DJ Deanne brings 'Sweet Spot' vibe to Hydrate this Sunday

Wed. June 14, 2023 10:12 PM by Ross Forman

dj deanne

photo credit // provided

Deanne’s Sweet Spot: ‘queer-centric, fun-forward vibe’

Hydrate Nightclub will open those big street windows and let the sunlight in during Chicago Pride Fest weekend and DJ Deanne on Sunday afternoon, June 18, will turn the popular Lakeview dance club into her personal playground: she spins and hundreds dance.

The theme is a bit whimsical and colorful and nothing but good vibes. It’s the Sweet Spot to be – with a Hydrate resident DJ of about 10 years leading the party.

“When I started my party brand (Sweet Spot Nightlife) in 2018, Hydrate was one of the first venues to welcome my concept and this is our third year doing this party at Hydrate during Pride Fest,” Deanne said. “I love the diverse mix of people who come through, all there to dance, drink and have fun. At Sweet Spot, all are welcome for this queer-centric, fun-forward vibe … my party is a perfect fit for Pride Fest.”

Deanne, with roots in Indiana and Kentucky, now lives in Tampa. She has long liked the idea of living in Chicago, except during the frigid winter months. Still, she is a friendly, familiar face in the area commonly called Boystown, especially at Hydrate. She has several other residencies across the U.S., including Masterbeat, Future and Xion in Atlanta, the Eagle in New York City and Wilton Manors (Florida).

Deanne has been spinning since 2001.

“I came out when I was 24 and moved to Tampa for the first time. I started going to clubs which was something I hadn’t done as a straight person,” she said. “This was in the late 1990s, so I was hearing all those yummy house tunes, along with the big room mixes from Thunderpuss, Hex Hector, Junior Vasquez and so on. I was hooked. 

“I started acquiring all the music that I was hearing. I couldn’t get it fast enough. At the clubs, I would try to ID the next song in the mix faster than anyone else. It was kind of an obsession for a while.”

She moved back to Indiana in 1999 to go to school and started bartending at a small gay club in Bloomington called Bullwinkle’s. The DJs at the bar let me practice on the turntables before we opened. I was fascinated and determined to learn how to mix.”

She eventually was gifted a used Technic 1200 turntable by her first mentor, Wayne Shepherd. “I bought the rest of the equipment to make a set and began practicing at home,” she said. “I would play after-hours parties with my friends, learning without the pressure but with an audience. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was playing at Bullwinkle’s.”

The Bullwinkle’s DJ who played the drag shows one Monday night needed to give up that slot and the club owner was convinced by the resident DJs to give it to Deanne. “No one else really wanted the gig,” she said, laughing. “One hour before the (drag) shows started. About 30 minutes between each show. And about 2 hours after the shows were over. Virtually no one was there except for my 10 friends on that first night.”

The first track she played was the Francois K and Eric Kupper mix of “Forever More” by Moloko. “I loved everything about it and the rest is herstory,” she said.

“The city of Chicago and Northalsted do an amazing job of creating a weekend filled with amazing and diverse talent on all the stages at Pride Fest. It’s an opportunity for all the LGBT-owned and operated businesses on Halsted Street, like Hydrate, to be involved and welcome the community. That’s where Sweet Spot comes in.

“Sweet Spot is primarily a daytime queer party. We try to feature a different guest DJ with each show and this event features the very talented, Spencer Huff from Los Angeles. He is blowing up the queer scene with his magnetic personality, positive energy, and tasteful, fun music. He’s a total good time. I’m going to try and keep up.”

Local drag/entertainment aficionado, Lilith Towers will be hosting. “I can’t wait to see what amazing costumes they bring to the function. They always go beyond,” Deanne said. “And no party is complete without sexy dancers. Hydrate has plenty of those hotcakes for some eye candy.

“I am known for my big room, driving house sound. And Chicago/Hydrate is amazing at letting me do me. But Sweet Spot was created so that I and our guests could offer a different sound that has a broader appeal to people of all ages, races, gender, sexual identities and styles of self-expression.

“So, on Sunday the music will be more disco house, classic house and modern twists on classic records and a slight bit of cunty for good measure. It’s fun for me to dive into these feel-good tunes that are perfect for generating good vibes.”

Deanne added: “Growing up in the late-70s and ‘80s as a child of young parents, I always had a diverse array of music that I was exposed to. I love bringing elements of those eras into the mix in creative ways. I also keep it fresh with new tracks from artists like Purple Disco Machine, Horse Meat Disco, Honey Dijon, Kiddy Smile, and such. But, at its core, Sweet Spot is meant to offer sounds from that golden era of house and disco house music in the 90s and early 2000s. The goal is to bring smiles and get hands in the air.”

