I’m so glad this weekend is over. Saturday’s Andaz with Tigerstyle as our guests went as well as anyone could have hoped. There was a line down the block throughout the night because the club had reached capacity. I know many of my friends got trapped in that line and I’m glad that everyone (that I am aware of) managed to make it in OK without too much of a wait. So many different friends showed up. Reunion after reunion. That was a great feeling.
Anjali and I were set up on the stage. We always hide in the DJ booth in the corner at Andaz and this was only the second time we have ever performed from the Fez stage. We last played on stage opening for Karsh Kale in 2003 and that was not our regular Andaz night. We have never performed onstage for Andaz before. I hate being on stage and would much rather be tucked away in a corner, or better yet, up in some crow’s nest behind a one-way mirror. That was definitely an element of the show that I was not looking forward to, but when you have touring international guests, it only seems appropriate to have them up on stage. I had gotten hardly any sleep the night before. I was buzzing and awake until after three in the morning and then I had to pick up Tigerstyle at the airport at 9am, which necessitated a much earlier waking time. To many of you that may seem like plenty of sleep,but I am an 8-10 hour kind of guy. Getting 5 hours (at most) is not my idea of a good time. There was so much to do to get ready for the show that as I worked all day I hoped fervently for a nap at some point that was ultimately denied. At a certain point Anjali told me to give up the idea and drink a huge jar of chai she had made for me. Well it worked, because I stayed up until after 5am without passing out. And unlike Tigersyle I didn’t drink 8(!) Red Bulls.
The whole show got put together in less than two weeks and it was a major stressor. I feel like I had my first panic attack since 1992 when I had a freak-out because I thought I had lost my wallet. (In the end I found my wallet, and lost my girlfriend in the same day due to the emotional intensity and length of my freak-out. I’m not the kind of guy that loses my keys or wallet, and I didn’t handle it well when I thought I had.) At one point we had confirmed the Tigerstyle show with their booking agent and he told us we had one day to get the contract faxed to him and overnight mail a cashier check deposit. We had spent the early part of that day in the Portland suburbs. We tried to overnight the check from a suburban post office to find that it was too late for them to guarantee next day air. We would have to go to the Portland Airport post office. I-5 was shut down that day due to a massive pile-up and we spent 3 and 1/2 hours stuck in lines of cars crawling through suburban backroads eventually making it to the post office in time to hand our package to the woman running to the departing plane with the last shipment of the day. Too much stress. As it was we didn’t even make it to an office with a printer so we couldn’t even take care of the contract that day, only the deposit. We worked so hard that day to make things happen, and could only accomplish half of our goal. Miserable. Then when we did get the contract faxed it was almost a week until we got our copy back. It makes you feel worked when you kill yourself to get things done quickly and the other side (despite their insistences about your needing to do everything ASAP) takes their own sweet time. Anjali gets unlimited props for remaining calm, cool and collected while I melted down that afternoon.
Booking Tigerstyle was a far more formal and frustrating experience than I have ever had in the business. Most DJs I deal with don’t need anything more than an email saying “come play,” an offer of a a few hundred dollars, and someone’s house to sleep at. With Tigerstyle everything had to go through their official representative, there was a four page contract, and much negotiating over fees. I can understand their position. They have been repeatedly screwed on their tours –they had major problems at gigs on this very tour– and they are sick of getting ripped off and dealing with bullshit. However, I don’t like playing booking agent, and Anjali and I are not in the business of ripping anybody off. We are lucky and have never been screwed by anybody when we have played other cities, no matter how informal the agreements. Regardless of my understanding of why they handle business the way they do, it is still way too formal and off-putting for me. When someone deals with me only through intermediaries it serves to distance and alienate me and I lose a lot of interest in making a personal connection that often comes naturally in these situations. Tigerstyle themselves were very chill and easy-going, it’s just the management structure that pisses me off. I don’t like getting contractual agreement reminders by text message in the middle of a gig. There are hundreds of people dancing and having fun and I’m in the middle of it having a blast with my friends only to receive a message telling me to do what I am well aware I am already contractually obligated to do. I understand they have been ripped off repeatedly, but it doesn’t engender good feelings when I am being constantly treated as if I am trying to rip them off. The only reason they played Portland is because of how much Anjali and I have respected their music and their approach over the years. We certainly didn’t do it because they are a big name in Portland. Why would we try to rip off musicians we respect and admire? We are not shady promoters (the business has enough of those) we are passionate music-loving DJs with very limited resources. Cut us some slack. Like I said, Tigerstyle were very respectful and we didn’t have any problems with them personally at all. I’m glad we had some time to hang out. Expect several new projects from them in the next year: their follow-up to Virsa, the new Bikram Singh, and material from Gunjan as well.
I had been so stressed out by negotiating such a big show that I was looking forward to my D&D game on Friday a million times more than the show on Saturday. Roleplaying with friends is a thousand times more fun than performing onstage in front of hundreds of people. I picked Tigerstyle up at the airport by myself since Anjali was camping with family. They asked about the show and wondered what kinds of sounds would work with the crowd. I told them that our standard format at Andaz is bhangra and Bollywood, but that since there would be a range of different people attending such a special show, they could probably do whatever they wanted. They told me they viewed playing an all-bhangra set as a wedding gig, they don’t play Bollywood (although they did drop the new “Sajanji Vaari Vaari”) , and they were more interested in mixing up reggaeton, dancehall, hip-hop, breaks, garage, drum’n’bass, you name it, with a desi feel. I told them to go for it and just see what the crowd was feeling.
