Derrick Vaughn, who deejays and goes by VAVN, got his start spinning EDM and rap for the overly excited University of Denver students who frequent Quixote's True Blue, after a chance encounter with the manager. (Full disclosure: I deejay there, too.)
“I was at Crimson and Gold across the street with a friend, and we decided to go outside to the patio area,” he recalls. “I saw the manager of Quixote’s there and knew that guy had a cigarette I could borrow. He asked if I knew how to deejay, and I had just bought my board two weeks before. So I said yes, and have kept playing there since.”
The board VAVN bought comes with its own special story. Fans of French DJ Madeon, who attended his November 9 concert at the Fillmore, may remember him spinning his own tracks on CDJs, but what few know is that he was using VAVN's gear. (It’s safe to say VAVN won’t be cleaning Madeon’s fingerprints from his board any time soon).
“His tour manager asked a friend of mine if he had any extra equipment in exchange for a free ticket,” VAVN says. “Having an artist like Madeon using my own CDJs means such an incredible thing to me.”
VAVN decided to become a DJ himself in 2018. That year, he saw What So Not in concert. “I was watching him play that night, and it made me realize I wanted to do what he does,” VAVN remembers. “I didn’t want to choose a career in life I wouldn’t be happy with. I wanted to do something that would make me happy, and that night I discovered what my calling would be.”
Since he was a kid, VAVN has had ties to Denver's music scene. He remembers watching Earth, Wind & Fire’s tour bus come pick up his dad to babysit the members' children, forming a family tie still held today. Even before VAVN was born, his maternal grandfather was the owner of Lincoln Liquors in Five Points, a bar that musicians frequented; there he befriended Prince and Morris Day and the Time. VAVN’s grandparents were actually the ones who loaned him money to buy his CDJs, and in return he’s promised to pay them back with the money he makes from music.
“I was quite literally born into the Denver music scene,” says VAVN. “I have put my heart and soul into music to embody what Denver represents in the music scene since day one. I have been inspired by those who came before me and want to pave a new path.”
VAVN’s music could be the soundtrack to a coming-of-age film; it's hopeful, the stuff of road trips, sunsets and youthful ambitions achieved.
“My music can be described as something ‘vibey,’” says VAVN. “My songs are something you can play while driving, hiking or studying. I wanted to make music that could be for any type of activity you’re doing.”
“I can think of times in my life that are based on one of his songs,” VAVN recalls. “His song ‘Heartbeat’ is a great example. It reminds me of going to the X Games with one of my friends. We listened to that song 58 times on the drive there, then maybe 68 times in our cabin, and then 78 times on our drive home. Kaivon and his music just mean a lot to me.”
VAVN says he's looking forward to sharing his own set with Kaivon's fans.
“Music is known to lift you up when you’re feeling down,” he says. “It truly is my life. Every waking moment is a song, whether there’s a song playing on a speaker or in my mind. During hard times, I can go straight to my computer and start producing. Even when I’m sad, at least music is always there.”
VAVN opens for Kaivon's sold-out show on Saturday, November 16, at Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer Street.
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