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The talented Erika J. Bock at RATIO's opening night. (PHOTO: Kat Berger)

RATIO rallies the ladies to the turntables at MOCT

There's a strong possibility that, if you like to get out and shake what your momma gave you from time to time, you've seen Miss Erika J. Bock. At the very least, you've heard her.

She's the one at the DJ tables blending Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (Live at Coney Island)" into Kanye West's "Stronger," or making you wonder who this great synth-pop group singing in French is.

It's Yelle, by the way, and as a regular resident DJ at MOCT, The Social and Jackalope Lounge, Bock knows her way around a hot dance track.

A month ago she helped freshen up MOCT's Thursday nights from a predominantly rock format -- who the hell can dance to Weezer, anyway? -- into something new and, well, old. The result is Retro+Electro, an evening of new wave, '80s dance, industrial, synth-pop and electronic music.

Her latest musical project, however, isn't only about changing genres; it's also about changing stereotypes. With the help of friend and local DJ Nolan Scott, she's organized RATIO, an all-female DJ night happening the last Thursday of each month at MOCT. RATIO kicked off Thursday, Nov. 25 with WMSE's Dori and The Viduski Sisters, giveaways by A Woman's Touch and Atomic tattoo and a plethora of drink specials.

"The idea of giving female DJs a night of their own appealed to me because I think it's intimidating to get into DJing professionally," says Bock. "It's still pretty much a boys club, but that aspect of it always appealed to me. I like to do the things girls aren't supposed to do."

That's not to say that ladies aren't supposed to spin wax for the masses -- or pushing play on the Macs, whatever the case may be -- it's just that, in Milwaukee, it's traditionally been something of a rarity.

"If I had to guess about the male to female ratio for DJs in Milwaukee, I'd wager it's 50-75 to one. Seeing a female DJ in a club is almost like seeing a Elvis pumping gas at the local Citgo."

The good news is things are changing and the gender-based assumptions associated with female club DJs are starting to become a thing of the past.

"It was a fine line working out this night, though, because we want it to be female-positive without exploiting these women," she says. "I guess I was really sensitive to that aspect of it because I've had club owners try to change my appearance. 'I love your music, but could you wear something sexy and grow out your hair?'"

As a club DJ for a number of years, she's experienced sexism first hand, which is a major impetus for the attitude shift she's driving. For RATIO, Bock says she's looking for hard-working women who are willing to bring it and keep the party going, but as far as styles, "Anything goes. We want to bring in house and breaks DJs, rockers, ravers, hip hop kids, whatever."

Over at The Social, Bock and her legion of ladies reign on Tuesday nights at the weekly Bad Girls Night Out. In addition to female DJs playing all things unabashedly upbeat -- '90s dance, positive hip hop, Britpop, bubblegum pop -- the evening is rounded out with drink specials, a massage therapist, tarot card readers and giveaways by the Tool Shed and Shag. Oh, and it's Bad Girls Night Out, so boys are definitely allowed.

Talkbacks

MissErikaJean | Nov. 13, 2007 at 5:55 p.m. (report)

Thank you, flevine. At the end of the day, the night is all about getting some talented ladies together and having FUN, regardless of gender. If you want to come out of retirement (or any of the other lady DJs reading this are interested in DJing), please feel free to contact Julie from OMC and she can forward you my email address.

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flevine | Nov. 12, 2007 at 5:06 p.m. (report)

As a female record collector and (former) DJ I'd like to thanks Erika for bringing attention to female DJ's, especially at bars like MOCT. I know that there is a serious lack of females in the DJ scene, just like any other music community- In 2004 I organized an all ladies DJ night in Riverwest that went over really well for a few years and was taken over by another female lover of vinyl after I moved on. There was and still is a constant stream of women who laid down great tracks and are still doing so all over the city. I would like to say regardless of gender, in my book, it's all the choice of music -- good luck with your night Erika!!

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FlavorDav | Nov. 11, 2007 at 1:51 p.m. (report)

I will say, though, that I've never much thought of DJing as a job. It simply wouldn't be worth my time to do it then. Even on a good night (say, my annual hour @ the ModChicago Weekender), my entire haul might not pay for more than a minute or three of the expenses involved. I look at is as, depending on the situation, either a favor I'm doing someone, or one they're doing for me, one which, in either case, involves me doing only what i want to do ... That being said, yeah, assholism can abound, but not from anyone I'll deal with regularly, so ....

