BY ANGIE VALENTE
IT WOULDN’T be a blue Christmas in Thunder Bay, Ontario without the annual DJ Sydney Blu hometown holiday show. Black Pirates Pub will be vibing to her deep house beats tonight along with Aticka and Pat Jones, bringing enough heat to melt the city’s current deep freeze.
Sydney Blu, (a.k.a Joanne Hill) is not only a well-respected and established house music DJ, she’s quite proudly a Canadian producer and record label owner. While she’s frequented many stages around the world, her infectious, high energy, electric aura remains the same.
The tall, signature red-head is globally known for spinning her house and techno beats. And for busting a move behind the decks. After all, she likes to disco.
Fresh from a gig in Brooklyn, New York earlier this week, Hill has battled delayed flights, lack of sleep, illness and stress, yet you’ll never hear her complain. With four gigs this week alone (including a jaunt to Calgary, Alta., before returning to Thunder Bay), the relentless tour schedule is even more proof that she’s living her best life. Says Hill over the phone, “I’m happy to have the opportunity to play.” Hill has had nine DJ gigs this month, with some well-deserved time off to follow in January.
You can bet that on her return flight to Toronto where she resides, that she’ll be carrying on this year’s favourite Christmas present, a painting gifted from her mother. Says Hill with much compassion, “I can’t wait to hang this amazing art in my loft.” The painting is an original piece by acclaimed Ahnisnabae Ojibwa artist Roy Thomas and is from the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery in downtown Port Arthur, owned and operated by his wife, a dedication to the memory of her late husband.
Though globally a force to be reckoned with, Hill remains connected to her Northern roots. This show is part of her Mind Games Tour, and will celebrate the release of Hill’s new record Nanabijou, released on Joeski’s Maya Recordings. Maya is a pioneering House and Tech-House label established in 2000 and based out of New York City, holding a reputation for ground-breaking dance music.
“I was asked to do a record for Maya Recordings. I knew I wanted to make the song cultural and sound appropriate for his record label so when I wrote it I incorporated some cool elements into the song that reminded me of the Sleeping Giant and Thunder Bay. I wanted to pay tribute to my hometown and the beautiful land formation on our water. It’s not only a tribute to the city, but to the landmark that I grew up looking at,” explains the Hammarskjold High school graduate.
Recently Hill received a lot of international traction with her previous record Mind Games, hitting the top 20 on the Beatport Tech House chart on Hot Since 82’s Knee Deep in Sound.ÊThe song was also the top selling track on the labels Amsterdam Dance Event sampler.
Today marks Hill’s return to the intimate downtown Black Pirates Pub stage. “It’s a cool spot in the city. My last show there was in July and the energy from the crowd was great. They really appreciated proper techno and authentic house music. It’s a good club to play in. I feel at home when I play there.”
Given the bitter temperatures, Hill is doing her part to give back to the community. Fans are politely asked to bring any clean and gently used clothing or outer wear (even dog clothes are encouraged) to the show for a clothing drive to be donated to the Shelter House. “I thought it would be nice, it’s so crazy cold this time of year. I wanted to do something to help make someone’s winter a little warmer.” A video encouraging the donations at her show can be found on her Facebook page.
2018 is looking bright and shiny for Hill. Her travel plans include Europe where she will be focussing her energy over the summer, and will be releasing a massive amount of new records out on various labels.
Sydney Blu spins at Black Pirates Pub tonight. Cover is $10 with doors opening at 10 p.m.
Angie Valente is a freelance journalist based in Thunder Bay.