There are DJ gigs and there are DJ gigs. Before lockdowns and travel bans went into effect in March due to the pandemic, Berlin-based DJ/producer Alinka made a pilgrimage to Kyiv. Born in Ukraine and raised in America, she hadn’t been back since the late ’80s.
In the latest installment of our Last DJ Set series, Alinka recounts the emotional experience of returning to her birthplace and playing a memorable Sunday morning set for an energetic crowd. Read on to find out about “one of those gigs you never forget.”
When and where was your last DJ gig before lockdown?
Alinka: My last gig was in Kyiv, Ukraine at ∄ for Pornceptual x ∄
How did it go?
It was a very emotional gig for me. I was born and spent my early childhood in Kyiv and hadn’t been back since the late ’80s when ∄ brought me out to play for the first time in December. The first time I set foot in the club I fell in love immediately. I think it’s been by far one of the best experiences of my life. This was my second time playing there and my first Pornceptual party so it was pretty epic all around. It was really nice to be there with them. They’re a great crew. I left there feeling super elated and just grateful that life had come full circle and music brought me back to there.
What was your mindset going into it? Where had you played previously?
I came to Kyiv a day earlier from Berlin so I had some time to explore the city, and spent a lot of time walking around and taking it all in. I was playing the closing set that Sunday morning so I was just really excited to play. I knew it would be really special.
Did any tracks, in particular, go over especially well during that gig?
The crowd is really great there. They are really open and let you be free so you can play all over the place as I tend to do in my sets. I started with [The] Chemical Brothers “Hey Boy Hey Girl” and then it all kicked off from there. Testing my new [Do What You Want] EP on my label Fantasy Life and seeing people go crazy was also really special.
What is your best memory from that gig?
There were a few points in the night I had tears in my eyes during my set. One of the kids dancing in the front row came around to give me a hug in the booth. Seeing my friends from the club dancing on the side, I could hardly stop the tears at that point. It was just a really special night. People stayed until the end. I really gave it all my energy. It was one of those gigs you never forget.
Everyone can’t wait for clubs and festivals to begin again. What do you miss most about DJing? How are you keeping your skills sharp?
I miss the connection with people and spaces. I miss reading the room and knowing what I want to play and watching people react to it. I miss seeing new places and meeting new people. I’ve been playing a lot more at home and making mixes and hunting for music. I get emotional even playing at home these days. I always have flashbacks. I think it’s made me even more connected to music somehow.
A lot of DJs have been doing live streams and working on tracks. What have you been working on during the lockdown? How can fans support you right now?
I have been working on new music during lockdown. It’s what’s keeping me sane during this crazy time, as it’s very therapeutic for me. I launched a new label called Fantasy Life at the end of May, and Shaun J. Wright and I have also been busy with our label, Twirl, and have some exciting releases coming out this year. I also have a release on Crosstown Rebels called “Control Transmission.” I’m really excited about it coming out in July and some other cool stuff I can’t talk about yet. So lots of new music to share!
Any last words on your last DJ gig?
I am just very happy that this was my last gig because I left there feeling so grateful for everything that life and music have given me. I think we often as artists spend so much time worrying and comparing ourselves and aren’t able to just be fully present in the moment to fully enjoy it, but that day it felt like everything was in its right place for me. I think this feeling carried over a lot during [the] lockdown, and I’ve learned a lot about myself throughout this experience.