If Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world, then DJs are its ambassadors. They’re among Las Vegas’ most celebrated entertainers, greeting visitors on billboards surrounding McCarran International Airport. Some even command six-figure residencies. But for the show and spectacle we make of DJs, rarely do we get to witness what happens behind the booth.
On March 14 at Hyde Bellagio, the 2019 DMC Las Vegas Regional DJ Battle will put the art and skill of turntablism front and center. The competition will pit up to 30 DJs against one another to see who can perform the most cleverly crafted routine using scratch techniques, beat juggling and body tricks. The winner will represent Las Vegas at the national finals and, just maybe, the world championships in London in the fall. The event will also feature a special showcase by D-Styles, a member of pioneering turntable groups Invisibl Skratch Piklz and Beat Junkies. “You’re basically seeing the pyrotechnical aspect of DJing—all the fireworks, all the power moves,” says DMC USA CEO Christie Z.
Participants practice for months just to put on a dizzying showcase of turntable tricks—scratching records behind their backs or under their legs, doing spins and backflips between beats—to see who can draw the biggest response from the judges and crowd. During last year’s competition, two turntablists blindfolded themselves in the middle of their performances.
“These guys and girls are extremely skilled,” Z says. “They’re using the turntable as a musical instrument. You don’t see that anymore. … It’s an art form that we’re dedicated to preserving and progressing.”
Anthony Lomayesva, aka DJ Kiddo Money, is one of turntable culture’s most ardent advocates. Now a creative marketing designer for SBE, he competed in DMC tournaments in the early 2000s in New York City, LA, Denver and his home state of New Mexico before moving to Las Vegas 10 years ago. It was his idea to bring the DMC to the Strip last year. He says it was redemption for a 2014 DMC battle that was held at the now-shuttered Boomer’s off the Strip.
“It didn’t have the production value. It didn’t resonate with the Vegas culture and vibe,” Lomayesva says. “If I was competing in Las Vegas, what would I like to experience when I get off the plane and pull up to the venue? What would make me feel like, wow, I made it?” The answer: the Bellagio fountains. “There’s nothing more iconic,” he says.
Last year’s event drew about 300 attendees and gained wide support from the local DJ community. “We’re doing everything that we can to make this flourish and no longer be stigmatized by the club curse that says turntablism is bad,” Lomayesva says.
DMC Las Vegas Regional DJ Battle March 14, 7 p.m., free. Hyde Bellagio, 702-693-8700.