Live DJs Spinning Around the World Posts

store selling vinyl records for turntable djs
A store in England selling vinyl records

DJing around the world used to mean carrying my turntables and my vinyl record collection everywhere I went. It took up a lot of space in my suitcase and weighed a lot too. These days I no longer have to worry about this. All I need to DJ is my laptop. Any club I play at provides the controller. I haven’t seen many that don’t have one. All of my music is on my laptop or on a USB disk. No need to carry heavy equipment anymore.

But I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. I love listening to music on vinyl and I really miss it. I have a turntable record player in my apartment at home, but it’s not portable and I don’t take it with me when I travel.

I still travel with speakers, but now I hook them up to my smart phone whenever I want to listen to music. I used to hook them up to my record player and that way I could listen to vinyl on the road. I do miss that.

I have converted all of my vinyl records to the digital format, so I do have those same vinyl sounds on my smart phone and on my computer, but it’s still not quite the same. It was also cool to have a few people over to my room and listen to vinyl records. Even if the sound is very similar, it just felt more sophisticated to have a record player playing the music, instead of the phone.

I also miss collecting records. I used to love browsing record stores and finding those gems and then playing them in my sets and surprising the crowd. I would play a lot of old records that they hadn’t heard in years, but they brought back nostalgic feelings. I also played a lot of new records that they had never heard before. That was always one of the coolest feelings. I loved it when I could surprise my audience by playing something they didn’t even know existed.

Oftentimes some of them would even come up to me after the show and asked me what it was they had heard. That was always one of my favorite things and that doesn’t really happen too much anymore. I guess you could still find new music by browsing on Spotify or whatever, but it isn’t really the same. In fact, I kind of hate browsing on there for music. It’s just not as much fun as going to a record store.

I do still visit record stores when I travel and occasionally buy vinyl records too, but they are just for my personal collection at home. So I guess it’s still fun but it definitely isn’t the same. And you don’t find as much music in the record stores these days.

They are struggling to stay open, so they need to stock what people want. And since nowadays it’s mostly hipsters who want to listen to vinyl, or more accurately want to have a player sitting around but never actually touch it, record stores stock the kind of music they like. It’s definitely not the kind of music I like.

So, yes, like many older people I miss vinyl. And yes, I know it’s making a comeback, but it is making a comeback among people most of us don’t really like. But more than anything, I miss spinning on vinyl. Manipulating the controller simulates it perfectly, but it still isn’t the same, is it? There’s just something about having an actual record on the record player and spinning and scratching it, that you don’t get from digital music. I miss it.


Watching DJs live has changed a lot in the past 20 years. The experience of watching a DJ play is very different today than it was when I first started going to live events back in high school. But I don’t know if that’s a function of my location versus a change that is a worldwide one. I’m pretty sure it’s the second, but I’m not positive.

First let’s look at what has changed. My first experience watching a DJ play live came back when I was in high school. I was living in the Seattle area and one of my friends invited me to a rave on the west side of the city in an abandoned warehouse. Funnily enough, it was his younger sister who was into the rave culture and not us. She must’ve been only around 15 at the time. Anyway, she knew about this rave and told her brother. He was interested in going so he let me know. I figured why not?

DJ and lasers at a rave
A “rave” in today’s times. Notice averyone facing the DJ (and the huge stage)

The first thing that struck me were some of the outrageous outfits. The Asian party-goers especially, seem to have gone all out. The next thing I noticed were how hot the girls were. I’d gone to a lot of rock concerts and seen some beautiful women there, but nothing compared to what I saw at this rave. I even enjoyed standing in line for almost an hour. There was just so much eye candy.

I also noticed how friendly everyone was. That brings me to the point of this whole article. There were a lot of good DJs and some of them were apparently quite well known. One, Donald Glaude, was hugely popular. But the crowd almost treated them as if the music was just coming from a stereo system. They didn’t pay too much attention to the DJs. Sure, when Donald took the stage, people noticed and cheered him, but then they danced amongst each other and didn’t really pay much attention to him. They just let the vibes he was creating take over their bodies and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

The whole rave was like this. People were friendly, were talking and were getting to know each other. Everyone was mingling and having a great time together. The DJs provided the music that provided the atmosphere that gave us all such a great feeling.

These days when I go to raves or even just clubs that have DJs, it feels completely different. The DJ seems to be like a headlining act at a festival or concert. Everybody stands there and faces one direction, their eyes fixed on the DJ. Sure, they dance, but they dance with the DJ in a way. Nobody is talking to each other, nobody is mingling, nobody even seems to be having that great of a time.

