically trained violinist. But I sort of quit when I started college because it didn’t really fit into my life anymore. Musically, it felt a bit restrictive. It didn’t have that freedom and individuality I wanted. So DJing was awesome because it’s all about freedom and individuality.
Haley Hooper: I grew up going to so many EDM and house shows when I was in high school. I became inspired by my favorite artist Rüfüs Du Sol in 2018 to get into this world of music. For my high school graduation gift to myself, I bought a DJ board off of Amazon and just started playing with the knobs and getting a feel for it. I did that for about a year. Then over COVID, I really got serious about it and played sets in my basement every night of quarantine, just with my dog.
NBN: What does your mixing process look like?
Haley: The process of mixing is just going with whatever feels right in the moment based on how I’m feeling and how whoever I’m playing for feels. You can just operate from a sense of second nature because you know your music so well and you did your homework.
Lucy Rubinstein: I’m the total opposite. I plan out every single transition, I plan out exactly where I’m going to start the track, exactly where I’m gonna do what kind of mixing — I do it because I get really bad stage fright. If I rely on improvisation, that really freaks me out. I’d rather plan it out and know exactly how the sets are gonna sound and feel and exactly what knobs I’m gonna twist when.
Haley Hooper. (Courtesy Of Haley Hooper)
NBN: What experiences have you had navigating the DJ scene as a woman?
Lucy: Part of the reason I joined Streetbeat, the show on WNUR, is because there were no girls. I was like, “Oh, I want to freak them out. I want to be intimidating.” When I was learning to mix, it was me and like six frat guys. It’s been such a great experience to meet other people like Lu and Haley and to really show Northwestern this isn’t just another hobby that’s dominated by white men.
Lu: When I joined Streetbeat, I was invited to someone’s show to learn how to DJ. I walked in, and there’s seven white guys just in the room. It was genuinely scary to decide to enter that space and make a space for myself in there. It’s difficult sometimes to not see other people like me reflected in the DJ community, both at Northwestern and in the world at large.
NBN: How do you support other women DJs on campus?
Haley: I was trying to find out about other female DJs through word of mouth. Anytime I heard about a girl DJing or was interested in DJing, I follow them on Instagram.
Lu: When we’re dealing with the lack of representation that we are with female DJs and DJs of color, I think just a mere presence can be very helpful. So I hope by being a part of Streetbeat, and being on the executive board of WNUR, I can just show people that it’s possible to be in these roles and in these spaces.
Lucy: Through WNUR and my own personal side project, I’ve been planning events to create new spaces where people that don’t want to be at either a frat party or a club downtown, for everyone to just have fun, express themselves and enjoy music and be social.
Lu Poteshman. (Courtesy Of Lu Poteshman)
NBN: What do you wish people knew about DJing?
Lu: All the time people ask me “What is DJing? What are you doing back there?” My explanation is that 50% of it is picking the music and having a music library and curating the setlist. And then 50% is just blending the two songs together and creating those seamless transitions so you can tell a story with the music.
Haley: With DJing, when I first thought about it, I felt really pressured to play what I thought people wanted to hear. I was like, “Oh, I have to play these songs because people hear them on the radio or whatever.” And that’s not the case. DJing is an expression of you, of what you want to do.
Lucy: The best thing you can do to support a DJ is dance.