Monday, July 27, 2009

Stompy & Grumpy's DJ Debut at Ixchel's Sadaka

Played my first DJ set the other night with The Dreaded One. We played as Stompy & Grumpy, and in spite of not doing any really serious practice until this week, and in spite of nerves and technical glitches, the feedback has been pretty damned good.

The day saw us get up and get stuck into the set for a final run through to make sure the time was right. It clocked in almsot to the minute of our 90 minute allocation. Still, one DJ friend had said it's a pretty ambitious first set and there were indeed tweaks to be made. The day sped along. We were running out of time but adjustments had to be made. A couple of times I felt like we just couldn't do it and part of me wanted to call the whole thing off. We were still making changes hours before we were on.

Arrived at the party with a knot in my stomach and didn't really want to talk to anyone. I felt in a very strange headspace. The party was quite full and filling up fast. By 11pm it was going to be very full.

Oh - the equipment we would be using was nothing like our small set up at home. It was a LOT bigger.

Few drinks to calm the nerves without straying too far from sober. Lots of friends, some of whom knew we were going to play, but as it turns out, there were also a lot who would soon be surprise to see us behind the decks.

Guy before us played a pretty dark, night time set. Pretty hard for 10pm. Danced a bit. Tried to get a look at the mixer. Had accute sphincter spasms.

Maybe quarter to 11, a rush of friends showed to give their support. Truth was in the beginning I hadn't really wanted to be heard or seen by friends in case we sucked. But here they were smiling and reassuring us we'd be all right. A couple even said they just knew we'd be good. How they knew that, I don't know. I wasn't sure of anything. Things took on a slightly surreal edge for me. The room was near capacity by now and nothing felt real. I'm just not a get-up-in-front-of -a-crowd kind of guy.

We moved into the DJ both as DJ Dukie put on his last track. Weird seeing the room from that angle. Everyone looking. I spotted even more friendly faces, but there were also plenty I'd never seen before. Fucking nervous. Fumbled with my headphones. Cord in knots as I pulled it from my bag. Chat with Dukie about the equipment. Stompy - who I later discover was even more nervous than me - tells me to cue my first track immediately instead of talking; only minutes to go. But I'm trying to be cool and calm about this.

Things move fast and too slowly at the same time. I find the headphone jack and this all feels very fucking weird. I am not a DJ. What am I doing behind the decks, in front of an eager crowd?

Couple of minutes to go before the end of Dukie's set ends and ours begins. Our set, a bunch of tracks we've put together over the months because we like them and we think they fit together. But we're punters, not DJs.

I cue the beginning of our first track. A proggy favourite, a remix of Scandal in New York. Things just feel weirder hearing this familiar track alongside Dukie's dark night time menace. I have no idea if this is going to work. I'm kind of on auto pilot now. For now it's detail and movement and paying attention. I cue up where I've decided to come in from, just like I have at home. I'm going to hit the cue button and hold it down twice right when she says her first "Pay attention!" Then I'm going to hit play. A third Pay Attention! and we'll be underway. Oh yeah - I have to pick the pace up by several BPMs before we even start. First two tracks are around the 130 mark and we have to nudge it up to just over 140 quite quickly. But smoothly. The fuck am I doing?

Pay attention!..... Pay Attention!..... Pay Attention!

And we're on. We're going. We're playing one of my favourite tracks to a room full of friends and strangers. I look up briefly to see if anyone is hanging around. Room is still full. People are dancing. Funny. Scary. A friend comes behind the booth to tell me we need more volume. We nudge it up and it's awesome hearing this track coming out so loud and perfect. Not a bad start. Just have to keep going for the next hour and a half.

During the day I've been fucking up the mix into the next track but Stompy nailed it a couple of times, so plan is, I'm going to take the bass out while she hits the cross fader and play and we go into the next track with a bang. This has to happen on the 2.44 (seconds left) mark. 2.25 comes up and I kill the bass, but Stompy does nothing, even though she's poised ready for action.

