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Thre3style contendar card

Local DJs battle for top honors.

By Kyle Long

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For most, the phrase DJ battle conjures up images of an obsessive turntablist furiously scratching a song into oblivion, deconstructing a composition's melody and rhythm in an abstract flurry of virtuosic technical skill. It's not the sort of thing that sets a dance floor on fire.

Red Bull Thre3Style is a very different kind of battle. It's one that places the emphasis solely on the DJ's ability to rock a crowd.

"It incorporates the fun, excitement and energy of a huge party, but with the competitive spirit and edginess of a DJ battle," says Nick Saligoe, Red Bull Music Academy representative and event organizer.

"Each DJ plays a 15-minute set featuring a minimum of three genres, pulling out their most creative measures to win the crowd over," says Saligoe.

There's more than bragging rights at stake for the winner.

"There's $8,000 in prize money on the line and the winner will advance to the regional qualifier,"says Saligoe.

He sees the event as an opportunity to showcase Naptown nightlife on a global scale.

"We have a number of very highly skilled DJs that really know how to move people at parties. I want to see Indianapolis get some recognition for that," he says. "Typically, we're overlooked and we rarely get the exposure that our DJ counterparts in larger markets get."

I spoke to all five of the participating Red Bull Thre3Style DJs. Think of this as a scouting report - - size up the competition here and head to Deluxe on Jan. 24 to cheer on your favorite contender.

NUVO: Describe your sound in one sentence.
Action Jackson: Controlled chaos.
Limelight: The funky engine that could.
Indiana Jones: Party motivation with a revolutionary twist.
Buck Rodgers: Super-banging, ear-tweaking, orgasmic fusion.
Cool Hand Lex: Where we are going we don't need roads.

NUVO: What makes you unique among DJs?
Limelight: Taking calculated risks based off what I see or feel on a particular night. Sometimes that's a winning formula. Sometimes, I'm wrong and have to correct for that. That's how I create my sound, because I don't make any of the songs I play. That will process will always be unique to me.
Action Jackson: I'm not afraid to play any song or genre regardless of where I'm at or what kind of crowd is in front of me.
Buck Rodgers: My skill set and diversity. Also, I don't worry about watching my laptop, I pay attention to the crowd.
Indiana Jones: The influence of rock, Caribbean and true school flavors. The use of acappellas and breaks to create remixes on the fly.
Cool Hand Lex: I listen to a lot of music that doesn't usually work in nightclub environments. I like to take the elements I like in that music and figure out new ways to present it to the dancing masses.

NUVO: Why are you excited about Thre3Style?
Indiana Jones: Red Bull and Thre3Style are great platforms to expand our brands as DJs. Red Bull is always on the cutting edge of culture and marketing. People should come to enjoy five competitors who are unique in style and represent DJ culture to the fullest.
Cool Hand Lex: I'm excited to hear all the DJs' sets. I've heard all these guys play for years and I know every DJ is pulling out their best tricks to win. I'm firmly convinced Indianapolis has as an exceptionally talented DJ community that rivals many bigger cities. The Red Bull Thre3Style competition is a great way to showcase that on an international level.
Action Jackson: I love the format. It's not about nerding out on technical skills or scratching, but rocking the party and getting people to have fun - - which I think is the main point of DJing.
Buck Rodgers: Redemption. I was blessed to be invited to the Chicago Thre3Style last April and I took third place. Now I get another chance to compete in my own city and I'm ready to buck up the competition.
Limelight: In a way, being chosen says that you're considered one of the 130 best party DJs in America. That's a high honor considering how many amazing DJs are out there. The Thre3Style competition is exciting in that it's about your crowd-rocking skills, not how many triple-click flares you can do in a row.
Every city doesn't get this competition, so being awarded this event by Red Bull says a lot about the city's nightlife culture and how much progress has been made over the years. As much as the focus is on the five DJs, it's a celebration of talent in the city. That's a good reason to party!

NUVO: Do you think it's important for DJs to spin music by local artists?
Indiana Jones: Only if the local artists make music that is well produced. Just playing an artist because they are local doesn't help anyone. If I hear a song and like it and it's local, I will perhaps play it even more than I would a song from an established artist. That includes when I'm playing out of town; then, it's even more crucial to support Indy artists.
Action Jackson: I'll probably get some gruff for this since I own a local record label, but I don't feel a need to really put more value on a piece of art just because it was made in the same area code I live in. That said, I love hearing good music from Indianapolis, or the Midwest, for that matter. I try to fit local artists into my sets, but the bulk of local music I really dig isn't in genres I play at clubs, so I find myself playing them at home more often.
Buck Rodgers: As long as it's fitting for the particular environment. We should all support local music and help each other reach new audiences.
Cool Hand Lex: How can anyone break out of the Indianapolis scene and into national recognition if nobody knows about them? I am a firm believer in playing local music in my sets and regularly rinse tracks from local labels like Heavy Gun and Rad Summer.

NUVO: Were you influenced by any local DJs?
Action Jackson: Yes, the first DJ I ever really saw was DJ Topspeed. He used to play at this under-21 club in Mooresville with DJ Sonic. I'd go down there every Saturday while I was in high school. It really was the highlight of my week.
Limelight: Definitely; for me, Indianapolis' DJ lineage starts with DJ Topspeed and DJ JF. The breadth of both of their influence is pretty remarkable. I'm inspired by them both to this day. You have those two, then there's the rest of us.
Indiana Jones: Yes, Topspeed for his skill and knowledge; Gabby Love for her wordplay and Lockstar for his programming. I also enjoy Metrognome for his hip-hop sets and Action Jackson for his effortless genre transitions.

NUVO: Is it meaningful for you to spin records that challenge the taste of your audience?
Cool Hand Lex: It's important to play records that push the sonic boundaries of our audiences. I'm often met with resistance when playing new records here in Indy, even when the song is by a top artist. We need our audiences to trust that we have their best interests in mind. If they can do that, they'll hear the music they like now and be put on to the music they're going to like in six months.
Limelight: Yes, DJs are the ultimate influencers. I often get e-mails from people asking about a particular song I played on the radio or at a party that they've never heard. As much as people love what they know, there's always room to introduce them to new things.
Buck Rodgers: I like challenging myself and trying to think outside the box; mixing obsure records that don't necessarily blend together, but twisting it in a way to make it party-oriented.

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