Chance Lenay and Jennifer Steele make a home for EDM in Big Sky
By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – As chair lifts slow to a stop around 4 p.m. and skis and boards retire to metal racks for the evening, the party moves from the slopes to the Vista Hall plaza every weekend at Big Sky Resort. A fresh tap of Swift Current 6 beer fills cool glasses, and a crowd of bright, retro ski outfits moves with the thumping bass coming from the DJ booth.
An après scene fit for the splendor of a resort like Big Sky, local rising DJ duo Chance Lenay and Jennifer Steele, known as “Take a Chance” and “Jenn N Juice,” have turned up the after-ski party this season with electric Friday through Sunday performances that have gathered crowds of skiers and riders not yet ready to let go of the day’s stoke. Weather permitting, Big Sky Resort’s newest resident DJs are on the patio every weekend from 3-6 p.m.
“It’s been kind of like Pond Skim every Saturday,” Steele said. Pond Skim, a spring skiing party complete with an Olympic-swimming-pool-sized obstacle and a full day of riotous jubilation, sets a high bar, but the new après scene at Big Sky just might rise to its level.
“I just think that it brings a great atmosphere and group of people together after COVID,” said Big Sky local Jonathon Carter. A regular at the après party, Carter is standing on the Vista Hall deck on a warm March 19 day, overlooking the mass of people below. “What we have dealt with the past two years, this is awesome. People are finally going out and having fun.”
Lenay started his career at Big Sky Resort operating the Lone Peak Tram in 2007. He has snowboarded professionally for the resort the past few years and now DJs there.
“The après scene at the resort has changed exponentially since we have started DJing up there,” Lenay said. “Sunny Saturdays are almost like a small music festival: champagne, crowd surfing and bikinis are not uncommon at après these days.”
The music scene in Big Sky has been dominated by bluegrass and Montana-style music, Steele said, with not many options for Electronic Dance Music.
“It’s been really cool to be doing this and see how well received it is,” she said. “So many people have been like, ‘We’ve been needing this … This is exactly the vibe we want for après.’”
Steele started her DJ career in her hometown of Melbourne, Florida back in 2011. EDM was just starting to become popular in the state, and she hosted a Dubstep Night at a local nightclub.
“Dubstep Night ended up being like the insane party of the year,” Steele said. “We just created a whole scene, and then it evolved from dubstep to kind of like mainstream EDM to get more people interested and having fun.”
In the fall of 2016, Steele realized she needed a break from the DJ scene as well as from Florida and she took a job working in Yellowstone National Park. In the fall of 2017, Steele made her way to Big Sky.
She wouldn’t DJ again until 2019, where she lit up a local watering hole, the Broken Spoke, for a friend’s birthday party. It was then that Lenay, a good friend of Steele’s, reached out about learning to DJ himself.
Steele and Lenay debuted as a DJ duo in the summer of 2020 at a friend’s studio. Lenay and Steele would go on to perform at the Outlaw Partners’ Friday Afternoon Club series, a virtual and in-person music option during the peak of COVID-19, outside the plaza of Blue Buddha Sushi. The two have grown their performances into larger events such as performing at Choppers Grub and Pub for New Year’s Eve or opening for Los Angeles-based indie electronic duo, Forester, in the Town Center Plaza for Outlaw Partners’ Winter Fest. Lenay and Steele have even taken their show on the road, performing a few sets in Bozeman, West Yellowstone and Florida.
“Working with Jenn has been absolutely amazing,” Lenay said. “She is one of my best friends, and one of the best DJs that I have ever worked with. Jenn has really helped me open up my mind to playing different genres of EDM. When I first started, I was fixated on playing trance and dubstep. Now that we are playing to different crowds, at different venues, I have started playing more to the crowd vibe.”
Steele jokingly describes this “crowd vibe” as “Soccer Mom House,” playing mashups from Justin Bieber, and popular songs remixes of “Levels” by Avicii or the classics “Higher Love” and “Don’t Stop Believing.”
This spring, Lenay and Steele are looking forward to opening for Las Vegas/San Diego-based DJ Scooter for the Winter Ball fundraiser at The Independent. This summer, they will look to bigger events and are hopeful to work with Outlaw Partners to perform during Big Sky’s Biggest Week at the end of July.
“The way I look at it is to keep taking baby steps until the dream of playing The Gorge and Red Rocks formulates,” Lenay said.
With the end of ski season in sight, Lenay and Steele will carry their growing aprés fan base to the finish line, with promise of more DJ Take a Chance and Jenn N Juice parties in the coming season.