It’s low tide on a secluded beach in Baja, Mexico as the calming whoosh of waves mingles with the bass-rattling thump of house music. On the exposed rocks once hugged by the sea, Daniel Gutierrez, who goes by his DJ moniker Danni G, collects mussels which he seasons, cooks and shares with hungry revelers at the annual Genius Loci Festival. As the last eyelashes of sunlight wink behind the horizon, the beach empties and patrons hang up their wetsuits and change into their shiniest festival regalia, welcoming in the mischief of the night. Danni G transforms as well, switching from mussel collector and hors d’oeuvre distributor to crowd-conducting DJ.
Born and raised in Venezuela, Danni left the country at the age of 19. Though known for its coffee, cocoa and oil reserves, Venezuela is also known for being in a state of crisis due to civil unrest, poverty, a destabilized economy, and shockingly high crime rates. After his family managed to survive an economic depression and even a kidnapping, Danni was ready for a fresh start and a chance at happiness unsullied by violence. So he moved to Florida.
With a background in gymnastics, Danni quickly found work as a performer at Disney. After honing his skills under Disney’s master tutelage, he joined Cirque du Soleil as an acrobat, moved to New York, and was simultaneously attending DJ school, a passion which had been ever-present in his life but did not take center stage until he later moved to Los Angeles. After seven years with Cirque Du Soleil, he made the transition to Los Angeles and it was there that he became immersed in the underground festival scene which led him to co-founding the eccentric artist collective Creatington and meeting Genius Loci founder Henry Pope. A friendship quickly blossomed between the two and when he saw the one-of-a-kind event Pope had created with Genius Loci (a Roman term for the prevailing spirit of a place) in Baja, Mexico, he quickly became a festival fixture, performing this year for his fourth time.
“I really like what Henry is doing, it just feels like a big family gathering,” Danni says as he describes his love for the festival. “I can’t believe how everything unfolded for him and the relationship he has with the land and the people that own this land. It is pretty special and is one of my favorite festivals. It has a lot of dimensions to it—everybody gets to camp, everybody gets a beach front view, surrounded by lots of beautiful nature. You’re not going to find a festival on the beach in California like this. In Mexico, there is more freedom. We can surf, hear music 24-hours a day, fish, dance, yoga, party—so much! There’s just no other festival like it.”
The sounds collected and created in the mind of Danni G are not ones typically heard on the radio. Though he may throw in a familiar tune during DJ sets, he describes his downtempo, beat-driven sound as world bass hip hop. Melodic and sumptuous, his sonic palette is thick and easy to become lost in. Inspired by prolific artists such as Bob Marley, Manu Chao and Congo Natty as well as experimental electronic musicians such as Gaslamp Killer, Flying Lotus and El Papachango, Danni has nestled his way into the strange and wonderful world that is underground electronic music. His distinct sound has earned him spots on festival lineups such as California’s Lightning in a Bottle, Costa Rica’s Envision, Canada’s Shambhala and the stand-alone, predecessor of all transformational festivals, Burning Man.
“The moment I built my own art car [for Burning Man], a rollable spaceship DJ booth,” he says as he describes the moment music pivoted from a hobby to an occupation, “was when I realized in order to be noticed, I need to build my own platform—so I did. I started playing renegade sets at festivals and started attracting crowds that were into my style and my crazy looking spaceship DJ booth.
As performing at festivals became a bigger part of Danni’s life, so too was producing his own music and in order to do so, he needed a change. From Venezuela to Florida to New York to Los Angeles, Danni decided once again it was time to move.
“I needed clean air so I moved down to Orange County, to San Clemente,” he says. “In LA, every day there are opportunities to go do something and it’s pretty distracting. I lived in downtown which was pretty taxing as well. San Clemente is my retreat, my place to relax, work on music and surf. Here, I can get stuff done.”
Though Danni is by no means settling down, he has found a balance between traveling, festivals, work, social life and self-care. Between a recent stint in Spain where he performed as an acrobat in the opening ceremonies of a European League basketball game and his upcoming performance at the aforementioned Genius Loci Fest this June 20-24, he is able to satisfy both of his alter-egos: the circus performer and the DJ.
“I am doing 60% DJing and 40% the circus stuff now,” he shares. “I’ve been doing circus my whole life and as you grow older, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to keep getting better because your body starts hurting. With producing though, the older you get, the better you get because the mind has less limits than the body. It’s so different than doing any kind of physical endeavor because it’s something that you can keep improving whereas if you twist your ankles in the circus, you cannot work.”
This is just a small glimpse into the truly exceptional life of the inimitable Danni G, the generous mussel-collecting, dancefloor elevating, circus performer, producer and DJ. He even created his own alcoholic kombucha called Perfect Weather, adding entrepreneur to his litany of professions. But if you really want to know more about the fantastic Danni G, I suggest you go down to Mexico and find him on the dance floor at Genius Loci. I’m sure his story won’t be the only great one you’ll encounter.
Morena is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, producer and video host. Her work explores topics ranging from social injustice and humanitarianism to travel, music and festival culture. When she’s not traveling, chasing deadlines or working on her book, you may find her cooking, reading, hiking, climbing or camping deep in the wilderness.