DJ D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine” virtual dance parties might be the most resounding cultural phenomenon of the COVID-19 era so far, attracting hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram Live and garnering the Bronx-born artist attention from the likes of Oprah and Michelle Obama.
DJs have been spinning live online for a long time, but his funky, soulful sets, streaming from his LA home, carry a different meaning these days.
“I’ve known D-Nice for a long time, and his first record was definitely in my first crate when I [started],” says Las Vegas’ own DJ Franzen, the Bay Area transplant who’s been captivating crowds at the resident DJ at Drai’s Nightclub for five years. “It’s like a big chatroom or party line, and the great thing is everybody on there is keeping it positive. You’ve got people connecting and reconnecting, just because it’s a DJ playing music. It really got me inspired.”
Franzen took to IG Live for a quarantined set of his own on March 22, and he’s been doing it every night since, spinning hip-hop and R&B favorites for thousands of viewers. Even Drake checked in for a chunk of Franzen’s stream.
“There are so many DJs doing it now, it’s like having different radio stations on at the same time, and people are just going from one to another,” he says. “And I think it’s refreshing, because some people have never heard some of these songs, or at least not in a long time. We’re reminding them how good this music is.”
Franzen says he has received messages asking for his Cash App info so followers can send tips, but he’s turned down donations, even though the DJs who make their living on the Vegas nightclub circuit are without income during the shutdown, and Drai’s furloughed its entire staff.
“I really do it for the love of music and just to share my song selections with the people that appreciate it,” he says. “The other night I was on for seven hours. There were people there with me that started at 6:15 p.m. and didn’t get off until almost 1:30 in the morning. I don’t know the last time I DJed for seven hours straight.”
These online music parties might be the closest thing to the Vegas experience DJs and clubbers can get while social distancing mandates are in effect, which raises even more questions about the future. What will the Strip nightlife scene look and sound like when the pandemic has been quelled and the clubs reopen? Will those of us dancing along to these social media sets be eager to return to the actual venues, or will this temporary paradigm cause a shift in the culture?
Franzen says he’s thinking about merging the live online and live IRL dynamic, imagining going live from Drai’s and taking his Vegas hip-hop party to the world.
“You know what’s crazy? I’ve had some people tell me [how they] don’t really go out, but now they want to, now they want to come to Vegas and go to Drai’s,” he says. “It’s those people who maybe go out once a year and now you’re a changed person because of all this. It’s crazy to think about what type of effect music has on people, especially in tough times.”