Who the hell does Jennifer Castro think she is? She just blew right into Santa Fe a few years back and immediately inserted herself into our local DJ scene with her love of house music and sincere beliefs about building people up. And she's remained here, working with whoever she can, trying to sell her old house in Jacksonville, Florida, and making a positive impact on live shows and radio time slots. It's a little hard to believe she's been embraced as she has, but her upbeat attitude and bonkers work ethic are paying off at shows around town, including the upcoming Meow Wolf post-Zozobra party, House of Eternal Burn. Here are the top five reasons to check her out.
She’s For Real
"I've had a really positive reaction to Santa Fe, but the reality is setting in that I don't know if it's the right fit," Castro says. "I prefer a larger city, and as a DJ who specializes in music you mostly hear in nightclubs, I don't know if the demographics of this town work for me." Those are strong words, but she continues to play out and do her best. Why? Because it's fucking OK to not be enamored with every single aspect of a town and its music scene and still enjoy parts of it while flexing your creative muscle. "For the most part, people here were super-welcoming," she adds. "Here they do a good job of embracing what I call co-op-etition."
She’s Paid Her Dues
Castro recalls a time when women DJs were the exception to the rule, but after she fell in love with house music right after college in Pennsylvania (an awesome story about literally stumbling down some stairs to hear the stuff circa early 1990-something), Castro got to work. "I kind of didn't believe I could make music into a career," she says. "I got my business degree, was in the National Guard, but I remember the song I fell in love with house music to, and I was hypnotized instantly." She'd take lessons from a DJ named Herman "Red" Orphey, and eventually helm a residency at a coffee shop in Jacksonville. "I played there two nights a week, five hours a show for two years," she says. "That's thousands of hours of unglamorous DJ work."
She’s All About That Sweet, Sweet Support
"If you want your scene to thrive, you've got to be an active participant," Castro says. "It's amazing, though, when you book the right kind of people." Castro has become quite a fixture at shows all over town, even those she's not playing. "House music is still underground," she says. "We are the only people who can keep it alive." This extends to a loosely affiliated collection of local DJs including Billiam, Melanie Moore and others who call themselves the Legion of Boom—plus Castro's radio show of the same name, which runs on Saturday nights on KSFR (101.1 FM) from midnight to 2 am. (And yeah, that's technically Sunday if you're one of those assholes.) Oh, and Castro also mentored a local high school student who wanted to get into DJing. Sweet, right?
She’s Breaking Into Production
Castro took the Santa Fe Community College's class Intro to Live and Reason, a crash course in music production software taught by local audio wizard Jason Goodyear. "If you don't write and release tracks, you don't get booked as a headliner," she says, "but I've already got several labels who've hit me up."
She Can Explain the Difference Between a DJ and a Jukebox Really Well
"I'm a selector," she explains, "and I wish it was something more people thought about." Castro is adamant that talent plays a major role in the DJ game (duh), but in a world where computers and digital controllers made things so much easier for anyone to jump in, it can be hard to figure out what's good or not. "Look, every DJ clears the floor some time, but I'm not randomly putting cuts in—I'm thinking about progression; are these drums going to sound [good], or are people going to lose interest?" she says. For her sets, Castro builds what are called "crates:" digital playlists with up to 100 tracks from which she only chooses two or three to definitely play before she performs. "The rest of it is on the fly," she says. "And my real passion for house music comes from honoring the history of it; the ethos, for me, is a safe space for the 'other.' It's my job to hold space for those communities on the dance floor."
House of Eternal Burn with DJs Badcat, Eldon, Kevin Saunderson and Walker Royce
8 pm Friday Aug. 31. $25-$30.
Santa Fe Community Convention Center,
201 W Marcy St.,