Before the gig we went wandering looking for Italian food (vegetarian!) since that was what they were in the mood for. All my favorite Italian places are in SE, and I don’t know anything about NW or Pearl restaurants because I don’t have those kinds of funds. We looked in the windows of a bunch of really toney chichi Italian places (which all seemed to feature wild boar meat) that I couldn’t imagine feeling comfortable in, even if I wasn’t picking up the check. In the end we went to Escape From New York Pizza and the boys were very happy with their slices. Funny how these things work out.
I had the first shift at Andaz and I played a long vintage Bollywood set of old rockin’ filmi numbers. Our sets got all messed up because I had Anjali briefly relieve me and then I realized the club was almost all out of our Andaz flyers. I didn’t want hundreds of people coming through the door without any of our flyers around. Unfortunately we didn’t have any on us, or in the car. I wandered downtown trying to gather spare ones from EM and Powell’s which were still open. Anjali got people dancing to a bhangramuffin set in my absence, and I went back on stage with a dance floor in front of me to please. I started with some hard bhangra and hip-hop bhangra songs that went over well. Since I knew Tigerstyle weren’t going to be playing filmi, and a lot of people were there to hear some, I forced some into the middle of my set. I tried to do it as smoothly as possible by playing the dhol-heavy “Say Na, Say Na” first before moving to a more typical film-techno sound. “Say Na, Say Na” received a rapturous response, but I don’t think anyone knew or appreciated the new “Take Lite” track from the Nishabd soundtrack. In fact, at least initially, I think a lot of goreh were confused and put-off by my change in direction in general. I moved on to slightly older (2005/2006) big filmi tracks and that seemed to work just fine before I finished up with some more (hardcore!) bhangra. Thank you to everyone who was screaming and dancing and making me feel good during my set.
Anjali played a bhangra set before Tigerstyle went on. I was taking care of now-forgotten urgent errands and I remember classics like “Chit Karda” and not much else. Tigerstyle started in a dancehall mode, playing the Stepz riddim and cutting back and forth between, Elephant Man, Sean Paul’s “Legalize It” and their own “Ishq Nagni.” Their set did exactly what they said they wanted to do. They played dancehall, bhangra, reggaeton (their own desi remixes), 2-step, breaks, and drum’n’bass. I think a lot of people were confused by the dancehall direction, and weren’t sure what to make of it. When they started very smoothly mixing uptempo bhangra tracks (including “De Le Gera” and old Surjit Bindrakhia) people went crazy. Tigerstyle knew there was a large group of Panjabis in front making bhangra requests but they certainly didn’t cater to them throughout their set. In fact, they told me that at the bhangra competition after-party they had played in Detroit they were happy to have avoided playing any Lehmber in their entire set. At the airport they had asked me about playing M.I.A. at our night which I thought was a good idea, especially with some of the people I knew would probably come out to this special show. Unfortunately when they dropped the new “Bird Flu” (I haven’t even been able to get an advance copy yet!) people seemed very confused and uncertain. They quickly mixed out of it, but they did play their remix of “XR2” later in the night. They played a Panjabi 2-step set with some Panjabi MC 2-step classics in the mix. Tracks Anjali and I used to play a lot and haven’t in a while, so it was cool to hear them in a different context. Anjali and I haven’t had a guest at Andaz since early 2003 so it was a completely unique experience to be hanging out together and in the crowd during our own night.
Tigerstyle finished their set with their awesome “Kawan” drum’n’bass remix and some brutal ragga jungle numbers featuring production or remix work by Chase and Status. (Thanks for the tip!) It was my turn to go back on. I knew that more than anything a portion of the crowd had been hungry to hear some filmi all night. The question was how many of them were left at 1:30 something in the morning? I knew I wasn’t going to try to match the hyper speed and intensity of Tigerstyle’s last tracks. I started off with DJ Harry’s dhol-saturated “Shava Shava” remix before going into the original Khaike Paan Banaras Wala” and “Choli Ke Peeche.” Yeah, I wasn’t exactly taking any chances. I then brought in the Gurdas Maan /Sukshinder Shinda /Abrar Ul Haq “Collaborations” track, Dil-jit’s “Revolver,” Balkar Sidhu’s classic “Charkha” and finished with Jazzy-B’s “Soorma.” Yeah, like I said, no chances. I didn’t want to be the gora DJ who goes on after Tigerstyle and clears the crowd by being too experimental or ahead of the curve. I once again had to leave the club to run some errands, so other than some Bhangra-hop, “Thora Resham Lagta Hai,” and a last-minute ‘Nach Baliye” -with a wonderful dance floor consisting of The Nick- I missed most of Anjali’s closing set.
Thank you so much to Tigerstyle for being willing to come play Portland. Thank you to everyone who helped us with the show, especially Michael from the Fez. Thank you to Serena Davidson for celebrating your birthday with us and taking pictures. And thank you to everyone who packed the club and made it such a memorable night. If you were one of the many desi girls who showed up and didn’t get your filmi fix, I just got a shipment of all the new soundtracks and I’ll hook you up at Andaz on April the 29th.