(To preview the Sweet Spot sound, check out their podcast on Soundcloud:

Deanne created Sweet Spot in late-2018 and held its launch party in February 2019 “as an antidote to the negativity, divisiveness, and chaos of the world,” she said. “The philosophy is simply to get back to basics when a party was about bringing people together to find community, acceptance, happiness, and joy through the common denominator of music. There was no better example of that than in the days of disco and early house music. A carefully curated selection of performers, design elements, venue aesthetics, atmosphere and, of course, music combined to create a vibe reminiscent of that time. 

“To develop this concept, I enlisted the help of a small group of seasoned artists/DJs, event producers and nightclub professionals to form Sweet Spot Nightlife. It has been a labor of love and the perfect therapy to get me through the post 2016 and COVID madness.”

Sweet Spot has been featured as an event within Winter Music Conference, Joining Hearts Weekend Atlanta and Miami Beach Pride with other successful stand-alone events in Miami and Indianapolis, and more.

The Sweet Spot Miami Beach Pride Pool Party in April featured Deanne and Abel at the iconic Clevelander Hotel.

Sweet Spot is this Sunday, June 18, from 3-10 p.m. at Hydrate Nightclub. For tickets, go to:

Now Spinning … DJ Deanne

Pride Month: “As an out and visible part of the LGBTQIA+ community, Pride month is very special to me. I have been very fortunate throughout my life that I haven’t had to experience too many hardships because of my sexual identity. Sure, not everyone in my family was thrilled with my lifestyle. But most have been supportive, and I have been surrounded by love via family and friends – and not everyone can say that. For many, Pride events provide safe spaces where people can connect with others who are like them, who can understand what they are going through and can give them that sense of community and family that they may not have ever experienced before. It can be life changing. Pride also offers a chance to celebrate how far we have come, educate about the history of how we got here and unite us as we continue to struggle and fight for visibility, representation and basic human rights. The fight is not over and may never be. Pride events all over the world signify that we are many and we are one. It’s powerful.” 

Favorite DJs: “(My) all-time favorites are Mark Knight, Roger Sanchez, Oscar G, Mousse T, Frankie Knuckles and the hot new star, John Summit.”

Giving Thanks: “I have been so fortunate to have some quality people in my corner, guiding me over the years. This business can be cutthroat, but if you have a couple good eggs looking out for you, then you’ve been blessed. I have been blessed beyond what I probably deserve.”

Three DJs To Watch: “These are LGBT DJs on my radar: Spencer Huff, Alfonso Tan (from) Seattle and Janky from Chicago.”

What Makes A Good DJ: “I was once told that it’s all in the programming. To this day, that is my North Star. Tell the story. It’s how we tell the story that makes us unique as artists. Our tools are our technical abilities, our track selections, our creativity, and our connections to the music and the crowd. Anyone can push play, throw cakes into an audience, take cool pics or make engaging social media content. Stuff like that is part of the game now and you have to play the game to some degree. But, to me, the best DJs are constantly pushing themselves and the boundaries, bringing something new and different to the table, forming a bond with their audience that helps write the stories they are trying to tell.”

Favorite DJ Story: “I was playing the closing party for White Party Miami at Twist one year. It’s not a big party and is really for the people who stick around after the big weekend for one last twirl. I was having a great night, turning it the F out! A colleague of mine brought Danny Tenaglia into the club and introduced him to me. Naturally, I was star struck. He was kind and I thought “let me play one of his tracks while he’s here. That seems like something cool.” So, I did. I hoped he had heard it. The night went on and it was great. The bar closes at 5 a.m. and everyone then gathers outside the front door to figure out if they are taking someone home, how they are getting home, etc. I walk out, sweaty and spent, in my own world. Next thing I know, Tenaglia comes up to me, wraps his arms around me, gives me the biggest hug and says some of the most genuine, encouraging, special words to me in my ear. We had this private one-on-one encounter that I will never forget. When I get a little in my head or full of doubt, I often think back to that moment and remember what the legend said to me and snap the hell out of it.”

Drinking In The DJ Booth: “I don’t mind a nice bottle of bubbles, but Grey Goose and soda gets the job done, too.”

Favorite Chicago Restaurant: Joy’s Noodles and Ann Sather’s

Favorite TV Show: “All the ones that have just ended: Succession, Marvelous Ms. Maisel, Ted Lasso and Money Heist. I have many others that I like, too. I am very open-minded and willing to watch almost anything. The new favorite is out there.”

Favorite Movies: True Lies, The Color Purple, Thelma and Louise

Chicago Tourist Destination Not To Miss: Wrigley Field

Favorite Musician: Prince

Dream Vacation Spot: Italy

Little-known Fact: “I could say (the) alphabet backwards before I could say it forwards. I can still do it.”

If Not a DJ: “Am I rich in this scenario? Just kidding. I love to cook. Maybe I’d go to culinary school and become a chef.”