DJ of the Week — Rhienna

DJ Rhienna

qPDX is starting a new feature! Every week we will introduce you to a local LGBTQ party DJ and ask them about their experiences in the scene and feature an audio mix they’ve made. If you’re interested in being featured contact

Rhienna has been a a go-to DJ for events for SMYRC, the bike community, and the Portland Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. She currently has residencies at Yes/No and guest spots at the Fez, TIGA, and Red Cap Garage. You can catch her twice this weekend, on Thursday at VITUS at the Yes/No, an electro/nudisco/post-punk/new wave night and Friday at the Fez for their weekly decadent 80s night. And Saturday October 8th she’ll be making a very special appearance at Glam Rock night at the Lovecraft (Portland’s only horror-themed bar 421 SE Grand).

When and how did you get started DJing?

i think, like most DJs, i became interested in DJing after years of loving music, making mixtapes and enjoying the experience of sort of…curating a musical experience based on a theme or emotion or message. mixtapes became mix CDs which became hypothetical setlists. all it really takes after that point is someone to show you how to operate DJ equipment (most of which is pretty intuitive) and beatmatch, and you’re hooked. at least i was. once i learned how to use turntables, a mixer, CD-Js (back in the day), all i wanted to do is practice, and play music for people out and about. my first gig in portland was not long after moving here, in late 2007.

How did you get your DJ name?

um, my parents/fleetwood mac? my name has always been unique enough to stand out (and, prior to rihanna’s fame, mispronounce). after all this time, i can’t really imagine any other name to go by that suits me so well…though i do play the game where i think of ridiculous DJ names and fantasize about using them as an alias for one-off gigs. DJ ladyboy and i even made a list one night, pretty much naming everything we saw or experienced: DJ twitchy eye, DJ empty tecate, and so forth.

Who are your inspirations?

local-love: DJ linoleum, DJ lo0pss, DJ beyonda, the blow pony crew, disc jockey gregarious. otherwise, prince? yeah, that pretty much says it all.

Why do you DJ?

to get people dancing, or to expose people to music i am passionate about with the hopes they’ll get passionate about it, too.

What parties/clubs do you currently DJ?

various places these days: yes & no, tiga, the fez ballroom/red cap garage, beech st. parlour among the most regular. i cut back a few of my residencies when i started grad school, so i’m more inclined to play one-off parties, random events like a SMYRC benefit, or a friend’s house party. i still love playing the big dance crowds, though, they’re just few and far between. i have some really awesome stuff coming up on the horizon, but it’s too soon to talk about it yet.

What genres of music do you like to play?

all over the place, but a strong focus on indie-electro-nudisco kind of stuff, a lot of 90s hip-hop, freestyle, 80s, new wave, post-punk. the occasional guilty pleasure pop song. i go through phases and am always discovering new music and getting really excited about it.

What are some of your current favorite tracks?

oh man, so many, and they’ll probably change in no time! but right now i’m obsessed with:

MEN – who am i to feel so free (feat. antony hegarty)

austra – beat and the pulse

patrick wolf – the city

the rapture – how deep is your love

2pac – keep ya head up

beth ditto – i wrote the book

i also have a hard time getting through a DJ gig not playing bell biv devoe’s “poison” because i love it so much.

What do you wish would stop being played out right now?

i want to hear a lot less top 40, always. i’d like to hear less “ironic” music. and i’d like katy perry to never record another song.

What are your main pieces of equipment and your favorite?

i run traktor pro on a macbook, which i use with a denon DN-HC4500 controller–that is absolutely my favorite set up, for sheer versatility and breadth of music i can bring with me. i’ve long since retired my CD-Js (CD DJing was incredibly stressful to me), but still bring out vinyl to gigs that call for it.

What was your WORST DJ experience?

there was the time i DJ’d a VIP event in the courtyard of the jupiter hotel in a silk dress in the middle of winter. that was pretty bad. but the worst DJ experience(s) i can think of ALWAYS have to do with technical difficulty at a really busy club or party: there’s just nothing you can do to recover until time has passed. it’s absolutely the worst, and there are so many variables. thankfully i can only think of a handful of occurrences, but each time you play you just know it’s a possibility something could go wrong.

What was your BEST DJ experience?

so so many of them. playing the WNBR (world naked bike ride) after-party event at the crystal ballroom in june was pretty ridiculous and fun. the glory days of ELECTRIC FEEL at the fez ballroom, or FRUITCAKE at rumpspankers. every time i close with a song i love.

What makes a DJ experience good for you?

any night/event/party that has devoted, enthusiastic dancers at a great venue is usually a win. i love playing with other DJs who spin music i can’t wait to dance to, once i get out of the booth. i love people who show up dressed up and bring a big group of friends. when it feels like a community, like you never want last call to happen, like you can’t wait for the next one…that’s the kind of experience i DJ for.

What else do you want qPDX to know about you?

i’ve been going through a crazy cover-song obsession, and have been making mixes with them, which you can hear on my mixcloud page, along with other mixes i’m slowly posting up there.

otherwise, i’ve been talking to a few friends in the community, and something that i don’t think gets said enough is that while it’s important to support the monthly queer parties and special events happening around town at various venues, it’s also important to be mindful of the venues themselves. we live in a so-called progressive town that now does not have–and cannot sustain–a lesbian bar. we have several go-to gay bars, many more gay-friendly bars, and yet the majority of queer nights are at venues with no real investment in the community as a whole, aside from making money. i became increasingly more aware of this in the past couple years as the nightlife scene in portland has shifted dramatically, in part because of the recession, but certainly other factors are at hand. we should be supporting our community, first and foremost, but we should also be growing that community: opening new queer bars and clubs, creating new parties at venues owned/operated by GLBT or allies, doing our homework about what businesses to support, etc.

2 comments to DJ of the Week — Rhienna

  • mr_charming

    great interview! I really like what she has to say about mindfulness of what venues host queer parties. I agree, its something that people should pay more attention to.

  • eek, just a few updates here:
    -the fez ballroom is restructuring, so the friday night 80s/90s schtick is on temporary hold.
    -VITUS is every first friday at the yes & no with a special guest appearance on thursday september 15th. otherwise, upcoming VITUS gigs are 10/7, 11/4, etc.
    -glam night IS on 10/8 at the lovecraft. hell. yeah.
    -new mixes all the live-long day on mixcloud:

    thanks, y’all!
    dj rhienna