All over the world, female DJs light up the clubs to create space for female EDM, hip-hop and soul DJs behind the booth. In Halifax, with DJ Gwen West (AKA Gwen Westell) and DJ Swayback (AKA Katie McKay), Bodywork has been rocking the mixers and tables since 2011.
A semi-regular event at Gus' Pub, Bodywork started when Westell began hosting the night with Jamie Townsend (Southern Shores) until January 2012, at which point Westell asked McKay as DJ Swayback (named so due to a lumbar injury) to get in on it.
McKay had already been DJing with an all-female collective, The Ladies' Beverage Room, after she inherited a pile of funk 45s from Montreal's DJ Cosmo.
"At one party, Skratch Bastid and DJ Cosmo were there and it felt so good to be at the helm DJing with all these strong badass ladies," says McKay. The LBR shared gear and supported each other. "It was exciting, sweaty and empowering," she says.
"It was definitely intimidating getting started," McKay says. "There was a lot to learn about sound, equipment and all the goddamn cords. But I like to think that female DJs bring a certain sensitivity to the role and way less ego. It's more about the enjoyment of the music and putting on a good-feeling party than making a name for yourself."
Positive vibing is the purpose of Bodywork. "I love it because it's a night for dancers," McKay says. "We tried hard to turn the pub into a club with decorations, lights and a sub-woofer." (Plus candy and disco balls). "I love the uplifting joyful energy in the room."
There's also a complimentary energy between Westell and McKay, who tend to spin different styles. "I play more soulful sounds, funk and break beats and strong female vocalists. Gwen plays the grimier, darker, more late-night jams. I like to think I set them up and Gwen knocks 'em down. There's a lot of smiling and eye-closing and good vibes."
Bodywork w/DJ Gwen West, DJ Swayback
Thursday, October 10 at 11pm
Gus‘ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street