Flew out to NYC Friday night and flew back Monday morning. The Monday morning flight was so early that the earliest bus to Newark wouldn’t work, so we had to catch the latest, and then spend four hours at the airport in the middle of the night when everything is closed. I neeeeed my sleep, and two nights with barely any sleep in one weekend, really wiped me out. Straight back to work after that. It’s funny, because in the Spring of 2000 when I started getting really serious about DJing as a career, my goal was to be flown around internationally, DJing from one end of the globe to the other. Now that I am just making baby steps towards that goal, playing on the other coast, I question whether this is really the lifestyle that I want. I need sleep. Eight to ten hours a day. I used to be able to sleep through all flights, and now I have much more trouble with that. I don’t like playing a gig the day I arrive in town with no sleep. Then again, it is difficult for me to relax and enjoy a “vacation” when I know I have a gig to perform in a few days. I’m also paranoid about trying to keep all my music safe in another city.
The more “successful” I get as a DJ, the more I question whether the goals I set for myself seven years ago will really make me happy. In concept, I like the idea of flying all over the world and DJing, but the more I’m on planes (coach, natch) the more I realize I don’t like to fly. I know I don’t like to lose sleep and mess with my sleep schedule. Flying internationally will only exacerbate those things. Most of my adult life I’ve avoided having any kind of plan, goals, etc., figuring that there are few things worse than getting what you want. Lately I’ve certainly been questioning whether what I’ve wished for is really what I want for my life.
Playing our own party on the other side of the country, as opposed to being a guest at someone else’s, presents quite a challenge. Anjali and I feel like we only do a partially-decent job of promoting our parties in Portland, and we live here. Trying to promote a party from 3000 miles away is something with which we have little experience. We are not there to flyer or poster. We don’t know what websites are effective places to post our parties. There might be very important email newsletters to become a part of, but we don’t know what those are. There are probably distribution lists to tap into, but we don’t know what those are. We are really lost. From my first visits to NYC when I saw club flyer messes at the front of record shops, I thought “I would sure never want to promote a party in New York!” Too much competition, too much area to cover, too many establishments to visit, too big a populace to effectively reach. We feel like we barely scratch the surface in Portland of all the avenues to promote ourselves, and NYC magnifies that task to an extraordinary degree.
We did what we could, but I had no expectations for our first night at the Knitting Factory. The club had never printed any flyers or posters, which could come down to our taking a week to get all our info to them, as we needed time to come up with a concept and a focus for the party. I sent out press releases, which apparently went ignored. Our names were printed in the TimeOut, but that was it, and over in the live music and not the DJ section of the magazine.
The Knitting Factory will often have early shows and late shows every night on all three of their floors. We knew there was an early rock show on our floor, and we were scheduled to go on at 11pm. We were supposed to load-in at 10:45pm, which hardly provides time to set up and do a soundcheck by 11pm. We were running late, and yet when we got to our room, the band’s equipment was still on stage, the band were still taking down their equipment, and there was no sign of a DJ setup. The soundperson, Alex, was very nice, as he tried to get the bands to hurry up and move their stuff. The DJ equipment was not in the room yet, and he went searching for it, bringing it back piece by piece. Because 99.9% of all international music is not available on vinyl, we had made clear to the production manager two weeks before the show that we needed CD players in addition to turntables. At one point it looked like no CD players had been set aside for us. A group of production employees (the manager was not around this night) came to us to break the bad news. We explained that the production manager had bought new equipment just for this night, and after further searching, two CD players were located and brought down. Unfortunately, there was no sign of any RCA cables to connect the CD players to the mixer. An RCA cable, so central to home electronics, and DJ setups, is not a very common cable at a rock club. Alex spent quite a bit of time searching the club for some. At this point it was so late, that our guests began arriving, and we got to hang out while we looked at our unconnected DJ equipment sitting on the stage. Of course Anjali and I have dozens of RCA cables at home, but didn’t think to bring them 3000 miles to our gig, since we were told all the equipment would be provided. It started to look like for want of RCA cables, the show would be lost. Finally Alex showed up with the necessary cables, and by the time everything was hooked up, it was now 11:50pm, 50 minutes after our performance was scheduled to start.
I put on the new M.I.A. track “Boyz” to make sure everything was working. I knew the single was out in New York when I went looking for it in Portland the week before the gig, but as I expected, we had to pick it up in NYC the day of the gig. Anjali decided to go on first, and she had the awkward job of playing to a small group of people sitting and listening, staring at the stage. She played a mix of South Asian hip-hop, grime, bhangra, a Funk Carioca instrumental and another (unreleased) M.I.A. track. She did a good job under very frustrating circumstances. People were slowly filtering in, but it was still a very small group that came to check out the debut of our new night. I went on and started playing Balkan music, when a dance floor started. I played several Balkan tracks but then wanted to go on to something else rather than stick with that sound. I played some Edu-K metal funk and Anjali promptly came up and informed me that sticking with the Balkan music was a good idea. I was feeling contrary and played French hip-hop, eventually making my way to bhangra and Bollywood selections, much to the approval of the mostly Desi crowd. Eventually it felt a lot like I was playing a Desi party, and I thought it funny that we were attempting to do something that wasn’t strictly a Desi party, but that is who showed up. The people in attendance were very enthusiastic and supportive, all promising to return to our gig in August. Since Anjali already had a wedding booked on the East Coast for Saturday the 4th, we will be playing the Knitting Factory Sunday, August 5th for our August show.
Towards the end of the night the general manager of the Knitting Factory came down to check out the show and talk a great deal about his vision for the night with me. Shay is a British Desi who moved to the United States twelve years ago to manage the Skatalites US tours. He has spent most of his life in the dub, punk and ska scenes, and is now looking to do something exciting and cutting edge with Indian music. He has some very interesting ideas for alternative Indian festivals and the like. He is now Talvin Singh’s tour manager in the US, and talked to us about our playing with Talvin in the Fall., hopefully tied into our night at the Knitting Factory. Even though what Talvin does is very different than what we do, and we have often been frustrated by people assuming that we play Talvin Singh when we say we play Indian music (we don’t), he is still the biggest South Asian electronics artist in the world. I don’t even count chicks when they are hatched at my feet, so I am currently detachedly amused about this very large carrot dangling in front of us.
Thanks to everyone who came and danced. It would have been very depressing without you. Your happiness and enthusiasm makes it all worthwhile.