Sure, they’re having fun, but is it really fun. They don’t seem to know how much more fun they could be having. Maybe that’s the key. Maybe they’ve never had the experience I had back in the day, so they don’t know how much more fun a DJ show could be. Because let’s face it, I have a lot more fun when I’m meeting new people and mingling. Naturally, when I say meeting new people, I mean meeting hot girls.

But that can be different for people. The point is people are more aware of other people, they’re not just aware of the DJ. The DJ wasn’t some celebrity back in the day. Yes, he was famous and people were aware of him and even went to raves and clubs to see a particular DJ. But then they just enjoyed the vibes created by the DJ and treated the whole thing like house party. I suppose that’s the difference. Where raves used to be like house parties, today they’re more like a concert.

The question is, is this happening in the US too? The first few years of watching DJs were in the US, but since then, I’ve been living abroad. I’ve not been to any raves or clubs in the US in over 10 years. As a result, I don’t know if this change has become apparent to me because I’m in a different country. I do feel like things have changed abroad, that they used to be similar to the US here, but now they’re like they are today. I get the feeling this is how it is in the US too. This is the era of the superstar DJ. Unfortunately, along with the era of the superstar DJ, comes the era of not being sociable anymore.

For more on the changing rave culture and how DJs, are perceived:


I have had the good fortune to watch live DJs spin music at raves in over five different countries. The rave scenes in these different countries varied greatly, but part of that is also due to the time difference. The raves I am going to mention here took place over a period of 15 years. During that time, rave culture changed in each one of these countries. I only partied at a certain time in each country, so I don’t know what they were like during the other times. This makes it difficult to compare one country to the other directly. But I will try.

The first raves I ever saw were in Seattle, Washington in the United States. They were simply amazing. I’m sure some of this has to do with the fact that they were my first raves, but back then it was the height of the rave culture in the US. The DJs were amazing and so were the venues. They took place in warehouses, but also large public venues. People took ecstasy and danced all night while wearing crazy clothes. The atmosphere was simply wonderful and it has never been beat by any rave or EDM festival I have attended since.

Outdoor rave in Europe
Crowds at an outdoor rave in Europe

Next I’ll quickly mention a rave I went to in Las Vegas in the desert. It was similar to the Seattle ones, but I did not know anyone there, so I didn’t have quite as great of a time. I also did not have any party favors and let’s face it, that does make a difference. The music at that desert rave was great, too, but I have to admit it was very cold at night in the desert and I was not dressed for the occasion. I had a few beers before I went, but there was no alcohol being sold at the venue, because there were people under 21 there and it was in the US. I got tired quickly because of this.

The next rave I went to was in Tokyo, Japan. This was in a gigantic venue right on the waterfront. The music was incredible, perhaps the best out of any of the raves, but the atmosphere just wasn’t there. The whole thing was much too commercial and that definitely took away from the feeling. We did have some party favors this night and I was there with a girl I really liked. This all made for a great night, but I did miss the underground feel of the raves back in the US.

From that point on I didn’t go to any raves for a while. In Europe I just went to clubs, because they did not seem to have real raves. They didn’t need them. You could do anything you wanted in the club. The next actual outdoor music festival with electronic music was in Seoul, South Korea. It was an electronic dance music festival with some large DJs. Some of the biggest name DJs in the world actually. Unfortunately, this being Korea, there were absolutely no party favors whatsoever. There was a lot of alcohol and everyone got very drunk, but it didn’t feel like a rave at all. It felt like a big party. It was a ton of fun, but I would not call it a rave. It was missing everything that makes a rave a rave.

EDM festival type rave in US
Ravers partying at an EDM festival in the US

Finally, I went to a few raves in Shenzhen, China. Being China, there was some weed, but nothing else. They also sold alcohol. I didn’t know anyone there and the parties were very small, so I got bored quickly. The music was fine, but nothing special. It was a nice try, especially for China. This is a country where you really do not have any good clubs at all and the nightlife generally sucks. The fact that someone tried to put on a rave is really incredible. They did a good job, too, but that’s not enough in this country. When you are in China, no matter how good you are at promoting parties and events, you just can’t compete with raves in the US or even Japan.

I just realized I forgot to mention the biggest rave of them all: the full moon party in Thailand. Yes I’ve been there and it was incredible. It also did not really feel like a rave, since most people were getting drunk. I was always against the US policy of not selling alcohol at these things, but now that I see what happens when you do, I actually like it. Raves are about drugs, not alcohol. The drugs fuel the enjoyment of the music and the general atmosphere of love and peace. Alcohol does the exact opposite of that. This is why the best raves I have been to were in the United States. That is probably surprising to you. It definitely is to me.

You’ll find info on raves on the Badass Raves FB page.


