This (and every) First Friday, Las Vegas resident and nightclub music pioneer DJ Jesse Saunders will be spinning at the Electronic Music Café inside the Arts Factory. Saunders is once again unveiling The Art of the DJ, which integrates visual art and electronic music, while live-streaming the results online to, Saunders insists, thousands of listeners around the world.
“First Friday and the Arts District are where you find the true cultural aspects of the city,” says Saunders, who also runs Broken Records, a digital label. “What I’m doing is giving people a taste of the electronic music scene.”
Saunders did residencies at all the once-major-but-now-defunct clubs from the late ’90s—old nightlife haunts such as Ra, Utopia and C2K. Today he’s had enough of corporate club environs and is “focused on education.” He launched an after-school program for kids through the Music & Arts Society (MusicAndArtsSociety.org), and at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, he teaches an online DJ-ing class.
As a DJ, Saunders specializes in pure, funky, booty-shaking house—music that makes you want to move on the dance floor. None of that moody, atmospheric, put-you-to-sleep deep house, thank you very much.
For those who don’t know, pop-music historians credit Saunders’ 1984 single “On & On” as being one of the first house songs. Indeed, back in his native Chicago, he founded the world’s first house label, promoting it via parties, while saturating the city with fliers and posters.
“There was this one record shop, Imports Etc, where everyone from the Chicago club scene bought their records,” Saunders says. “Initially, ‘On & On’ was exclusively distributed to them and they sold out of a few hundred copies in a couple of days. So then they bought some more. It grew from there.”
Other Windy City record shops started calling, and soon Saunders was distributing his releases across the Midwest. Back then, he and some friends would simply hop in the car and take a road trip. They were fun times, when there was no Internet and not much competition.
“Everyone and their mama’s a DJ now,” he says with a laugh. “When I do seminars these days, I tell students they can’t even imagine what it was like. It was about getting out of your house and discovering new music instead of sitting at your computer. Today the social aspect of electronic music is strictly limited to the club.”
Still, he’s not a cranky old man bemoaning the rise of technology and its deadening impact on music. Saunders has never been afraid of the new and innovative—hence, his one-of-a-kind livestreaming event from the heart of First Friday.
“I love that people come walking through on First Friday as I’m broadcasting Global House Show,” he says of the worldwide syndicated radio program. “We’re creating a bridge between the music and art worlds, and using technology to do it. We’re not stuck in the Arts Factory. People around the world know of EMC.”
You can find DJ Jesse Saunders on First Friday starting at 6 p.m. at the EMC studio inside the Arts Factory (107 E. Charleston Blvd., Suite 105). For more info, visit ElectronicMusicCafe.com. The Art of the DJ is available for bookings and represented by Steve Beyer Productions.