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DJ Sylo Breaks Out.

July 30, 2015

SyloOnline20Text by Tyler Horst. Images by Charles Shan Cerrone.

In an unlit corner of Alessandro’s Pizza & Grill on North Broad Street, Brady Ettinger sets up the kind of massive speakers you would expect to find at a club. It’s early on a Saturday night and the restaurant is empty. For now.

“We’re expecting to see three to four hundred people come through tonight,” he says, unwinding an XLR cable and attaching it to a speaker.

No, three to four hundred people aren’t coming just for a bite to eat. The pizza at Alessandro’s is good but patrons who don’t already know what’s up for tonight will find a lot more than just tasty pie. Ettinger, who is better known by his DJ name SYLO, is throwing a party. Along with his friends and compatriots in STUNTLOCO, the party crew he started at Silk City, SYLO is holding the 10th installment of the Pizza Party, which is exactly what it sounds like. Starting at 10 p.m., Alessandro’s will transform from an unassuming pizza parlor to a nightclub that also serves free pizza. Though the last few installments have been garnering plenty of buzz online, SYLO says he refrained from announcing the details on this one until just a week before the date. For him, it’s all about cultivating an underground feel.

If this all sounds like many a millennial’s dream it’s because SYLO, 23, has been deeply involved in the nightlife and party scene for years and he knows his audience. He’s put in so much work that he doesn’t have to do anything else for money. DJing is his one and only occupation.

For now, SYLO has to make sure everything is right. He checks his watch and runs a hand through his platinum hair. There’s still time to grab a few things from his place that he forgot.

SYLO exits the building and walks up Ridge Avenue at a fast clip.

“Our generation is harder to trick,” he says, darting quickly across the street to avoid traffic. “Everyone is more media-literate. They know when something isn’t real.”

Being a poseur is not something that has ever been on DJ SYLO’s agenda. Though he believes his STUNTLOCO brand is on the verge of breaking out into the big-time, SYLO’s biggest hope is that it always maintains a grassroots mentality. He talks more about his goals in a collective sense, desiring success not just for himself but for the people in the STUNTLOCO “movement.” That doesn’t mean SYLO hasn’t given some thought to how he’d like his own name to be perceived.

“I’m not trying to be the best DJ,” he says, “but what I am trying to be is undeniably unique.”

Like everything else in his career, the Pizza Party concept started as a house party. SYLO asked a friend if he could throw a party at his place, bought a whole bunch of pizza, texted a few friends and the rest is history. At this point in his career, SYLO may spend plenty of time spinning at more established venues like the 700 Club but his artistic ethos was formed out of the sweaty basements and tight spaces of house parties.

SYLO grew up in Maryland, where he got his first turntable at the age of 17. He DJed his first house party while in high school. His first exposure to the Philadelphia scene was through the world of college parties.

“I feel like I moved from Maryland to Temple,” SYLO says about his migration from his home state to the city of Philadelphia.

He came to Temple University to study media studies and production and learn more about the technical aspects of audio, but fashioned himself a more personal curriculum in the DJ profession by spending most of his free time hosting or planning parties off-campus.

It didn’t take long for his roots to grow well past the college scene. In the seven years he’s been a part of the city, SYLO has woven himself into the community so much that he has started to become a landmark in his own right.

It’s approaching 11 p.m. and SYLO, as excited to be here as anyone else, dances around the faux-Renaissance architecture in the dining room of Alessandro’s with a pizza box in hand. He slides happily into the midst of some young ladies in full party attire, flips open the lid and offers up a slice. The ladies smile and dig in, some of them leaning in for a friendly hug. After the brief encounter, SYLO floats off somewhere else.

“As a local DJ in the city you came up in, you’re kind of like a community leader,” he says.

A lot of the people here tonight either know him or know of him. It’s not the 400 they were expecting but there are a lot of people.

You’d think any sane restaurant owner would be terrified by the idea of letting some kids run wild in their establishment but Alessandro’s owner George Tzinas has been smiling the entire night.

“The important thing about this is that the group has such good energy,” he says. “There are never any problems.”

To hear Tzinas tell it, the story behind the Pizza Party’s move to Alessandro’s is that SYLO simply walked in one day and pitched the idea. SYLO says he had been out skating on Broad Street and stopped in for something to eat. He found the ample space in the dining area and side room with a bar. He came up with the idea on the spot. It was too much for him to pass up.

SYLO’s set starts at midnight. With things heating up, MC for the night Fidel pops in an old VHS tape of the Michael Jordan documentary “Come Fly With Me” to display on the old TV they plugged in and propped up on a table.

“We used to play young bol shit like ‘Land Before Time’ — classic ’90s stuff,” Fidel explains over the thumping of the speakers. “Now we’re trying to make it more adult.”

Fidel, born Matthew Ford, is SYLO’s self-proclaimed “partner in crime.” Their relationship is a creative one. SYLO and Fidel refuse to define it in any concrete terms—they just kind of go together as a package deal. They throw out names like “Jay-Z and Kanye,” “Simon and Garfunkel” and “Siegfried and Roy” to describe the nature of their relationship. They’re not only friends but also huge admirers of each other’s work.

“It brings every type of person together,” Fidel says about SYLO’s parties. “SYLO brings them all together. They don’t want any drama. They just want to coexist.”

As he thinks about what music he might play tonight, SYLO says his choices change depending on the space. His forte is hip-hop but he’s been expanding his palate with more house music. For tonight, he thinks he’ll “try more weird stuff” because the event is a little more exclusive.

He’s also been working on his own original music, some of which he plans to throw in to his list for the evening. Watching a human body move to his own composition is much more telling feedback to SYLO than a comment online. He’s excited to test out his new tracks but nervous at the same time.

“I know every twist and turn in the song,” says SYLO, “but seeing people react for the first time is amazing.”

As someone whose self-appointed job is to make sure other people have the night of their life, SYLO stresses the importance of focus while standing behind a turntable.

“You have to stay smooth as a DJ,” he says. “You can’t get too excited or you’ll get distracted. You have to take all the energy and hold it in your gut.”

As SYLO finally gets behind the table, his night is just beginning. He goes right from his set to an after-hour party somewhere else, where he says he’ll keep going for as long as the people want.

When things finally do die down, the sun is already beginning to peek up on the horizon. SYLO has time for a quick nap, then another gig at the Dr. Martens store at 1 p.m. He’s tired but only because his body says he’s supposed to be.

“Yo,” he says with a smile. “Tonight was crazy.”


One Comment
  1. July 30, 2015 8:20 pm

    Reblogged this on Humongulous.

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