A few years ago I spent two months traveling through China. I spent all of my time in the south and the west. I began in Shenzhen, then went to Guiling and Yunnan provinces. I spent the first month there, then headed back to Guangzhou. From there I traveled to Chongqing and then to Sichuan. I spent most of the second month there, with 10 days or so in Lanzhou and Urumqi.

Night club in Shenzhen China
A KTV style Chinese night club in Shenzhen

During my travels, I made it a point to go to a club or two in every major city, to see some local DJs. I came away with one major impression. Chinese clubs absolutely suck. Most of the Chinese DJs are terrible, too, but even if they managed to spin a good set, I doubt I would even notice given how horrible the clubs are.

I’ll start in Shenzhen, since it’s the most western city. Located just north of Hong Kong, it gets a lot of international DJs as well as a bunch from Hong Kong and Macau and of course local ones. Many foreign DJs live in Shenzhen, too, since it is the best place in China for them to find work apart from Shanghai and Beijing. It is known as a very progressive city with great nightlife.

While it is progressive, the nightlife is far from great. In fact, the only Chinese city with decent clubs where you can have a good time is Shanghai. And the clubs are only decent, not great. Nothing like Tokyo or even Seoul.

Basically, in China there are two types of clubs: those catering to Chinese people and those catering to foreigners. In all of China, there are maybe 5 of the latter. In Shenzhen, there are none. The city does get some big name DJs, but they end up spinning in the Chinese style clubs, which is absolutely ridiculous. Here’s why:

Pepper Club, located in the Coco Park area of Shenzhen, is the most western club and the one that attracts the most big name DJs. The dance floor is the size of a medium-sized table. It is the biggest you’ll find in a club in the city. Instead, every inch of floor space in the club is filled with tables that customers can sit at for a large fee. This way, the club can make money and Chinese people can sit around in their little groups and not mingle with anyone they didn’t already know.

For some reason they love this. Don’t get me wrong, I love going to a nice bar or pub and talking to my friends, too, but I don’t want to do it in a place with a DJ and pounding music being piped into every inch of the club through hundreds of speakers in every corner. The only time you would want music that loud and that all-present is if you’re in a dance club where everyone is dancing. Not in a place full of tables.

But in China, the clubs are all made for sitting, but the noise level is made for dancing. It makes for the most useless nights out, where you can’t dance, can’t walk around and meet new people and can’t talk to your friends since you can’t hear anything they say. So you end up with a bunch of people getting drunk in small groups but not really talking, everyone just staring into their smartphones. Off to the side, a DJ plays music that no one can dance to and no one can talk over.

I have no idea if the club owners here have simply tried to copy the western club environment and failed miserably, or if they created this horrible clubbing experience on purpose. I imagine they make far more money this way, since people pay for all the tables. Obviously if they were trying to attract foreign customers, they would fail and go bankrupt, but since they get plenty of young Chinese customers, they don’t really need to worry about the rest of us. They can safely ignore us and just do whatever makes them the most money and whatever appeals most to Chinese clubgoers.

This wasn’t just a Shenzhen  phenomenon. All cities are like this. Shanghai, and maybe Beijing, have some decent clubs in the western style where it’s possible to listen to good music and actually dance to it and meet new people, but the other cities don’t. They are far worse than Shenzhen even. In Shenzhen, the clubs are glitzy and at least look like posh clubs. In smaller cities, they look like they want to look like posh clubs, the kind that would attract a famous DJ, but it is obvious it’s just a facade. The clubs all look cheap and tacky.

And the DJs they get to spin music are locals and their skill level is that of someone just becoming a DJ, someone who is in the middle of learning to DJ. They play the same top 40 tunes, but not top 40 from today. The songs were top 40 five years ago. The music is always turned up too loud. If they do play electronic dance music, it’s far too fast and seems completely unnatural. Not that you could enjoy your EDM even if it was good, since again, there are no dance floors and only tables with Chinese people smoking and playing a game of dice.

I’m not the only one who hates the clubs in China. Every foreigner who has tried to go to a few feels the same. The phenomenon of filling every inch of available space with tables and leaving no room for a real dance floor has even made it into a question on Quora, which you can read here. As you can see from that, there have been plenty of huge DJs, some of the world’s most famous DJs, playing gigs in China, but outside of Beijing and Shanghai, you won;t find the venues to really enjoy those DJs. And even in those two cities, the Chinese style of club is taking over. I guess they are just more profitable and are thus squeezing out the clubs that are more traditional and actually enjoyable. Money wins every time. We lose every time. What a shame.


When I was in college I went to my first rave. I went with one of my friends who I’m actually no longer friends with, but he was a nice guy. We were both learning to DJ at the time using this method and we wanted to see some real live DJs. We went to an old warehouse on the West side of Seattle. I’d never been to this part of town before and had never been to a rave before. I didn’t know what to expect from either.

