Featured photo: Taylor Lively, known as TAY LIVELY, has started a new EDM dance party in Winston-Salem. (courtesy photo)

Taylor Lively spends a lot of time listening to the first three seconds of songs.

“If it doesn’t hook me, I skip,” she says. “And if I do like the first three seconds, I skip to the drop.”

It’s part of what Lively calls her “crate digging” process. As a local DJ, she says she spends hours listening to music on Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Spotify.

“Any place that people put music, I’m going through it,” she says.

Lively is the creator of Groove Lab, a new dance party that she started in Winston-Salem about a month ago. This Friday, she’ll host and DJ her first EDM party at the new ALV Nightclub downtown. As a longtime raver, it’s Lively’s way of bringing more EDM, otherwise known as electronic dance music, to the Triad.

“I see there is a huge need for something like this in this area,” says Lively, who hails from Florida. “If you look at Raleigh and Charlotte, there is something every weekend for people interested in this kind of music, but in the Triad there is nothing. All of the EDM lovers here have to travel an hour and a half, get hotel rooms, etc. to enjoy the music that we like. So I’m creating a space for people to enjoy it close to home.”

Taylor Lively started DJing during the pandemic but her love of EDM started when she was just a kid. (courtesy photo)

Lively started DJing in 2021 at the peak of the pandemic. She had been in the EDM scene for years, going to festivals and raves for much of her teen and adult life. In fact, she attended her first festival, Ultra, in Miami when she was just 14 years old. Back then, she explains that there wasn’t an age restriction like there is now.

“My parents let me go because they knew how much I loved it,” she says. “I’ve been listening to EDM since I was about 10 years old.”

Most of EDM isn’t lyrically based, it’s more about beats, drops and the unique combination and mixing of sounds. And that’s exactly what Lively fell in love with.

“I feel like it speaks to my soul; it just makes me genuinely happy,” Lively says. “You disappear in the sound, and there’s nothing that can affect your mood because of how powerful the sound can be. It doesn’t matter if there’s no words, I love the rhythms and beats, and you get lost in it and everything else fades away.”

In college, Lively started interviewing DJs while studying broadcast journalism. When she moved to Greensboro a few years later, she tried to find a similar electronic dance scene here but found that it was pretty limited. Eventually she found the folks associated with Strictly Social, an EDM group that started before the pandemic. Through the band of already established DJs, Lively learned the ins and outs of DJing — cultivating the music, mixing sounds and setting up beats. In the midst of the pandemic, when there wasn’t much else to do, she practiced for three hours a day. Then she started livestreaming some of her sets on TikTok, which began to take off.

“I would have like 60,000 people watching me,” she says.

Not long afterwards, the organizers of Strictly Social let Lively play her first live set. It was the Fourth of July and the audience was mostly made up of friends and other DJs.

“It felt really comfortable,” Lively says.

DJ TAY LIVELY playing a set (courtesy photo)

After that, Strictly Social took Lively under their wing and started incorporating her into their shows. She played at big festivals like Breakaway in Charlotte and High Tide Music Festival in Charleston under her DJ name, TAY LIVELY.

Within the genre of EDM, Lively plays tech house and bass house and says she tries to keep her sets “really high energy.”

“People call me the ‘Energizer Bunny,’” she says. “I come with 100-percent energy.”

Part of that is because of Lively’s experience going to festivals for more than a decade.

“I’m a raver first and a DJ second,” she says. “I know what people react to because I was in the crowd for so long so if I don’t instantly start bobbing my head and start wanting to dance, I don’t play it.”

Making the transition from being a raver to a DJ has been satisfying and eye-opening for Lively, she says. As a woman, she’s still in the minority when it comes to DJs but says she hopes her presence inspires others to pursue their passions.

“A lot of women come up to me after I’ve played and say, ‘You’ve inspired me,’” she says. “Anyone can do this if they wanted to. Maybe people are scared to jump into a scene like this, but I encourage people to jump out of their comfort zone and people are more accepting than they might think.”

This Friday will be Groove Lab’s first debut as a dance party. In addition to Lively, three other DJs like Diskull out of Charlotte will be joining the event at ALV Nightclub and playing hour-long sets.

“It feels good to be able to create that space here and make it what I want it to be,” Lively says. “I want it to be a space where anyone from any background, race, can come and dance. Life can be so complicated and hard, but when you go to a party everything that is wrong in the world disappears. I’m hoping to create a space where we can all escape together.”

Learn more about Groove Lab and Taylor Lively on Instagram. Find tickets for Friday’s event here.

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