9
Sep 04

A Tale Of Two DJs

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 315 views

A Tale Of Two DJs: one of whom was me, so I’m a bit biased. I DJed last night at a London bar, for a friend’s birthday party. When she asked if I could do it before their proper DJs started, they told her to fax my CV over! These people take their DJing seriously (in fairness I could have wrecked their rather nice equipment so it was good of them to let me).

I was on from 6.30 to 9, not the ideal time but I got a half-dozen people dancing – that was satisfying. It was also good to play a lot of hip-hop and R&B, the sort of stuff that doesn’t seem to get people going at Club FT, even though hardly anything I put on was remotely obscure. The likes of “California Love” and the Pharcyde surely count as Big Tunes (told you I wasn’t being obscure!) but don’t get the end-of-night plays at FT, though they surely will in future, I loved hearing them loud.

Anyway the point is that I came off at 9 and another DJ came on, with a very different outlook: he was playing funky house, and little but funky house. Nothing commercial, either – he made that very clear when my friend asked. About the same number of people were dancing to his stuff as mine, though. I was too exhausted to stay long – I’d never realised how tiring DJing for 150 minutes is – but I quite enjoyed it.

It brought home to me the distinction being made on an email conversation last week, between a disco and a club. At the former, people have come to dance to tunes they know. At the latter, people have come to dance. There’s definitely truth in this distinction but it’s fluid too: the crowd at a club will go mental for a big hook that they’ve been waiting to hear; the crowd at a disco may well keep dancing even if they don’t much like the music, because there’s no other option.

For both sorts of DJ the trick is striking a balance between the will of the crowd and your own tastes. In the disco situation the crowd has more power and the test is how much the DJ can empathise with their mood and requests. In the club situation the crowd have to trust the DJs knowledge and taste though of course empathy still plays a part. Both can go wrong. At the last Club FT the set I played was too reliant on the same old stuff I always play, too keen to keep the people on the dancefloor. Last night the house DJ was playing the set he’d come to play, but he was (I’m told) inflexible, never really built the crowd and when the party ended he had an hour to play to an empty floor. I always feel sorry for ‘proper’ DJs in the bar environment, spinning their exclusive mixes to a deserted venue, paid to take the people on a journey when the people would be just as happy with a Bar Culture Mix CD.

Like a lot of things I love, DJing always makes me gloomy and introspective afterwards. I briefly felt rubbish last night – playing corny stuff and not even able to mix – then this morning people were very nice and the trickle of offers of paid work continued. We might even start taking some of them up: I can feel that nagging desire to take this seriously. Even though I know I’ve still got a lot to learn.

(We have been offered the work christmas party, pending financial sign-off from the Big Boss. If it goes ahead it will be a captive audience of 500. Uh-oh! etc.)

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