Regina Garcia Dyhouse loves being in the club.
She likes how loud it is. She likes the lights. She likes the smoke machines.
"Of course," she says, "people can be a—s in there. But no one in there is uptight. No one's there to be in the corner and be sad. Even if you are sad, that's the place where you go to forget that you're sad and have a good time."
To those on the Philly club circuit, the ones who, like Dyhouse, live for the dancing and the drinks and the DJs, she's Gun$ Garcia. The 36-year-old is one of the city's most prominent nightlife personalities. She's the cocreator of the wildly popular Drake Night, a mentor and teacher to many, a Filipino American woman who, over the last decade, has made a name for herself in a field that's historically been dominated by men. Gun$, with her fuchsia hair, intimidatingly tall platform sneakers, and her tendency to say whatever's on her mind, even if it gets her in trouble, is hard to miss.
And now she's leaving, hosting her farewell party Sunday. Moving west, to Chicago, to be with her older brother and his family, to try something new. She's not yet sure what that's going to look like, but one thing's for certain.
"I don't wanna be a 60-year-old DJ," she says, "but I don't have a problem being a 60-year-old b— in the club."
Before she became Gun$, Dyhouse, who moved to Philly in 2001 from the suburbs of Maryland to go to the all-women Moore College of Art & Design, was already part of the nightlife scene, designing and printing merch for a local DJ squad.
Back then, in the mid-2000s, Dyhouse says there weren't any female DJs. And it seemed like all the men were playing music for other men. Dyhouse knew what girls wanted to dance to because she loved to dance. So she went for it, intentionally trying to be "as girlie as humanly possible."
The first time she ever DJed publicly, at a competition at the Barbary in Fishtown, she won.
"I had to win," she said with a laugh. (Dyhouse, it turns out, is not the kind of person who's does things she's bad at.)
Not long after, before she could ask the owner of the Barbary if she could host a monthly party there, he offered it to her.
More than 10 years later, Dyhouse hosted her last weekly show, dubbed Man Crush Monday since it features a rotating cast of guy DJs, upstairs at the Barbary. Sporting nonprescription aviators that she calls "personality glasses," she sipped on Red Bull and club soda in between shots of tequila ("Tequila is an upper. I like uppers.") and spun a mix of hip-hop with throwback gems sprinkled in, like a bass-heavy remix of Ja Rule and J. Lo's "I'm Real."
It was a Monday night, in August, in Philly. It was quieter than it normally is, though party people filtered in past midnight, enthusiastic, ready to dance, as Monday-night party people usually are. But even when the dance floor was empty, Gun$ was up there, in the narrow DJ booth, dancing, high-energy, seemingly having the time of her life.
It's not always easy to be a girl DJ.
So says DJ Wassup Gina, who also books the shows at the Barbary: Some people won't take you seriously. They'll think you got a gig because of your looks, not because of your talent.
Which is funny when you think about it because, as Wassup Gina puts it: "Regina can school most of these men out there."
And booking DJs who are not of the mainstream is important, said Wassup Gina, because it signals who's welcome.
"If you have a club with a white, male DJ playing every night, why would someone who's queer or a person of color wanna go there?" Wassup Gina said.
It's always been Dyhouse's style to offer up her platform to help showcase other women and their talents. She used to throw parties catering to women: She'd hire someone to do nails, get a girl to host the party, play only female artists. It was Dyhouse who inspired her Yellow Girl Mob DJ partner Marissa "Yolo Ono" Le to get into the game — DJing was something Le said she never thought she could do but Dyhouse encouraged her and believed in her.
Le said that kind of generosity, the way Dyhouse supports others without expecting anything in return, is rare.
Dyhouse, who's also worked in the restaurant industry most of her adult life, has since pivoted from the all-women-everything brand. It started to feel exclusionary. But also, it led her to be pigeonholed as The Girl DJ, only getting booked for women-focused nights. And that's not her jam: She wants to get booked because she's the best person for the gig.
But OK, there are perks to being a girl DJ.
"What's the point of me being a single girl DJ if I'm not gonna try to hook up with my fans?" she asks.
Though, after a history of dating DJs and other nightlife creatures (she denies having groupies but cracks up when asked the question), Dyhouse has switched gears. "It's so boring," she said, "it's the same type of people all the time doing the same type of things."
And that's why, during an interview at the La Colombe shop in Fishtown, not far from her neighborhood of Kensington, she looks around before leaning in and mock-whispering, "I've been dating a normie."
You know, someone who's not in the scene. Someone whom an ostensibly hip, "alternative" person might describe as "basic." (Fishtown, she says, is "crawling with both species.")
"I highly recommend it," she says.
The nightlife scene can be all about image, about racking up followers on Instagram, about flexing at the club — dating a normie has made her see things differently.
And anyway, she says she's learned, normies can be fun, too. This is of the utmost importance to Dyhouse.
"I just want to have the most fun possible till the day I die," she says.
But at the same time, despite what some see as a tough, intimidating exterior, those who know her say she's sweet, down-to-earth, and has a deep love for her family — she's moving to Chicago, she says, in part because her brother encouraged her to come and "be around people who love her no matter what."