In the few weeks since state leaders called for nonessential businesses to shut down, regular events by Hot Mass, Darkness Is Spreading, and In Bed By Ten, as well as some usually hosted at Belvedere's Ultra-Dive, have gone this route.
“I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to do this since we had to cancel live events,” says Matthew Buchholz, who usually DJs In Bed By Ten. “People have been requesting it, so I finally decided to give it a try and have some fun.”
DJ ADMC, real name Adam Cucitrone, recently took the monthly Sadderday emo dance party live for the first time. The party is in partnership with his residency at Belvedere's Ultra-Dive, which closed to the public on March 13.
“The patrons are like family to us, so to continue to provide their normal safe space to party, we had to improvise,” says Cucitrone, who livestreamed Sadderday from his home studio on Instagram. Sarah huny young and her Darkness Is Spreading crew have so far livestreamed three online dance events, which are specially tailored to attract women and people who are Black, of color, and/or queer.
“I really ache for my friends and the community of people who attend Darkness is Spreading events,” says huny, adding that she hopes to go live at least every Friday. “Even if we can't be around each other right now, I still want them all to know there's a place of joy and support for them. We can still rave.”
For full- and part-time DJs, closed clubs mean lost income. Some have used the online dance parties as a way to generate some income, with viewers donating through platforms like Cashapp or Venmo.
James Scoglietti, aka Selecta, has been a DJ in Pittsburgh for over 30 years and says he has never experienced something as devastating as the pandemic. This leaves him and many others navigating unfamiliar online territory, as well as limited, sometimes unreliable technology. For example, last Friday, Buchholz experienced connection issues while streaming In Bed By Ten on Facebook Live.
Scoglietti has done numerous DJ sessions on Facebook Live, which began with him blasting music from his speakers until he found iRig, an inexpensive adapter that allows him to play music directly from his mixing console into a recording device. Cucitrone says he uses the exact same setup as his live gigs, including turntables, a mixer, and a laptop, with the added elements of a phone to record and a piece of audio equipment to enhance the sound quality.
Livestreaming also allows DJs to continue the missions they have for their respective events. Buchholz continued the In Bed By Ten's dual purpose as a fundraiser by encouraging people to donate to the SisTers PGH LGBTQIA Emergency Relief Fund. For Darkness Is Spreading, it's about creating a platform to support Black and/or queer women in the Pittsburgh music scene.
Scoglietti has taken it as an opportunity to introduce people to types of music he doesn't usually get to play in a traditional DJ setting, including “weird, quirky covers,” samples, and selections from non-dance genres like jazz.
Overall, Cucitrone and huny both believe livestreaming dance parties gives people a therapeutic escape during these troubled times. Huny goes a step further, adding that they provide a service to people, especially vulnerable populations, by giving them “much-needed mental health breaks from dire, heart-wrenching circumstances.”
“I said at the very beginning of our quarantine measures that, along with concern about losing people to this virus, I was also worried about losing people to depression,” she says. “So these livestreams give us an opportunity to commune with each other over music — a universal language — and remind us that although we're shuttered in, we're not alone.”