We’ll see how much energy I have to get into this at 3:30am after having gotten home from the gig. Anjali and I just got back from DJing the City Repair Benefit at Loveland called “Love.” The color red was suggested and I’m certainly seeing some red now. We got there at 11:40 something with an expected start time of 12:00am. Well the band Jujuba who were playing the hour before us were still sound checking. They didn’t really get started until after 12:00am. Anjali and I figured our two hour set was about to become a one hour set. We have some experience with bands taking a lot of time and pushing the schedule back, shrinking the after-hours DJ set with every minute they are on stage. Some bands seem to do this with quite a bit of malice directed toward the DJs and probably the very concept of DJs as entertainmers and performers. After all we can’t play instruments, right, just records.
Well Jujuba didn’t seem like jerks, and I totally understand a band wanting to play a full set after spending all that time toting and setting up gear. However, the organizers tried to tell them several times that their set was over, even going so far as to turn the lights off on them at the end of songs twice. The first time the band seemed to be done they actually then started an interactive percussion jam with the audience focusing on clapping, etc. This seemed very appropriate for the theme and the desired energy of the night and I thought it was fine, not being very emotionally commited to playing a long time anyway. When they were finally finished it was after 1am and we were told to be off at 2am anyway since guest David Starfire was still scheduled to go on at 2am. Fine. Anjali and I are used to being smushed together and forced to share a single performer’s slot at festivals, etc. It’s frustrating because we don’t perfom side by side, we take turns and an hour is not a long time for one DJ to present a performance, much less two.
When the band finally was done there was no sound coming from the DJ mixer even though there should have been. Sound person and organizer running around trying to figure out why no sound was coming out. Eventually someone got it figured out and the signal being sent from my mixer was finally being heard over the sound system. But why was it so quiet? Anjali told me to turn it up several times until the mixer was all but maxed out. Still very quiet. Much quieter than the band that had just performed. I’m supposed to get a room full of people dancing to this background vibe? When you are playing dance music that no one in the room has heard before you really need volume and BASS. Nostalgic songs can get by with an audible melody and vocals and one can just sing along. There is an inverse relationship between familiarity of the song and the necessity for loudness and bass. Getting stiff Americans to dance to something they’ve never heard before requires a sound with such force that if compels the body to move. We did not have this going for us at this gig. People were dancing but it was like background music. I just gave up and played an organic, hard dhol sound that rarely crept above 100bpm until the last song, which was my perverse statement alternating between accapella Panjabi proclamations and rapid-fire dhol beats.
When Anjali started her half hour I went out for the first time to hear the sound from the perspective of the dancers and I couldn’t believe just how quiet it was. Now I know you’re thinking “Djs have blown-out ears and they always play way too loud.” Yeah, I know but Anjali and I have both recently had an audiologist exam us and neither of us have any sign of hearing loss. Can you believe it? But, you’re thinking “I’ve been to the Fez and or Holocene and it was way too loud, I had to leave.” I agree, that can happen. DJs try their best but sometimes things do get just too loud at club nights. This was not the case at this gig. I’m talking quiet. Like stand around and have conversations on the dance floor quiet. The organizers had actually been working with the soundman the whole time trying to get him to turn it up to no avail. Ethan, one of the members of Jujuba was saying that they had had a lot of trouble with him as well. That probably explains the long sound check for their band and the delayed schedule. Our friend Nick said that even though Jujuba were still louder than us he was standing right in front of the speaker listening to them without it being that loud.
Anjali played a much more electronic drum’n’bassy set than I had with a lot of songs carried by subsonic bass that was unfortunately hardly audible in that environment. When David Starfire went on he immediately pushed the mixer all the way into the red. Earlier when David wasn’t present Anjali and I had received a stern warning from the sound guy never to do that. I didn’t have the heart to tell David because that was the closest to still-far-from-acceptable sound that we had approached all evening. The sound man clearly wasn’t going to help him so he was left to his own devices. Poor guy. At least we didn’t have to fly to Portland to play in such compromised conditions. We can always play in town over a much better system the next week. There was a second DJ room upstairs. Ironically enough the sound was far louder up in the smaller, less-attended second room. What a joke. Unbelievable. What totally could have been a crazy rockin’ party was a subdued evening of wandering around in a world of background sonics. What a loss. Hopefully City Repair made some funds.