As I was driving the car, we were listening to techno music. I always liked this kind of music but I had never gone to a rave to hear a live DJ. As we were blasting the music in the car on the way there, we were getting more and more excited. My friend’s sister went to a lot of raves even though she was several years younger than us, but strangely we had never been.

As we drove down the street along the waterfront and got close to the rave, we started seeing more and more people dressed in brightly colored clothes. Many of them were wearing strange hats, carrying stuffed animals, sucking on pacifiers and just generally giving off a very ‘peace and love’ kind of vibe. We were dressed the same as always and it was clear would be completely out of place.

We found a place to park and walked up and got in line. The thing that made the biggest impression on me that moment was the girls. They were hot. Not all, but a large percentage. Before getting out of the car we took some pills and it was the first time we were doing that too. Seeing the people around us it was clear we were not the only ones doing it.

Once we had gotten through the line and we had been patted down and frisked, we walked into the warehouse and approached the dull thumping of techno music. The first DJ really wasn’t that great in retrospect, but it sounded amazing to us at the time. The main reason for that was the atmosphere of all the people around us. They were totally into the music and letting it carry them, without a care in the world. And did I mention the girls were hot?

Once the pills kicked in we joined in the dancing and we had a great time. That time only got better early in the morning, when the main DJ took the stage. His name was Donald Glaude.

DJ Donald Glaude
DJ Donald Glaude

He was a large black man with an afro who played an incredible selection of songs and he knew just how to get the crowd going. The energy he fed into the assembled masses was incredible and it was at that moment that I knew I wanted to be a DJ. I have since tried many methods to make that happen, but in the end, I was not able to become a DJ. I just don’t have the ear for music. I guess it’s for the better; leave it to the professionals. I’ve since seen Donald perform several times and he has been amazing every single one of them.

American DJs

I spent some time in Shanghai, China many years ago. While there, I went out clubbing a lot; pretty much every weekend. By far my favorite club in the city was a place called Bonbon. It was located a few hundred meters from my apartment, but that wasn’t the reason it was my favorite. Okay, it wasn’t the whole reason.

It had the best DJs in the city and for a price of $12 it offered an open bar until 4 AM. It was also filled with hot girls. It also had a great sound system and basically a selection of all the best DJ equipment. True, this club could never compare with the best clubs in other cities, like Tokyo or New York or Las Vegas or Berlin, etc.. But China—and in fact most of Asia except for Japan—does not really have all that many real clubs. Most places are actually pretty horrible, with annoying crowds and bad music that’s way too loud. That’s why a good club like bonbon, seems amazing while you’re there.

Despite the lack of great clubs, China does pull some of the world’s greatest DJs. And in Shanghai, bonbon got a lot of them. I saw quite a few big-name DJs while I was there, but the one that sticks out the most is Sven Vath. I had never seen him before, but had heard many good things, so when I saw that he was playing at my favorite club I was naturally really excited. But that’s not why he sticks out. I remember his performance, because it was so horrible.

DJ Sven Vath
DJ Sven Vath

Bonbon is a drinking club. With an open bar, everyone consumes a lot of alcohol and that makes for a certain mood. That mood is not conducive to long drawn out trance numbers. And unfortunately that’s exactly what Sven was playing. When he first took the stage, the crowd had been whipped into a frenzy by the previous DJ and the excitement only grew in anticipation of the night’s headliner.

But as the set went on and the endlessly droning beats monotonously continued for 10 long minutes after 10 long minutes after 10 long minutes, you could feel the energy being sapped out of the crowd. People who were dancing before were now just standing and watching and pretty soon everyone was looking forward to the moment when the regular club DJ would come in to finish up the night.

It was on this night that I realized that Sven Vath is a terrible DJ. True, it’s not his fault he was booked at the wrong kind of club for his music. There’s nothing he can do about that and the promoter should have done his homework and not brought in a trance DJ. Nevertheless, any good DJ should have the ability to read the crowd and adjust what they are playing accordingly. Sven clearly did not have that ability; or maybe he simply did not have the desire and he just stubbornly continue to play his set list. Either way, he ensured that I will never watch him spin music again and I’m sure many in the crowd left feeling exactly the same.

On a final note, if you are planning on traveling to China and more specifically to Shanghai and you want to go out at night, ask around before you head to Bonbon. It was great while I was there, but things change quickly when it comes to clubs and even just a new club DJ can completely change a place. Your best bet, is to simply ask someone when you’re there, like the staff at your hotel or just young people around the city. The one thing you should definitely do is go out clubbing if you’re in China, because even if the clubs aren’t that great, it will still be a unique experience. And if you’re lucky, or should I say unlucky, enough to see a Chinese DJ…well that can be an even more unusual experience.

European DJs