By Jerome Stuart Nichols
4:15 p.m. May 30
Ferndale Pride Dance Stage
Even though he’s a 40-year-old straight guy, DJ Dav knows how to get the gays on the floor.
“Last year was a blast,” he says of his previous experience spinning at Ferndale Pride. “I had a bunch of people dancing my entire set. Two guys were having a walk off right in front of me – that was pretty awesome. Things like that make my day. I really love it.”
He had so much fun, he didn’t hesitate to accept an extended time slot at this year’s Ferndale Pride. His 105-minute set on the Dance Stage begins at 4:15 p.m. during the Saturday, May 30 main event.
Dav’s hour-long set at last year’s Ferndale Pride was his first experience ever at a gay pride event. He says he wasn’t familiar with the festivity, but when someone suggested he DJ during it, he was all for it.
“I’ll take any opportunity to support equality and friends who live that lifestyle,” says Dav, who resides in Clawson. “If I get to play music at the same time, that’s more fun for me.”
While he was hired to help keep the party going, it turned out the family atmosphere is what left a lasting impression on him.
“More memorable for me was seeing all the families there that had no problem bringing their kids out to something like Pride. It’s refreshing.”
Refreshing in a world where a common narrative about the recent Amtrak train derailment blames the engineer’s homosexuality. A fact that Dav finds disappointing and puzzling.
“I saw some ridiculous thing on the Internet about that Amtrak crash, saying that the engineer’s sexuality might be a factor in the crash,” he says. “To think that people have the mentality to think that stuff like that affects real-world situations blows my mind. So, I like putting it out there that I am on the side of LGBT people and everyone should be equal.”
The way Dav sees it, that sort of thinking is antithetical to a cohesive society.
“The world is getting crazier and crazier it seems, and people are trying to separate each other instead of everybody being one big, happy family. It seems like it would make everything easier if everyone got along instead of having some ridiculous reason to blame somebody for something.”
Plus, like many queer folks, he’s still extremely confused as to why issues like gay marriage are issues at all.
“If you don’t agree with gay marriage, don’t get gay married,” Dav says. “How is it affecting you?”
Like his approach to life, Dav’s approach to music is simple: Have fun.
“I’m just a goofy fool,” he confesses. “I like to have fun, try to make people laugh. I want to be a part of the party. I’m not playing music just for you. I’m playing for me too.”
Long before he officially became a DJ, he was playing for crowds. He developed a reputation for his music tastes by putting together mixes for the house parties he and his friends threw.
When he started working as a sound engineer for a cover band, Insol, in 1997, he was asked to play music between their sets. He then got his hands on a full PA system and a trove of records.
“The turntables took a while for me (to learn) because I wasn’t watching anybody else and there wasn’t Internet back then to go on YouTube to figure how to DJ on turntables,” he recalls. “I was thrown right into playing gigs with lots of people. I made plenty of mistakes when I started. I would practice at the shows, then I would set up at home. It was just a matter of putting in the hours to get songs to match.”
By 1999, he’d begun working as a DJ and sound engineer full-time while finishing up his bachelor’s in telecommunications at Michigan State University.
Dav’s sound and musical taste can best be described as eclectic. A music fan since childhood, he’s always enjoyed the popular genres of the time.
“Eighties new wave sound is when I really started to notice the music,” he remembers. “In high school, I got more into industrial, but I also loved the ’90s hip hop and dance stuff. I was a sponge just taking in all sorts of things.”
His time working as sound engineer/DJ for Insol and then Huckleberry Groove in 2000 challenged him to expand his horizons even more.
“The cover bands played everything from ‘Mustang Sally’ to Beastie Boys,” he recalls. “So, when I played music between sets, I would jump genres – funk, old school, rock, etc., which is still reflected in a lot of my open-format sets today. You never know what you’re going to hear.”
Those broad music tastes and his ability to keep the crowd moving made Dav one of the most sought after open-format DJs in the area.
His local success put him on the national radar, which led to a 30-day residency in Acapulco for student travel agency Student City’s spring break party. There he got the chance to work with DJ AM and DJ Scribble.
After 14 years of working as a full-time DJ, Dav took a day job as a computer programmer in 2011. Even still, he’s been active playing shows around the state. In the 2013 Michigan DJ Olympics, he won silver and bronze, and in 2014 he was invited by UK house legend Grant Nelson to host online radio show “Under the Influence.”
This year, Dav will make his second appearance at Ferndale Pride and, as a 40-year-old straight guy, he’s more excited than one might think. While he doesn’t know what he’ll play just yet, he promises to “keep everyone dancing.”