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It’s Friday night at Absinthe Lounge.
Charly Tomlinson slides the headphones over her long, dark hair to cue up the next record at the DJ table.
When she’s asked whose old school funk record she’s playing, the answer is simple:
Not many 13-year-old girls are on a first name basis with Bootsy Collins. But Charly’s been playing his records since she was 9.
With her partner, Paige Christensen, the girls are known as the Goldfish Girls, the house DJs at Absinthe on Fridays.
Paige’s father, Kevin, owns the bar. Charly’s father, Kelly, manages the girls. And he says he’s overheard the following conversation plenty of times.
KELLY: “It goes exactly like this: ‘Hey dude, those little girls down there are actually playing this music.’ ‘No way, dude!’ ‘Yeah, man, come check it out.’ And then they walk down there and they’ll just stand there and go, ‘Wow, those little girls are actually playing that music.’”
Paige’s father introduced the girls to DJing when he pulled out his collection of funk records and taught the girls how to use his old turntables.
Charly says once the girls learned what a record was, they were ready to spin for a crowd.
CHARLY: After a couple weeks I guess, we sorta got into it and we weren’t playing around anymore. We actually knew which songs we liked, which songs people liked.”
On Friday nights, they play everyone from Prince to the Bar-Kays to Marvin Gaye. But they prefer other music when they aren’t working. Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and other teen favorites are the names they mention.
PAIGE: “Hannah Montana I guess, some of her songs are OK.”
CHARLY: “Like some of her old songs.
REPORTER: “So you’re into early Hannah Montana then?”
The girls estimate they’ve played 255 gigs. And Paige admits that business isn’t as good today as it was in the beginning.
PAIGE: We’d get maybe 30 people a night. In fact, one night, this place was packed and we could barely walk around.
Now, the girls say they are lucky to play for more than 10 people.
PAIGE: Well, we’ve just gotten old, and we’ve started to drag a little bit.
CHARLY: The novelty of little girls playing vinyl has worn off.
PAIGE: Yeah, considering we’re 13.
But they continue on for the same reason the rest of us get up in the morning and go to work.
CHARLY: This is my only source of cash.
PAIGE: Me, too.
These days, they often only make the $5 eachthe bar pays them. And for a minor, finding DJ work is tough.
CHARLY: Basically people don’t want to hire us because we’re underage and we can’t be paid in beer.
It’s enough to have them considering their post-Goldfish Girls futures.
Both fathers say the girls are free to move on to other things whenever they want. But Paige’s dad offers a word of caution about what they might find out there in the real world.
KEVIN: Paige would have my blessing. Both of them would. But then I’m gonna ask Paige, “Well, when do you wanna start making French fries and burgers? Cause you’re gonna have to do something.”
The girls will continue playing for the foreseeable future. They still have another few years before even a fast food joint will hire them.
It’s unclear where their future paths will lead. But in DJing, they’ve learned a skill and a few lessons about the ups and downs of work.
And they did it all before their first day of high school.
PAIGE: I got to hang out with Charly and I got to make money. So I guess you could say it was fun.