DJ Knife Fight brings the sounds to Boystown hotspot Scarlet Bar

Mon. March 18, 2019 2:06 PM by Ross Forman

DJ Knife Fight made his debut at Scarlet Bar in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood about five years ago – and admittedly he was super nervous on night one.

"The vibe of the venue at the time wasn't anything I was used to; I never really played a lot of Top 40," said Ephraim Cuellar, the real-life DJ Knife Fight. "I remember working on Top 40 edits, finding edits and figuring out what to play for a week before my two-hour mini tryout. There was actually no one (in the bar) to hear my set except for the bartenders and the person who booked me."

They must have been impressed – DJ Knife Fight is now a resident DJ at Scarlet.

On Saturday nights, the night to go out ... it's DJ Knife Fight brings the beats, while patrons enjoy such $5 drinks as Jameson, Fireball and imported beers.

"(My DJ) style changes depending on the venue and club," he said. "I love big bass and sounds that make your clothes shake, but I also enjoy playing a lot of trap and mixing it into top 40 for party jams."

His sound often mixes Moombahton, reggeaton, cumbia, salsa, house, techno, trap, and more. His drive is simple, to make people have fun.

Being a DJ at Scarlet, he said, is amazing.

"I don't really view Scarlet as a gay bar; I view it as a club for everyone (because) everyone is here to have fun, have a great time. It's a club where everyone is accepted. I've been accepted into the family and I love that no one is rude or promoting hate. Just show up, have fun and dance."

Ugh, what's with the name, Knife Fight?

He laughed. "I wish this had a cool story (behind it), but it really doesn't," he said. "I was trying to make fun of myself when I started DJing. Growing up Latino, you always hear jokes about how every Latino carries a knife. At the time I also was just playing a bunch of heavy bass music, so i thought, 'Oh, I'm gonna bring a knifefight to your speakers and tear them up.'"

DJ Knife Fight, 35, who lives in Chicago, has spun at Five Star Bar, Slippery Slope, Evil Olive and The Revel Room, among other venues.

He has been a DJ several times at PrideFest.

"I've never played a show and thought, 'This is my time,'" he said. "I just show up and play. I'm happy with all the opportunities I've been given. It's been great so far."

Now Spinning ... DJ Knife Fight

Ink This: "I only have one band's lyrics tattooed on me, a band called Refused."

First Concert: Several punk bands were playing at a VFW Hall. "The main act that day was this small band from Texas called Inkbag. I actually wound up working with the guitarist from that band years later and I remember being all shy around him cause to me he was a big deal."

Recent Concert: Sleep, a doom metal band, in Cleveland.

First Gig As A DJ: "It was (at) a small party that I threw with a friend. I was terrible; I couldn't even mix."

Improving As A DJ: "I would say, I now am confident to walk into any room and play songs that will make people have fun. When I first started playing more than an hour seemed crazy (long)."

Background: "I was a musician and I threw parties. I actually never thought I would be a DJ. But one day someone I booked cancelled (at the) last-minute and I had to fill in. I have always had a mentality that I (can) do something, so I learned how to (DJ)."

It's A Fact: "Five or six years ago, Dillon Francis was stuck in Chicago due to a bad snowstorm, and this was before he was huge. He put a Tweet up saying he needed to crash and was stuck, so some of my friends and myself reached out. We got him a place to stay and threw a friends-only party on New Year's Day. It was great."

It's Also A Fact: "I am covered in tattoos and look mean or intimidating ... or so everyone tells me."

DJ Idols/role-models: A-Trak, Maddjazz, Johnny Walker, "and all the DJs at Scarlet besides me."

Related: Miss Miranda celebrates 1-year entertaining at Scarlet, other Chicago venues