Now that Angelo’s Pizza is nothing but a memory to upperclassmen and a myth to most freshmen, Marquette’s nightlife has centered around the two bars left on campus: Murphy’s Irish Pub and Caffrey’s Pub. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Murphy’s and Caffrey’s are filled to the brim with Marquette students enjoying drinks, the company of friends and most of all, the music.
Much of the atmosphere in these bars is centered on the music, but who is in ontrol of it? A trio of disc jockeys – DJ Firstgrade, DJ Dactyl and DJ Sunshine – are the ones that keep the music and dancing going all the way until closing time.
Alex Curran, a former Marquette student, picked up disc jockeying two and a half years ago. He said he developed a liking for electronic music and it launched him into becoming a DJ. “I always had a deep love and understanding of music and it dawned on me that I could do something about it,” Curran said.
In addition to being the regular Friday night DJ at Murphy’s, he has played at many venues around campus and Milwaukee. He has spun the decks at Whiskey Bar and Mi-Key’s Bar downtown, as well as many house parties around campus and even in Madison. He has played at the Rave three times, opening for artists like Infected Mushroom and MSTRKRFT.
For Curran, DJing at Murphy’s and Caffrey’s has its ups and downs, as it allows him to gain valuable experience but it limits what he can play. “People need to realize that we are not just iPods that just change songs,” he said. “We have a method to what we are doing.”
He said Murphy’s is his favorite of the two bars because the crowd there allows him to play more electronic music, pushing up the tempo.
“When it boils down to it, your not DJing for yourself, your DJing for the people,” Curran said. What makes DJing worthwhile for Curran is the connection he feels with the crowd: “Knowing that you are leaving an impact on their night and introducing them to new music is what makes it worth it.”
The Saturday night DJ at Murphy’s is Ben Heupel, a current Marquette student whose alias is DJ Dactyl. Heupel and Curran are good friends, and they began DJing at the same time. “I download VirtualDJ to learn the basics, and then ended up dropping $600 for equipment,” Heupel said.
Along with DJing Saturday nights at Murphy’s, Heupel DJs house parties and block parties around campus and in Madison and even at Caffrey’s every now and then. Like Curran, Heupel likes the crowd in Murphy’s because he can play more upbeat electronic and house music. Heupel said: “For the most part, the crowd reaction is positive. When I play at Murphy’s, the crowd gets really into the music, dances, sings along and every now and then, stops by the DJ booth and give me knucks, high fives or even buys me a shot.”
Heupel also mentioned good and sometimes frustrating aspects of DJing the Marquette scene. “Life as a Marquette DJ, to be honest, is bittersweet,” he said. “It’s bitter in the sense that you get a lot of requests, but its great to be able to make people move… It’s nice because it allows me to work outside my comfort zone with different genres and really grow as a DJ.”
Another Marquette student, Ryan Regan, makes up the final piece of the musical trio. Regan, dubbed DJ Sunshine, is the Thursday night DJ at Murphy’s. Similar to the others, his passion for music is what pulled him in to DJing: “My love for house music made me want to pursue DJing. I love introducing people to new music and DJing lets me do that.”
Regan plays at block parties around campus and at shows back at home in Orange County, Calif. “Most of all I like making people dance,” Regan said. “I used to hate doing top forty, but as long as the crowd is having a good time, it’s all good.”
While Regan sees DJing as just a hobby, he said he has a lot of fun doing it and enjoys the connection with the crowd. Regan summed up his experience as a Marquette DJ: “It’s just fun being in charge of the party. The crowd trusts me, and they know it’s going be a good night.”
All three DJs share the same goal: to introduce house, electronic and dance music to Marquette. From this goal, Regan has developed the slogan, “Turning pubs into clubs.” So next time you are in Murphy’s or Caffrey’s, listen to the music. You might just find you new favorite song. Stop by the DJ booth and make an introduction. And above all else, dance.
by Matt Freter