Lisa Pittman, the DJ/promoter behind Shedonism, talks style, fame, and why Vegas is the new it-place for lesbians
Lisa Pittman has perfected the art of being in the right place at the right time. As a teenager, the Las Vegas-based DJ and event promoter behind Shedonism Vegas dove into L.A.’s music industry as a professional drummer, playing in a succession of bands without quite reaching the brass ring. After a few years, she returned to Sin City and worked as a bartender, putting her in the center of a nascent electronic music scene.
“I started DJing because I was really into electronic music, and I was always in the nightclubs,” Pittman says. “I was friendly with the DJs, and I would pick out music and say, ‘hey, have you heard this track yet? Or, ‘Are you gonna play this?’” The DJs themselves said, ‘you know, you should probably be a DJ.’”
She practiced her skills the old-school way, on turntables; picked vinyl and made mixtapes to get her name circulating. Pittman found the Vegas scene ripe for a nightlife revolution: the glitzy clubs and resorts are owned by a cadre of entertainment groups, and DJs might work at some or all of the clubs in a group’s portfolio, giving entertainers prime exposure and making rock stars out of turntablists. Pittman continued to hone her style on one of the biggest stages in the city, the MGM Group’s Studio 54. “I did get lucky in the sense that I was working at 54 as a bartender, and I got into the number-one club in Las Vegas as a DJ—it was a surreal experience,” she says.
But she still had a lot to learn about the business. The entertainment director, DJ Frankie, took Pittman under his wing and offered his advice—one nugget of which was to start learning to play hip hop, which was dominating the club scene at the time. “I was not trying to play hip hop, and DJ Frankie looked me straight in the face and said, ‘if you don’t play hip hop, you’re never going to work.’ I became known as a hip hop DJ, which was never really the plan!” she laughs. Surprisingly, her background as a drummer and musician came in handy. “Playing hip hop is like playing an instrument—it’s more about turntablism and playing a hook followed by another hook, playing things more quickly, doing the tricks,” she adds.
Her appetite for electronic music grew along with her connoisseurship of all genres of party tracks, broadening her musical vocabulary and landing her a residency with Tao Group, where she currently spins alongside celebrity guest DJs at Marquee, Lavo and Tao. She’s also been voted Vegas’ Best LGBT DJ and Best Local DJ by city publications.
At the same time, Pittman has singlehandedly spearheaded the cutting-edge lesbian nightlife scene in Vegas, hosting the monthly BootyBar party at Share Nightclub, Munch: the Lesbian Brunch planned for this fall, and Shedonism, the official women’s events of Las Vegas Pride, which celebrates its second year this September. For Pittman, Shedonism represents the culmination of several years’ worth of planning and partnership with Alison Burgos of Miami-based Pandora Events, and it “went from a local event that was going to grow on its own to a national event that will grow ten times faster,” Pittman predicts. Thousands of women attended the inaugural bash last year, which coincided with Las Vegas Pride celebrations. This year, Pittman expects the event to be bigger and even better.
“We’re gonna give people what they come to Las Vegas for, which is the Las Vegas experience. We’re putting guests in major nightclubs where they experience Vegas in private spaces, private pool parties, private hotels just for them; shuttles exclusively for guests so no one has to drive or find parking,” she promises. “We’re adding two more elements this year, a burlesque show/gambling package, and an adventure package where people can go see the mountains and Red Rock and the area outside the city.”
“Las Vegas, in my opinion, is hot right now,” she adds. “The Strip is more consolidated with hotels and clubs, there are celebrities here again, it’s cheap to fly here, it’s cheap to stay here; you can walk, take a cab or party shuttle everywhere. It’s all about Las Vegas right now—and it trickles down to the gay market. Everyone wants to be here.”