PICTURED: Smiles abound when Bruce Barrios directs a wedding. Submitted photo
by Alex Wilson
Bruce Barrios has been winning accolades for his work as a wedding DJ for decades. There’s probably nobody in Ventura County with a more useful perspective to advise couples planning weddings; he knows all the most effective ways to let music contribute to a memorable event.
From roller skates to wedding bells
Barrios started his DJ career at Ventura’s Skating Plus when he was only 17 years old. The job didn’t come naturally at first, but Barrios learned quickly, he said.
“I was scared, frightened. It wasn’t my thing. I didn’t know how to talk to crowds. I skated and enjoyed music, but not enough to pick the music,” Barrios recalled. “And so I became a DJ. I loved it. It went very well.”
His bosses at Skating Plus even encouraged Barrios to enter a nationwide competition for roller rink DJs and he came in second.
Barrios later went on to work at an Oxnard nightclub, Bobby McGee’s, and the company sent him to Phoenix for three months of formal DJ training. He learned about all kinds of music, like ’50’s, big band and country, all genres that previously he had never included in his sets, which always centered on current dance music.
Bruce Barrios is ready to direct any event. Pictured at Oxnard’s Riverpark. Submitted photo
“They really gave me a music education. They taught me how to put music together. They taught me how to rotate a dance floor, never losing more than 10% of your floor,” he said. “Using a lot of transition songs from rock to dance to oldies. It was a formula they had that was so successful.”
After about 10 years at Bobby McGee’s, Barrios decided to shift his focus to weddings and never looked back.
Setting the vibe
Barrios said he always keeps in mind that the couple getting married have to stay the stars of the show.
“I’m not the cheesy game show host DJ. My style is more of the director. I keep them on their timeline. I work with the caterers and coordinators and we just create the event they always dreamed of, but not stealing the show.”
Barrios noted that there are many reasons he loves his job helping couples on their big day. “It’s a celebration. Everybody there is in a positive bubble at these weddings. It’s fun. I love music. I love people. I love food. It’s a perfect gig and I get paid to be there. I get paid to go to parties.”
Music is the key to celebration’s success. Submitted photo
The DJ should not steal the show, but Barrios insists that choosing a good DJ is a critical component of a successful and fun wedding.
“Music can make or break a wedding. If the music is bad or boring, and it puts everyone to sleep, they are going to leave early,” he explained. “If it’s upbeat and has energy, people are going to like it and stay. They’re going to feel the vibe.”
Barrios added that it’s important for couples to give plenty of thought to the songs they want to hear.
“What I try to do is create a vibe that represents the bride and groom’s personalities,” he said. “We sit down and we seriously select every song, from the very first song to the last dance.”
DJs on demand
Barrios recommended that couples book a DJ as far in advance as possible, especially in light of the pandemic. Many couples rescheduled their weddings because of COVID, or postponed celebrations until people could gather safely in groups again. Hence, the increase in the number of weddings has created unprecedented demand for DJs.
While Barrios is happy to see his industry rebound, it’s causing challenges for couples looking for wedding vendors. “It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest with you, trying to answer all the phone calls and emails and inquiries for these weddings going on for the next year and a half. Everybody in my industry is getting maxed out right now.”
Bruce Barrios Productions, 2481 Grand Ave., #5342, Ventura, 805-658-7565, www.brucebarrios.com.