By Mikkel Hyldebrandt
Photos: Caroline Smith, Brandon Roberts/Better Rugged, Nark
For more than 25 years, Vicki Powell has been synonymous with the soundtrack to Atlanta’s underground. For this Pride, she, along with her DJ collective Deep South, is planning a spectacular lineup of events that celebrate not only Pride, but also her 50th birthday. Peach talked to Vicki about beginnings, the importance of throwing queer, underground parties, and how she plans to celebrate her birthday the whole weekend long.
With a 25+ year career in DJing and party promoting, you are synonymous with Atlanta’s queer and underground party scene. How did it all start?
It all started with my mother’s love for dance music. She would fill our house with sound and was collecting vinyl before I was born. I still play many of those records today. That steered me into dance roller skate culture as well as my first job at one of many record stores. So the love of music was always there. I think in that time music collecting, and DJing was something you really had to seek out and travel to the record store and dig. Almost a compulsion. The limited access meant that not very many people were doing it, so it was a small, tight-knit scene. I think if you look at many of the great DJs of our time, they have been at it since a very young age. Almost like they were born to do it. It took years to perfect mixing, and you really worked hard at it. Practicing in your basement for hours with the same two records, learning to play by ear, et cetera. It’s not easy.
What are some of the parties – then and now – that you have created in Atlanta?
Early on it was mostly warehouse parties then we eventually moved into clubs with Viva La Libra, Flux, Boombox at Sound Table, Sunsets at Noni’s, Limpwrist, Selectro, Sunday Service at Sister Louisa’s Church, Easter and Pride nights at Mary’s and Henry’s, as well as events at various local hotels through the years. Deep South is my current project with Brian Rojas and Ash Lauryn. It is a DJ collective that is based in mentoring and nurturing talent, and we create events that promote an all-inclusive vibe and prioritizes trans, GNC, POC, and femme-identified DJs and the like-minded community in Atlanta.
You seem to have this love affair with Atlanta, and you have mainly stayed here all the time – what is it about the city that speaks to you?
I love Atlanta. I was born and raised in Atlanta nightlife, so this is where a lot of my memories are of coming out and my first real exposure to house music and rave culture. I love the community here and being able to work with music and artists every day is really special. I moved to NYC in the ’90s for about seven years, but when my father’s health started to decline, I moved back to Atlanta to be closer to him.
Atlanta Pride is a pretty good marker for how the queer music scene has developed. How would you describe the scene right now?
Thriving! The Atlanta music scene is full of so much talent. You can almost find something going on any night of the week. Whether it’s dance music or live bands or drag shows. Atlanta has it all.
… and how has it changed from before?
I think accessibility through technology is the biggest change. We have easy access to music now, so it doesn’t require leaving the house, which in turn limits time spent with other DJs in record stores and general hangout time outside of the venues we play. I miss spending time with other heads digging for treasure or hanging out at each other’s houses because only one of us had 1200’s at the time and the feeling of being a part of that energy and that family. It feels more isolating and lonelier now. Everyone is out there staying busy doing their thing, but it doesn’t feel as grounded for me as it once did. I have to stay very intentional with my time and make sure I’m staying connected in real life and not only social media. That is why Deep South is so dear to me because I get to really connect with other music lovers and curators. Also, throwing queer parties and events have grown to become so much more important to me because that is where the connection to my community happens. Even behind the decks, the energy from the crowd energizes me, and being on the dancefloor is, of course, a whole interactive story on its own. Those are some deep family vibes!
The time around Pride is special to you because it coincides with your birthday – and this year is a milestone too. How do you plan to celebrate?
Yes, this is a big birthday for me. I’m planning on celebrating surrounded by friends and family with a small, low-key cocktail party to kick things off, and then continue with a full lineup of fun throughout the weekend! Although I wasn’t a big fan of our Pride moving to October, I can say now that I’m a believer. The weather is perfect this time of year, and we really do not have any other major competition with other cities, so in the end, I think it makes Atlanta a Pride destination again, and I love that.
Also, my mom is planning on attending, which is incredibly special for me as she survived a pretty major cancer scare recently, and she’s a warrior and my biggest fan. So to have her there with me is the best Birthday gift ever. My Aunt and Uncle are also traveling down from Ohio for the festivities. It’s looking like a very special weekend.
Your Deep South DJ collective always puts on some massive parties for Pride. Can you tell us a little about this year’s lineup of events?
Absolutely. This year I’m especially proud of our PRIDE Lineup. We will kick things off on Friday with Mariconera at Mary’s with Brian Rojas and DJ Esme Both DJs of the queer Latinx underground party La Choloteca. This is sure to be a fun night and there is no cover for this event. Saturday during the day, we are doing a free Pride Pool Party at the newly opened Moxy Hotel with DJs Sindri (LA), who I share a birthday with, Jeffrey Sfire (Detroit/Berlin), Mark O’Brien (SF), and MarceauxMarceaux (Memphis). Saturday night we are teaming up with Kudzu this year and doing a warehouse party at the Bakery with a stacked lineup: Shaun J. Wright (Chicago), Dee Diggs (Brooklyn), Mark Louque AKA Father Figure (NOLA), JSPORT (Atlanta), and Ash Lauryn (Detroit/Atlanta). All of the DJs involved this year run underground events in their home cities and are an integral part of keeping interesting music happening worldwide. Sunday we will be back at Henry’s on the deck for a full day of Parade viewing and music, and then Sunday night we are closing out the season with Sunday Service at Sister Louisa’s Church with myself, Brian Rojas, and Tom Deblase (Rochester).
Anything you are looking forward to in particular for Pride?
I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with my queer DJ family mentioned above that will be in town for pride weekend. It’s a pretty tight network that we have built over the years, and we only cross paths a few times a year at various locations around the globe. It’s time I truly cherish.