Sounds of SLO: Local DJs Share the Rhythm of Success

Sounds of SLO: Local DJs Share the Rhythm of Success

Written by: Luke Garcia

Photo Courtesy: Namu Williams (Featuring DJ SLK and DJ Gabby)

San Luis Obispo is a place that might not be on the map for its bustling nightlife, yet there's an undeniable uniqueness to the sounds that resonate through its streets.

So, what sets the electronic music scene in San Luis Obispo apart, and how do musicians and DJs thrive in this small community? These questions lead us to the stories of two individuals deeply connected to the rhythm and beats of SLO.

Jose Barron, more locally known as DJ SLK, (pronounced “slick”) is a local musical mainstay and has been for over a decade. DJ SLK began his mixing in SLO at The Graduate in 2008, a venue in SLO that closed in 2020 after 13 years. According to SLK, the venue drew in crowds of over 1,000 people on some weekends with SLK playing opening sets for big names like Skrillex and Martin Garrix. SLK prides himself on the ability to adapt to any crowd, regardless of the music genre being played that night.

When SLK thinks about the unique vibe of SLO, he points to the locals and college aged-crowds who, in his words, "embrace different cultures and like all genres of music." For him, the town's love for electronic dance music (EDM) is a healing force, offering an escape from stress and creating a real sense of community.

“The pandemic hit the downtown scene pretty hard” SLK said. “Once it was over I wanted to try something new, so I started playing EDM nights every week at The Mark” SLK said.

SLK said in his view why SLO’s music scene stands out. According to a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, people tend to stop exploring new types of music after the age of 30.

In a town where a youthful energy prevails, the willingness to embrace diverse musical genres remains alive and well. This aspect contributes to the distinctive and ever-evolving sound that characterizes SLO's music scene, according to SLK.

“DJ SLK is the reason I go downtown most of the time, especially when he is doing EDM Thursdays at The Mark” said Ethan Giannini, a senior RPTA student. “It gives a completely different bar experience” Giannini said.

SLK highlighted another success story that emerged from the local scene, Max Styler, whom SLK recalls watching compete in DJ battles at Mother's Tavern, a downtown bar. From those local beginnings, Styler has gone on to tour the world, a testament to the support and nurturing environment found in SLO. Styler recently headlined a show at Fremont Theatre in Febuary.

In the evolving rhythm of San Luis Obispo, SLK witnessed Styler's local success. Now, another DJ, Roy Killgore, known as Roy Orion on stage, acknowledges Styler's crucial role in his journe –connecting the threads of two long-term DJs who've shaped and witnessed SLO's electronic music scene.

Notably, Styler played a pivotal role in Roy's journey. Under Styler's guidance, Roy took a summer's worth of lessons.He said he gained an invaluable hands-on experience in the production process—from inception to release and distribution, according to Roy Orion.

“Everything people are looking for in big cities is starting to happen here in SLO, I see lots of college kids and creatives choosing to stick around here as well” Roy said.

Roy stated that he thinks San Luis Obispo offers a mix of city, country, and suburban living that's just right for creativity. According to Roy, “there's no big-city pressure here like in San Francisco or Los Angeles.”

Roy feels that SLO is a place where he can be creative without feeling stressed to meet outside expectations. For him, avoiding burnout is key, and he finds that lack of pressure in SLO helps him get into a creative flow.

“It's a small town that gives me the opportunities of a city without the stress, making it a great place for me to do my thing without feeling overwhelmed” Roy said.

Photo Courtesy: Roy Killgore

Roy said the pandemic took a huge hit on the music scene, but expressed he is confident in a slow but steady recovery.

“I've really witnessed SLO making a great comeback in the EDM scene with big shows at Fremont [Theatre], Dairy Creek [Golf Course], and other great places as well” Roy said.

Having secured deals with several record labels and garnered support from local professionals in SLO, he credits the town's backing for his success. The ripple effect of this support is evident as Roy gears up to play a show in Miami for Miami Music Week. This was an opportunity stemming from the groundwork laid in SLO, according to Roy.

Roy’s journey in SLO has not only been about weathering challenges but also adapting to the shifting tides of electronic music genres. Roy also stated that he notices an overwhelming sense of change and adaptability among younger audiences.

Artists like DJ SLK and Roy Orion illustrate how the town's support and creative spirit foster growth and success for local artists, embodying a narrative of resilience and evolution.

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