Justin Blau, who's better known by his stage name, 3LAU, slumps on a black sofa in front of empty lockers. The visiting-team locker room at Mile High Stadium isn't familiar territory for the DJ; the only thing moderately athletic about him are his black Yeezy sneakers.
"Do you know Gronk?" Blau asks when I mention that we're sitting in an area that is typically off-access to the public. He means Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. "Gronk's a good buddy of mine," Blau continues, smiling and sitting up. "I was at the Super Bowl with him, so I actually have been in an NFL locker room before." He laughs, recalling the game he attended earlier this year. Blau recognizes the privilege of being friends with someone who is often depicted as the league's biggest party animal. "Yeah, I even got to go to the official Pats after-party. It was a time," he says, giggling as he talks.
Blau is down to earth for someone who celebrated one of the most astonishing comebacks in football history with a famed pro athlete. In 2011, when Gronkowski led the league in receiving touchdowns, Blau was a college kid at Washington University, in Saint Louis, making mash-ups and amassing a following by uploading his unique creations to YouTube. He grew his audience through hard work, playing small theaters and even a college parking lot in 2011, before his career beckoned him to play mega-clubs and beaches in Europe and Asia.
Blau's work ethic nearly prevented him from becoming a successful DJ and producer, as he had committed himself to a buttoned-up life.
"I had my dream job in finance," he says. "Then I switched. I was like, I can't do this; I can't live in an office for my life." Blau focused on developing his recording talents, aggressively creating new material in the studio.
"It all paid off," he says. "I'm just glad to be here today."
It took his parents time to support his career change. "After they saw the fans and shit, they really, really loved what I was doing." he says. Did they come to his live shows? "All the time," he says immediately. "I feel really lucky."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
As soon as we're finished chatting, Blau's off to play; he grabs his laptop bag and smiles as he walks to the main stage of Global Dance Festival.
The parking lot where he's about to perform fills with young people; the sun sets over them. Blau's set includes electronic and rap hits from artists including Travis Scott, which are contrasted by thumping vintage techno classics like Darude's "Sandstorm." His fans go wild, and Blau thanks them repeatedly.
Eventually, he hops down from his massive LED-paneled booth and says: "Denver, I want to take a family photo!"