A lot can happen in 20 years. In 1997, Philip Owen was the mayor of Vancouver, Jean Chrétian brushed off the police’s pepper-spraying of UBC students by telling Nardwuar that he “put[s] pepper on his plate”, and Pavel Bure was still putting up points for the Canucks. It was, to all intents and purposes, a different time.
It was that setting that formed the backdrop for seminal house selector DJ Heather’s first appearance in the city.
Since then, the performer has grown to become one of the finest musical exports from Chicago: the birthplace of house. Often spotlighted as a member of the Windy City’s dance music elite, DJ Heather—born Heather Robinson—has been hitting the ones and twos all over the world, with high profile mixes out on Om records and the Fabric CD series.
Blues, rock, soul, and funk were part of the musical diet in the Robinson household, with her parents playing a range of different sounds. DJ Heather’s own tastes became just as eclectic, and she quickly discovered Motown hits along with classic ‘80s records by digging in crates at her local record store.
Robinson first started performing in the Chicago scene as a hip-hop DJ, but soon transformed her set as the crowd signalled a greater demand for house. The influences of blues, soul, and funk never left her ear, however, and DJ Heather is famed for fusing a number of different musical approaches. Nowadays, tours with performers like Mark Farina and playing alongside names like Kenny Dope and Carl Craig are Robinson’s bread and butter.
Despite that acclaim, Robinson is still game to spin records at Vancouver’s smaller, free pop-up parties. Public Disco, an initiative of Groundwerk, has managed to secure the artist for a set at their show at the Jim Deva Plaza on Saturday (September 9), before the artist’s real event—Nordic Trax’s DJ Heather: 20 Years in Vancouver show at Open Studios later in the evening. Marking the two-decade anniversary of her first time in the city, the frequent visitor to Vancouver will spin until 3 a.m. with an extended set, with support from local label-head Luke McKeehan.
The city she’ll visit this time is a very different place from 1997. Condos tower over sites that used to house heritage buildings, Gastown has been transformed from “skid row” to tourist central, and artists are all heading east. What hasn’t changed, however, is the excellent selection and technical mixing that brought the DJ first brought to the city 20 years ago—or that she’ll doubtless sell out a packed crowd.
DJ Heather plays at Public Disco Vol 4 at Jim Deva Plaza (1200 Bute Street) from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. She then plays at DJ Heather: 20 Years in Vancouver #909 at Open Studios (252 East 1st Avenue) from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. Tickets are available here.
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