There have been several gigs lately where I have just not felt like or gotten around to writing a lengthy report back. Sometimes I think I’m going to and then it just never happens. We had 500 people at the last Andaz but I didn’t make a mention of it. (Until now.) That was weeks ago. I’ve been going through a very thoughtful DJ phase. The longer I play music for people the more I second guess what I am doing. For the last seven years I thought it would be the ultimate to get flown around to DJ parties. Now when it happens it is often stressful and involves a lot of unpleasant lugging around of far-too-heavy record bins. (Did you know that a full record bin is automatically overweight for checking on an airline and requires an additional $50 charge?) No, I have not moved on to laptop/mp3 DJing and I’m not particularly interested in pursuing it even if the money was available for the hardware/software.
I have always had a very different sensibility from other DJs, whether, club or radio, or whatever. I have always appreciated the dramatic juxtaposition versus the smooth transition. There is a school of DJing (whose adherents think is the only school) that originated in the gay Black and Latin discos in NYC in the ’70s which is all about the long, flowing, overlapped endless beat. Followers of this school think that all DJ sets should adhere to a set tempo that is endlessly replicated from one track to the next and as much as possible the endings and beginnings of songs should be concealed in an uninterrupted flow. Except for the occasional transition I’ve always been more interested in a sharp contrast between songs and dramatic intros. Most of the music that I play stops and starts and shifts tempos, often drastically. It makes little sense to me that the transitions between songs need to adhere to the New York model since the songs themselves do not adhere to this model of metronomic repetition.
Is this why someone screamed. “You suck!” at me at Atlas last night?
Our Atlas night was preceded by a party at Holocene put on by Unscene. There were already hundreds of people filling the venue when we arrived around 10pm. These people had been drinking for free since 7:30pm. There was much stumbling to be witnessed and the night was punctuated by the frequent sounds of dropped glasses shattering on the concrete floor. Since there were so many people at the party so early it felt like the night gradually wound down after a long early plateau. I had the last shift of the night. While I had been really looking forward to playing all sorts of new music I picked up in San Francisco and online when it actually came down to the night itself I didn’t feel particularly inspired or prepared to entertain the crowd. I was worried that people would have little interest in what I’m excited about and want to share. Recently I have felt that so much of the music I am into is around 95 bpm (whether Bhanga, Reggaeton, or Hip-hop) and the crowds always seem to want it faster than that. I might bring up the tempo briefly, but I feel like my natural impulse is to drop the pace when I get the opportunity. I am not talking about low-energy tracks. There are tracks with fast bpms and low energy. I am talking about slower bpm tracks with a lot of energy.
I started out with a drum’n’bass remix of Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente.” The original was one of the BIGGEST songs in the discos of Guatemala when I was down there in ’99 and I was excited to find a tough remix of this track. I didn’t want to clear the club with my set but I also wasn’t interested in playing it safe. I wasn’t even sure what “safe” meant in the context of this particular group of dancers. Sometimes mainstream might seem safe and that will be what clears people. Sometimes prominent electronic beats seem safe and that will be what clears people. I had no idea who in the crowd was an Atlas regular and who happened to be along for the ride as part of the Unscene party. I was wonderfully surprised to see Jacques in the crowd. He is one of the most informed world music commentators I have found online. He posts frequently in the world music forums on tribe.net and seems to have broader and deeper contemporary world music knowledge than anyone else I have encountered. How he does it I don’t know. Since I knew he was in the audience it gave me a focus. I knew there would be at least one person in the crowd who would appreciate a range of sounds and a real commitment to international variety.
I could have easily played reggaeton my whole set. I’m feeling so much reggaeton these days. The songs I did play didn’t seem to get the crowd going as much as I wanted so I only played a few tracks. I dropped some new Rishi Rich, some Tigarah, some Funk Carioca, some French Hip-hop, some Balkan beats, some Bhangra and even a new bilingual Pitbull track. His lyrical pronouncements are atrocious in their misogyny and catchy as hell in their execution. I brought a whole bunch of Lebanese music that I wanted to represent but a Nawal Al-Zoghbi track was all that ended up in my mix. It may not be anyone else’s favorite Himesh track but I did manage to fit in “Dil Naiyo Maane Re”(Remix) because I love it so.
At some point towards the end of my set someone leans over the railing to my right and yells, “You suck!” As if afraid that I missed it (I didn’t have much of a reaction) he then comes around to the other side of the stage and screams again, “You suck!” before exiting. Now I can think of a million reasons why someone would say I suck and so not having had an opportunity to discuss the matter with this individual I can only guess as to what must have so inspired his multiple public declarations. The few people left in the building this late at night (this was after 2am) were all dancing so maybe it was to try to enlighten them as to the error of their ways. I have no way of knowing whether he was an extremely ignorant individual, or one of the most educated and discerning of music listeners who happen to reside in Portland. Perhaps he hated international music aka music not in English. Maybe he was an adherent of the New York school of disco mixing. Maybe he didn’t realize that most music in the world is not pressed up on vinyl so that an eclectic international DJ set by necessity calls for a number of CDs to be played in addition to records. Who knows? Maybe he is an active blogger or internet poster and I will someday learn the nature of his beef. Fortunately the dancers paid this individual’s opinion little mind and we had a wonderfully spirited dance floor to my final song: “Pag Ghunghroo Bandh” from Namak Halaal. I didn’t even know there were any Hindi-speakers left in the house until I heard someone merrily singing along.
Thank you to everyone who came out, danced, stayed late, and didn’t scream “You suck!” at me.