It was when freshman Keenan Rodriguez lived across the street from Bayfront Park that he first heard about Ultra Music Festival. Intrigued by the DJs playing at the event, he decided to teach himself the mechanics of the job. After five years of practice, Rodriguez took the stage last Friday at the festival that originally sparked his interest.
“I was really curious to know what exactly the DJs were doing behind the booth that made them so special and what all the buttons on the player did. So I started watching a lot of videos on YouTube and taught myself the mechanics of what exactly goes on behind the DJ booth,” Rodriguez said. “I was then later able to buy equipment and work my way up the ladder.”
Rodriguez, who majors in computer science, goes by “DJ K9” for his name, Keenan, which people often mispronounce by making the ending sound like the number nine.
“When I was little, growing up in a Hispanic community, people had trouble pronouncing my name. They would make the end of my name sound like a ‘nine’ instead of a ‘nan,'” Rodriguez said. “So then one day, I used the K from Keenan and put the ‘9’ for my ending.”
After playing at events for the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC) on campus as well as venues in Wynwood and charity events like the Color Run, Rodriguez put together his mixes in an electronic press kit that he sent to Ultra. He was then invited to perform at the Oasis stage, one of the festival’s locations which featured local DJs showcasing their talents.
“I was extremely nervous before playing at Ultra because I always have that fear of having something go wrong. It is the most awkward feeling in the world when the music stops and there is just silence,” Rodriguez said. “However thankfully nothing went wrong and I had a blast. Once you start playing, you get in the zone and have a good time.”
The experience, Rodriguez says, was “unbelievable” and gave him a taste of what it would be like to be a major DJ in the world.
“It was truly incredible. I am always fascinated behind all the sound and lighting that go on during Ultra, and for me to have the opportunity to behind the DJ booth was just breathtaking,” Rodriguez said. “I had a great time seeing people react and dance when I would play a certain song that they liked and seeing how the power of music can bring people together.”