A few weeks back, I was asked by Red Bull to be a judge for their Tex Mix competition to find the best DJ in Texas. Since electronic, dance and DJ culture is my thing, I was super hyped.
The night of the event, Red Bull put me up in aloft, the W’s new brand of hotels. After a harrowing drive (not bike ride) down I-35 to the concrete sprawl that is San Antonio, all I wanted to do was curl up in the comfy-looking bed; instead, I had to jet to the venue to meet my fellow judges.
Joining me on the quest for the best DJ were a diverse smattering of people:
- On my right was the lovely Cassandra Lazenby, an executive producer of Great Day SA. Not your traditional morning show person, she’s young, witty and gorgeous. She also has great taste in music and LOVES Austin.
- On my left was Sony recording artist Paul Couture. Originally from Austin, Paul currently lives in Houston. His track, Johnny Vegas, has been blowing up the clubs. Not surprised since it’s produced by LMFAO. He’s also worked with Ludacris, Talib Kweli and Shwayze. Paul was surprisingly down to earth. He misses Austin and gets up here as often as possible.
- On the other side of Cassandra was DJ Joe Vega. Winner of the Red Bull 3style DJ Competition in Dallas, Joe’s pretty much a bad ass. He apparently also survived a freeway shooting. Dang, they grow ‘em tough in Dallas.
- On the other of Paul was Danny Perez. He’s the GM of Cowboy’s Dance Hall in San Antonio and Dallas. Don’t let the name fool you, they actually get THOUSANDS of people every night of the week to see country stars and DJs alike.
The event was actually outside, and naturally since we were judging, they perched us up on a fire engine overlooking the DJ Booth. All night long, they kept bringing us beers, shots and plenty of Red Bull. Since we were judging the event until the wee hours of the night, we definitely needed it.
For the record, judging a DJ competition is not as fun as it sounds. And for this one, we actually had to pay attention. Since the DJs were judged on song selection, we had to listen to see if they played the 3 requisite songs by Texan musicians. But that wasn’t all. We also had to judge them on creativity, stage presence, audience response, technical skills and overall performance. Oh, and we had to document and score everything on a ballot.
WATCH: Get the judge’s eye view with interviews with Austin’s DJ Manny and DJ Bigface and a sampling of our favorite sets from the night.
Truth be told: There were a lot of different kinds of DJs at the event. Some got really into live mashups. Some were more clubby. And some could have taken a lesson about song selection and mixing from any 17-year old bedroom DJ with a laptop. Seriously: At one point in the night, ALL of the judges HAD to take shots just to get through a particularly painful set.
For me, what was interesting was how each city had its own distinct style. Edgier and a little more innovative, Austin is definitely a refined taste. Dallas has a more hip-hop feel. San Antonio is more into the clubby bangers. And Houston, well, Houston made me want to cry–until DJ Kyle Berg performed. As you’ll see in the videos, below, Kyle Berg is a true turntablist. Whether it was mashing up Janis Joplin with some crazy-a hip-hop beats or playing dueling turntables, his set was art that made all the judges want to get up and dance.
WATCH: DJ Kyle Berg plays Dueling Turntables on the Ones and Twos
In the end, DJ Kyle Berg’s set was unanimously chosen as the winner. Austin’s Bigface came in 2nd place with San Antonio’s DJ M in at a close 3rd.
And that, my friends, is all you get. I’d love to tell you about the rowdy afterhours party with all the DJs and judges back at the hotel. All I’ll say is this: Red Bull gave us all the wings we needed to soar into dawn.
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