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FlavorDav | Nov. 11, 2007 at 1:40 p.m. (report)

Well, we've done this offscreen here as well, in what I think was I THINK a rather more congenial exchange ... Again (and again and again ...) this ultimately has nothing to do with you, the venue involved, or the concept of a "Ladies' DJ Night," having spun with female DJs regularly as long as I've been doing this, not to mention having actually spun a "Ladies' Night" in a pinch myself (all but one of the women involved didn't show, so I occasionally relieved the one who did). I do think, as I've mentioned via other channels, that there may have been a misplaced emphasis here in other such ventures on simply women playing music vs. DJs who are women playing music, but that's simply to say, any idea, no matter how good, will not be well served by questionable execution. I THINK that's reasonable ... But my complaint here has nothing to do with you or your night, but rather with the article's (which you did not write) implication that female DJs are nigh unto nonexistent in Milwaukee. And this isn't helped by the fact that you are quoted as, in essence, saying as much, even though we BOTH know I know you know better. Again, that statement should not have been left unqualified. I would hope that anyone organizing a DJ might featuring female DJs would appreciate someone trying actually to give some credit to some actual female DJs. Again, I think based on our few past (non)interactions, it's being assumed that I'm somehow on the attack here. I am, but against rather a lack of responsibility on the author's both to facts and to her readers (and the latter duty by and large IS the former, so ...), against the occlusion of actual female DJs by misstatements of their alleged nonexistence ... I'm hardly the only person to have read it that way, by the way. I'm just inevitably the one who's going to go on about it, so ... So please don't even risk staining me as holding any hostility towards you or the concept at hand, much less as being sexist in general. Again, the facts of the matter don't bear this out. I am precisely trying to call attention to an apparently less-than-visible but decidedly significant female DJ population here. If you can get 'em good gigs and good money, well, then, of course, good for you. Hell, set me up while yr at it, so long as it'll pay for the sex-change surgery in the long run. Meanwhile, here's to hoping I get some credit at least for having all female guests this coming week (with invitations out to more, inc., yrself; and, no, I almost nevr even look up at gigs, I'm actually terrified of people, so ...) ... I also appreciate the clarification about your intentions that clubs vs. "corner bars" dichotomy you posited, but I think you can see how it might have been read as denigrating the latter. Sure, the money's not as good, the sound may not be as good, you generally can't crank it, you don't always have a dedicated dance floor, but, on the other hand, as I think we agree, they can in theory at least be more hospitable to a wider variety of music, if only out of a certain indifference (i.e., so long as people don't flee or riot ...). Enlightened attitudes towards gender difference differ of course by location, but ... well, I'll leave it for the DJs to tell their own stories there; I'll just say, no horror stories come to mind save the obsequiousness of the male libido wearing the mask of gallantry... At any rate, perhaps we are both presupposing conflict here where none was intended, at least not with each other. My invitation stands, and Ill drop by when I get a chance (again, though, keep in mind, i'm only getting back to attending my OWN nights regularly; I'm a tired old man, so ...) ...

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MissErikaJean | Nov. 11, 2007 at 10:16 a.m. (report)

Oh, dear..."Venues that don't have the issues the places you frequent apparently have." Yes, because the bars that you frequently come into contact with are devoid of any sort of problems! They're magical places where no one is treated badly, and racism, sexism, nepotism, etc, etc does not exist? Please, let's be real. Music venues, regardless of size, location, or the specific people involved are, for people like you and I and bartenders and other staff, WORKPLACES. How many people do you know that come home from work every day with a huge smile on their faces and think, "Golly gee, I really love my job all the time, and Bob never tells racist jokes, and Tim is never sexist toward me, and Mary never steals my parking space..." Again, I think you missed my point, this isn't a pi**ing contest where I'm trying to argue that the clubs I'm most familiar and involved with are "better" than yours. Heck, I'm not sure if you know this, Dav, but I've even come out to your gigs once or twice. When was the last time you saw me play? I'm not faulting you for that, but it seems like one of us might have a generally more well-rounded experience about the Milwaukee nightlife scene... In regard to this:"...there's hardly any point in insinuating (and I hear a hint of this here) that the "clubs" are somehow "better" venues" That is truly laughable. You're looking for a quarrel where there wasn't one. I was not trying to insinuate that the venues I'm familiar with is better in ANY way, in fact, I said "different" (when does different equal better?), however, it seems you may be a bit hypersensitive to that idea. Perhaps this is something you've battled over before, with someone who has nothing to do with me? In regard to this: "A place like Club ? might be an exception, but there seem to be a lot of female DJs involved in goth, industrial, darkwave, whatever." In fact, I used to DJ at Club Anything quite frequently. It's a place that is never less than inviting to women, but as is typical, women are not as prevalent (not even close) as the men. It's not because women are expressly locked out, not at all. But like ANY venue ANYWHERE, it's always easier for a women to come into an environment where she knows right off the bat, "It's cool that you're female, and unlike some other places and people you may meet, we're totally cool with you." This is what Ratio is about! It's a bit preemptive. It's a positive thing. It's meant to be encouraging. I'd also like to point out that as a man, you may not be as sensitive to such things - you've never experienced DJing as a woman in Milwaukee in a vast array of venues, and despite the fact that you have many female DJ friends it's impossible for that to take the place of the experience of being, well, female, in these sorts of situations. In regard to this: "If "clubs" aren't booking 'em, well, that's their own damn fault..." Yes, it is their own damn fault, Dav, but some of us (like myself) want to facilitate a change in that regard. I guess I feel like this night is a positive one, and I never thought that anyone could shed such a negative light on the idea. Thanks for your opinion - you are most certainly coming from a background that I am not familiar with (significantly older, male, and a staple of numerous venues I've never or seldom played) and a purveyor of amazing tunes that I've enjoyed every time I've seen you play.

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