It’s my birthday and I’ll spin if I want to

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Veteran Queens­­­town DJ Downtown Brown will celebrate his birthday on Saturday the way he knows best – spinning sounds for partying punters. 

Downtown – real name Simon Hendl – doesn’t mind a bit that he’ll be working behind the decks during his own 38th bash at Subculture. 

“As always, I’m sure I’ll find time for a few beers with my friends as well as playing some music,” he says. 

A founding member of popular local dance music crew Sunshine Sound System, Downtown is in demand for gigs all over New Zealand and Australia. 

But he never set out to be a DJ. 

He graduated with a degree in medicine from Otago University in 1998 but turned his back on a career as a doctor when his addiction to music kicked in. 

“I came to Queenstown on a DJ tour twenty years ago and like a lot of people who come here, I suppose I just forgot to leave,” he says. 

“By then, I’d become a bit disillusioned by medicine and the erosion of the health system. Leaving it all behind is something I’ve never regretted.” 

In the early days, Downtown played at local bars such as Red Rock, Tardis and Surreal. 

But seven years ago he opened Subculture, along with his partner Antonia Crowley and her sister Michelle. 

“We wanted to create a more purpose-built music venue in town because at the time we felt Queenstown needed it,” he explains. 

“Since then, we’ve had some choice moments and staged gigs by some pretty seminal New Zealand bands. 

“We had the likes of Kora, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Trinity Roots and Shapeshifter before they went on to play bigger venues plus we’ve hosted some pretty notable offshore DJs too. 

“We try and stick our necks out to provide some good entertainment that wouldn’t otherwise come to Queenstown. 

“That was our original reason for starting up and we try to stay true to that.” 

Downtown reckons he’s got the ideal job – playing music for a living, running a club and enjoying himself at the same time. 

“It can be hard work and you have to stay focussed,” he explains. “But my mantra is that you do need to make sure you have a reasonably good time yourself because that’s the key to helping your guests enjoy themselves.”