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DJ Viva La Vivi digs up throwback ‘magic’ for Love on the Beat

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Vivian Martin, aka DJ Viva La Vivi
Photo: Norma Jean Ortega / Courtesy

For most DJs, crate digging for records is a relic of a bygone era, like spinning actual vinyl. Vivian Martin, also known as Viva La Vivi, isn’t most DJs.

For the past year, Martin has held down her eclectic dance night Love on the Beat at Velveteen Rabbit, spinning rock, pop, punk and garage—mostly recorded by European artists from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Martin grew up in Vegas and started buying music in high school— “sh*tty punk records of the era,” she says. Her love of European pop was ignited by her “high school sweetheart,” who gave her the 7-inch single “Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son” by French yé-yé singer France Gall. “The sound was totally different,” Martin recalls. “From that [moment] I started collecting all of [her] records, and it grew from that.”

Love on the Beat, which resumes September 12, features more than yé-yé—a genre of French pop and rock sung by women during the ’60s. “That’s the majority of what I play, but I play a lot of other stuff, too,” she says. “There was a lot of other super-groovy [music from that era], like go-go and jerk.” Her collection includes pop and punk from Spain, Italy, Japan and South America.

Martin also stands out in another way: She’s one of few women spinning vinyl in Las Vegas. “Like most things, it’s a male-dominated field, and that’s annoying,” she says. “Other male DJs will come up and twist my knobs [while I’m playing], or they’ll comment how ‘that song doesn’t match the one before,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re not going to go up to a dude and doing that.’” She has a distinct style that doesn’t sound like anyone else’s—intentionally.

“I get a lot of people coming up to me and going, ‘What is this? I can’t Shazam it!’ And I’m like, ‘Let me show you,’” she says. “Sometimes I’ll let them take a picture; other times I’m very protective of my stuff.” You won’t find playlists or mixes of her music online, either. “First of all, I’m really bad with technology. But also, I don’t want people to know the records I have. It takes all the mystery out of the experience … it takes away the excitement of hearing something for the first time.”

Named for a 1984 Serge Gainsbourg song, Love on the Beat celebrated its first anniversary in August at Velveteen Rabbit, which Martin calls the perfect home. “People are responsive wherever I play, but especially there,” she says. “I don’t do any kind of matching or mixing or any of that. I don’t do any effects. I understand why people do … but I feel it kind of takes the magic away from the song.”

Instead, she hopes people come away with the same feeling she had in high school—excitement over hearing something new, yet old, for the first time. “It’s a good song if I’m playing it. Why do I want to f*ck it up by putting some silly effect on it?” she laughs. “The song is fine by itself.”

LOVE ON THE BEAT Featuring DJ Viva La Vivi. Second Thursday of each month, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., free. Velveteen Rabbit, 702-685-9642.

Tags: Nightlife, DJ
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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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