"Weren't you going to cross at 2.44?"I ask as I ease the bass back up.

"That wasn't 2.44... oh fuck!"

We aim for another similar spot and try our best but it's a train wreck. Our first train wreck in our first set. At the first mix. Not good at all.

But the punters are still dancing, this time to Wizzy Noise's Sabotage. I ease the BPMs up, and it just sounds so fucking good, that Wizzy Noise, big fuzzy beat, almost a glam rock beat. I cue up the next track as quickly as possible. I'm all concentration because I want to get this right so much. Cue'd up, nothing to do for about six minutes now but wait. I look up into the crowd properly then. And I smile because they are really getting into this. There are smiles everywhere. Some are dancing with their eyes closed, still smiling, their heads in a place I know so well. I'm really happy all of a sudden. The track is thundering and wobbling, somehow ominous and joyous at the same time and I can't help it. Smiling like a fool, I start to stomp and dance and really get into it.

Stompy and I take turns at mixing, two or three each at a time. Some of the mixes don't work so well, others are nailed. The crowd doesn't seem to care either way. It's wall to wall now, totally full to capacity and it's jumping. It is totally lapping it all up. We dance behind the decks. I see strangers in the crowd smiling. Big smiles of thanks. Eye contact lingers. It's quite possible they think we are not bad DJs. Hilarious.

And I see other smiles. From friends who are maybe thinking this is all a bit of a cack too: what the hell are they doing up there? Other friends seem to be smiling with happiness, knowing that this was all a bit of a laugh that appears to be coming together quite well. I think I see pride in a couple of smiles. One smile, all the way from The Windy City, shines brighter than the others and just makes me feel ridiculously happy. I jump about just like I would on the dancefloor until it is my turn to concentrate and mix.

There is a lot of equipment failure. At one random point the cross fader starts working in reverse so that you mix to the right deck by crossing to the left. Confusing but we have to just work around it. There are other problems to with the monitors and headphones, but we somehow get through it and minimise the damage. At no point does the crowd thin. It just seems to swell and it doesn't stop dancing once.

Such relief when the end is in sight. We've relaxed into this and managed to have fun. I feel comfortable up there. People have approached the decks throughout to say things like awesome set and Hello my friend - I did not know you DJ'd. First time, I reply through the smile I cannot get off my face.

The following DJ is Haig, a friend and a good DJ from way back. He is smiling as he comes into the booth to set up. "Enjoy that?"he asks, knowing the answer.

When our last track dies out, there is applause and cheering, a whistle here and there. It was not the smoothest mix ever played but overall the crowd enjoyed it and we made it through to the end.

Friends congratulate us with hugs and smiles. They say things like I knew you could do it and I knew you'd be good. One guy we've rarely talked to is all smiles as he tells us that he was so surprised to see us up there because he's only ever seen us on the dancefloor. All through the rest of the night I have complete strangers approach me, slap me on the back, say things like awesome set brother. One really got into the theme we had going, and I guess that means the tracks did go together. One guy was suripsed when we told him we had played downstairs and he said he was down there then, couldn't see who was playing from the back of the room but was really getting into it.

One of the promoters said she wanted us to play at their next party. Same promoter that about a year ago asked if we wanted to play at a party and I had drunkenly said hell yeah, maybe thinking it was never going to happen.

But it hapened. Stompy & Grumpy DJ'd, and the people, they danced and smiled. It was a pretty special night.


Kathryn said...

Such a gooooood time! Thanks for the good tunes. :)

Pure Gin! said...

I think I got sweaty palms just reading the first half of that post. That's awesome for you guys tho! Congrats!

(Word verifaction: "Criers")

Lee said...

So happy you were there, Kat. It's amazing that you enjoyed the tunes after hearing them being fucked up all day. Really loved that you were there.

Just re-read it, Gin, and I got sweaty palms too (and not just because of the typos... just sat down and emptied my head with this post). It was a strange experience. Main thing was that we did this thing we weren't really very comfortable with and it turned out okay. You have to give stuff a go. We're in the process of building the next set.