If you ask a music fan what makes a good DJ, you’re likely to get a few solid answers off the bat. Great taste. The dexterity to weave sets through various genres. The ability to read a crowd. When it comes to filling a dance floor, all three go a long way. But an underrated part of a DJ’s skill set is the ability to put a crowd at ease. In fact, while DJ Shannon Blowtorch—a veteran sound engineer, event director, and LGBT advocate—has all three of the first qualifications down, this last trait makes her one of the most beloved DJs around.
Since moving to Minnesota almost 15 years ago, Blowtorch has played shows in Paris, Bogotá, and beyond. But most of the time, you’ll find her rocking turntables in Minneapolis, whether that means playing Janelle Monáe at LUSH or opening for Peaches at First Avenue. She helped found the annual Grown & Sexy Pride party in 2011; her rap crew GRRRL PRTY (Blowtorch, Sophia Eris, Manchita, and Lizzo) started releasing fierce “grrrl anthems” in 2013.
This year has brought some hard changes with GRRRL PRTY splitting up in June, but Blowtorch doesn’t do drama. It’s become especially clear in 2016 how much of a solid rock she is for the scene. When Prince passed away, we turned to Blowtorch to spin the tunes outside of First Avenue for the thousands of Minnesotans who showed up to pay their respects. And she’s had an especially positive effect on other women DJs. Both DJs Keezy and Sophia Eris credit Blowtorch for a lot of their opportunities: “I don’t think a lot of people know how much she puts on for female DJs,” Keezy said in July.
Blowtorch set her eyes on a new path this year, breaking in a new studio inside her home. Meanwhile, she continues to play several gigs per week and share a Saturday night mixtape on 89.3 The Current. She’ll continue to mentor rising DJs, who will spread encouragement and know-how to others. Shannon Blowtorch’s dedication is paying off.
Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.