I was sick again for this month’s Atlas. Does that make three or four times that I’ve been sick on stage at Atlas in the last year? I was laying down in the green room between sets, wishing I could be at home resting instead of performing for hundreds of people. My symptoms had been pretty low-grade all week, yet felt at their height while I was at the club. The night before I had gone to bed at 7pm and didn’t rise for good until 9am. No wonder I wasn’t doing so hot at the club, since my last DJ shift wouldn’t be ending until close to 3am.
After writing my blog posts detailing how I’m more inspired by DMing Dungeons and Dragons these days than DJing, I felt like that started switching around after I poured myself into my last D&D game, only to feel empty and spent afterwards, like I had accomplished little of what I set out to do. One of the players, a long-time gamer, said it was the most intense gaming night in his life, so I must have done something right. When I fail really bad at DJing I put more energy into my gaming, and when I feel like I have failed as a DM, I start putting more energy into DJing. I was actually meaning to post in my blog last week to say, “Hey, I’m inspired again, please come out to Atlas,” but being sick all week, I didn’t post anything at all.
There are things that really frustrate and annoy me about my every performance at Atlas, that repeat themselves, no matter how much I try to do things different the next time. I feel like I am always swimming in music on stage, staring at hundreds of CDs and records, and never finding what I want to play. Sometimes I know exactly what albums I’m looking for and no matter how much searching I do, I can’t turn them up, and other times I have a vague notion of, “Hey, remember all those great songs you prepared the last couple days? What albums were they on, and where are they?” I’m often putting things on I don’t want to play, because I can’t find what I am looking for. I feel trapped without hundreds of options, but then I overcompensate and inundate myself with such a sprawling amount of music that I often can’t find what I am looking for and want to play. I so badly want to play the hottest, most exciting music I have discovered, and then can’t seem to surface those items from my collection when I am on stage. Instead I reach for familiar songs that I am already self-reproachful about having over-played already. I was poring over so many devastating reggaeton songs at home the day of the gig and I found myself playing a bunch of other reggaeton songs during my two Atlas sets because I couldn’t find the ones I wanted. At home I try to pare down what I am bringing and I still end up bringing enough music to DJ for several days straight. You would think I was going for the Guinness Book of World Records for longest DJ set from the amount of music I bring to my gigs.
E3 played the first set at Atlas, mixing in a bunch of great French hip-hop in his selections. Anjali went next and she played some Bhangraton and Bollyton in her set. I crawled out on stage with the intention of starting out slow. I pulled out reggaeton, cumbiaton, African hip-hop, and other slower genres, and then upon returning from a last minute bathroom break I see that Anjali has jumped the energy level (and crowd size) of the room immensely by dropping the original bootleg mix of DJ H’s “Ishq Brandy.” (A million times better than the sub-reggaeton remake with the abysmal “rapping.”) I am now faced with a completely different room than I was originally. A lot more people. A lot more super-enthusiastic people, going wild. Not the room at all that I had prepared to play for a few minutes earlier. I felt I had little choice but to start with bhangra, given how the room had just erupted. I didn’t want to immediately deflate the excitement Anjali’s last track had inspired. I didn’t feel like playing obvious bhangra hip-hop mashups, so I played “Saukhi Di Kammai” by Specialist and Tru-Skool instead. I immediately wanted to move on to something different, and wanting to retain the funky drums feeling of the S&T-S track, I play “Sex and Cookies” by the Eastenders This then put me at 126 bpms which was way faster than what I had prepared to play. I DJed myself into a corner, and found myself playing the remix of Himesh Reshammiya’s “Dil Naiyyo Maane Re,” which I love, but really felt odd in context, and wasn’t really what I shooting for at all. Eventually I said, “Fuck it” and dropped the tempo down for quite a few reggaeton songs. Unfortunately my woozy, dizzy, fuzzy, flustered and confused condition of sickness meant my timing was just enough off that I grimaced every time I clobber-fisted a transition I was hoping to smoothly finesse. It felt that way my whole set; me stumbling from one jarring, off-time transition after another when I was hoping for something far smoother.
For E3 and Anjali’s sets I retreated to the green room, only surfacing occasionally to listen to some of the great tunes. The crowd seemed really light. It had been a really nice day, and really nice days often wreak havoc on club attendance at night, since everyone is passed out at home recovering from barbecues, rather than dressing up and going out dancing. It also seemed like a fairly normal crowd, not necessarily a crowd of Atlas regulars. During E3’s second set he went really experimental. He told me afterwards that he decided to really mess with the crowd after deducing that they were a little unsure as to what to make of our night. There were few enough people dancing, and with enough hesitation, that I actually thought that the night was going to be the least successful Atlas night of all time. It just didn’t feel like that great of a party, which I rarely if ever feel about our parties. E3 left shortly after his set to be with his wife and new child, and he missed seeing that the party people in attendance weren’t dead on arrival, just late bloomers.
Anjali went on at 12:30am, opening with Jay Dabhi’s Bhangraton remix of Taz’s “Jawani,” which sounded sooo hot in the club. I had enjoyed the pop confection at home, but didn’t realize what a stand-up job Jay had done on the remix until I heard the bass pumping out of the subwoofers at Holocene. That song has been going through my head ever since. Then Anjali played Pitbull’s “The Anthem,” and the crowd went NUTS. The energy level just soared, and continued when Anjali mixed into Enur’s “Calabria,” the sample source for the Pitbull hit. Before long Anjali had people rocking to a hardcore Desi set, and I was left to face this crowd in my weakened condition at 1:30am, when my final set started.
I wanted to do something really different, but I imagined I would need to at least throw the dancers a bhangra bone upon starting out, so I played “Desi Boli” from the new Jas Dhingra. I then moved on to Arabic hip-hop, Funk Carioca, a lot of reggaeton tracks, some Baltimore club-styled international tracks, some kuduro, some Persia-ton, and finally, my current cheeze anthem: “Dekho Nashe Mein – Latin Fiesta Mix.” I questioned the wisdom of playing such Bollywood cheeze at Atlas, and although Anjali later claimed that the hipsters in attendance were lapping it up, I pulled it early to play “Mi Dia de Suerte” by Nejo & Dalmata, which was the track that convinced everyone it was time to go. Funny, that: pulling the track that you think the crowd is not feeling, in order to play the one that people reeaaaally aren’t feeling. So I played DJ Eric’s trance remix of “Pegate” with vocals by Jackie to everyone’s backs as they left for home. I love Jackie’s vocals on this track, especially her high-speed rapping. I really wish I could find more by her other than the few tracks I already have. I finished up with “Aao Na” by Nazia Hassan, and “Mujh Pe To Jadoo” for Anjali.
Thank you to everyone who came out. Sorry my illness meant I was so off my game. Hopefully I will do a better job in May of focusing on what I want to play, and actually playing it, as opposed to flailing around onstage and playing a bunch of songs that weren’t really what I intended.