Sunday, December 10, 2006

Zen and the Art of the DJ

Last night in a very chilly Savannah, I came out of retirement to DJ my first nightclub on over a year. I say "retired" because I'm getting too old for it. Once you hit forty, I think you're supposed to start listening to more adult music, like anything with less than 130 beats per minute (to be stated from this point on as "b.p.m."). But, I braved the cold weather and dialysis earlier that day to help out my friend Sam Diamond out for just one more night at a club called Doubles, which is situated in a Holiday Inn here in town. A little history of the place: I remember over twenty years ago when it first opened and it was a nightclub that played music videos (anyone my age should remember bars like that) and hosted crappy top 40 cover bands with names the The Party Gang and Trouble. I'm not sure if those bands actually played there, but if they did in your area in the eighties, they probably played crappy versions of "The Reflex".

The music now is different. It's still club based, but rap and r&b are the dance norm these days, with pop mixed in. The thing is, it's all been remixed like crazy. Here's another eighties staple: Do you remember those 12' inch singles of the hottest songs, and how they were remixed? Well, somebody out there still loves the eighties and he's dragging Gwen Stefani to the local bar. The name brand of the sound is called Ultimix. Truthfully, I like some of them, but in small doses. To hear the same beat over and over and over again would drive me crazy in the clubs. So, when I did a gig at a bar, I'd mix the beats up a bit and have a steady flow, starting off at 90 b.p.m. and working my way up for thirty to forty minutes and starting over again to give the crowd a breather. Every DJ's have a different groove, but the same objective. I just work a certain way that works for me and the crowd and I'll stick with it. However, doing it until three in the morning after all the noise, smoke and booze every weekend was too much for me to deal with as I got older, plus bar politics from who I think were some of the most ridiculous managment I had ever worked with made me just want to quit. If you know me offline, you know who I'm talking about. Not the first place, the other joint.

Back to Doubles now. I started playing songs, but nothing too dance-ish(think Rob Thomas and Maroon 5) at nine p.m. as folks started coming in from a Christmas party being heald next door. Immediatly, folks were asking when was the music gonna start. I wanted to punch them in their ears and remind them that I WAS PLAYING MUSIC, but what was on now wasn't the stuff they wanted to hear. So, I looked straight at them and told them to stick around for a bit. However, after telling them that, most of them just looked blank and asked what music was I gonna play. I would then shoot back, "Y'know, I just got this groovy record from The Statler Brothers. Why don't I just throw that one on and let's see who boogies". After saying that, the person would looked surprized, sit back down and wait. Yes, I'm a jackhole at this point, but if someone fueled by alcohol is gonna ask you a dumb question, you have every right to shut them down. And when you are a club dj, you are gonna get dummies on vokda and Red Bull showing up. I'm not saying that's you, but they are out there.

By ten p.m., the music gets faster and the crowd gets bigger. By eleven, more music and the dancefloor is packed like a woman in a heels too small for her feet, but she likes 'em anyway. The bar is busy, the folks are having a good time and I'm going into my zone, mixing one tune into another, going from "Promisous" from Nelly Fertado to "Sexyback" by Justin Timberlake to "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" by Michael Jackson and then some while friends who saw on My Space that I was back for just one night came down to show some love. All the while, keeping an eye on the crowd to sense their mood and how they were dancing.

Now, the following isn't p.c., but I'm gonna say it anyways because it needs to be said. When it comes to dancing, race and sex is important to a club dj. We'll break it down from first to worst...

Black Men and Women: That's all that needs to be said. When Black women hit the floor, so do Black men. It don't matter how old they are. They have the rythym to get their groove on. Before I continue on, I can say that being Black, so don't start with that Jimmy the Greek crap at me, please. I'm not Gregory Hines, but I can keep up if I wanted. I prefer old school soul, personally.

White Women: Okay, now this is interesting. I've seen White chicks dance with Black men, White men and other White chicks. All of them very freakalisious, as the Fergie song goes. I don't know what it is but it's always White chicks between the age of twenty-one and thirty getting their freak on by any means nessesary after a Jaggerbomb and it's a sight. It's like watching a Britney Spears video with them.

Gay Men: More the Gay White Male than the Gay Black Male. I don't know what it is, but I have seen more Gay white men act like strong Black women on the dance floor than even the strong Black women. Plus, they really love the music. Sometimes, they were my best customers, God bless them.

Straight White Males: To quote Eddie Murphy, what do y'all dance to: the words or the beat? This has to be the saddest thing in the world to watch a straight White guy attempt to dance. Either he's trying to hard or he's just there to make his girlfriend/wife/possible booty call feel good. Truthfully, there were some White guys out there on the floor who tried their darnest to keep up, but they just couldn't, bless their souls. They were out there doing The Monkey and The Twist to 50 Cent. Did you know that the dance that the charater Carlton on "The Fresh Prince of Bell Air" is called The White Boy? Watch the show next time and know there's a reason why they call it "The White Boy" when you see 'em dance. Oh, and don't bring up Travolta. He has money and a teacher.

My night ended around 2:45am when I gave last call and told everyone to home. Folks danced, booze flowed and everyone was happy, telling me I did a good job after not spinning for over a year. That made me feel great and I had a wonderful time, but I was spent focusing all my energy into the mix for nearly six hours. Plus, I had to be at work at the station in three hours that morning and that's where we are now. My feet hurt from standing alot, my head throbs still from 125b.p.m. and I slept on the studio floor after leaving the club for fear of going home to my own bed and getting too comfortable to get up for work. I'm grumpy and I'm forty, I know that. But if you were there at Doubles last night, I'll bet I made you dance your ass off. 'Cause I still got it.

UPDATE If you've never seen Carlton do the dance, here it is in all it's glory. I wasn't trying to be a jerk about it, but believe me. If you just went to a bar or club and just sit back with a Coke and just people watch like I do, you'd see some pretty hilarous stuff and thank your lucky stars that you aren't out there with those crazies.

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