Monday, July 27, 2009
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.
Friday, July 24, 2009
I don't normally post reviews until they come out in the mag first, but given that the magazine review won't be out until this very short season is over, I thought I'd break that rule. If any of you are in Sydney this weekend and you want to see some great theatre, see Meow Meow at The Studio, Sydney opera House.
You could also see The Promise at Belvoir Street. Very different theatre but well worth seeing. Here's this review, which I agree with. Will post mine when the magazine is out... although there's probably little point given that Diana Simmonds' is more detailed than my little 300 worder.
For now, here's my 300 word review of last night's Meow Meow performance. I went along with three freinds who had no idea what to expect other than a cabaret performer I like a lot. All three had a great time and came away raving, instant fans. You probably can't get a better endorsement than that.
Meow To The World: A Crisis Is Born
The premise of this show was a Christmas in July deal, but on a budget. So the planned Christmas extravaganza the crazed cabaret Queen had in mind doesn't go quite according to plan. Then again, this is Meow Meow, so you pretty well expect mayhem and chaos to sashay into the rooom at any moment.
A short time into the show, after the audience is brow-beaten into adulation and flower-throwing (uncouth lot we were, Miss Meow supplied her own flowers), a props guy arived to take delivery of a couple of props that had been rented by the hour and not for the entire show. Meow Meow reluctantly took off her cocktail gown, glove and earrings and handed them over, then quite reasonably made her male band members also undress to their underwear while unleashing some hilarious invective on the Opera House's budget.
There were cabaret classics in various languages, some Christmas classics, a bit of fund raising by bare-kneed orphans, a chorus line of dolls, a dreamy dream sequence and of course a lot of crowd surfing. As with all Meow Meow performances, the mood swung from sophisticated to silly in seconds.
Musical highlights? For this besotted fan, Nick Cave's Red Right Hand and Laurie Anderson's The Dream Before. This last one was sublime, with Meow Meow imbuing what is a really poignant song with unexpected humour with the merest hint of inflection or subtle physical gesture, yet retaining the overall sentiment of the song. I truly didn't want any more after this. I wanted the performance to end on this note of perfection.
But perfection will never do with Meow Meow, and she brought her undies-clad band back for Surabaya Johnny. Touching, stirring, unpredictable... the night ended on a different kind of perfection.
Season ends July 26
Monday, July 20, 2009
Over the course of my silly little life I've accidentally managed to get my name on a poster or two, the cover of a novel (someone else's, not mine), lots of columns and feature pieces in magazines, and now - as you will see if you click on the image to the left - a flyer for a club night.
Yes, that's right, The Dreaded One (Stompy) and I (Grumpy) will be DJing at the Abercrombie next Saturday night.
Do come play with us if you're in town. It will be fun. Promise.
Friday, July 17, 2009
A secret special prize goes to the person who comes up with the best explanation for what the hell is going on in this picture. I mean, what is that expression all about? Why are the tins of minted peas and a little bag of lollies wrapped in cellophane? And check those girly purple mittens. Why is it happening on a Melbourne tram? What the hell is going on?
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Most recent Grumpy column in Tsunami. Weird in that it's the third version of something I was trying to write for the blog. Came out different each time. Quite like this version. It's basically an amalgam of many benders had with good friends. Some of them are faint memories from years ago. Others are more recent fun times.
I love swan-diving into the abyss, I really do. But I also like that feeling of swimming to the surface and seeing the clearness again.
New people in my life now, and I totally adore... hang on. Tour de France. Gotta go.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The days were long and sometimes lonely, but it was a pleasant kind of loneliness. Perhaps loneliness is not the right word at all... aloneness. Sometimes I wondered what I was doing there at all.
But the nights, short as they were, brimmed with laughter and good times. Countless funny little episodes as we gazed at the wonderful weirdness that is Dali, huddled laughing in a tiny theatre, or sunk into a couch in a bar and laughed at the antics of fellow drinkdancers.
On those short nights, I didn't wonder, was just glad that I was there at all.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 04, 2009
Peace is meeting an old friend, one who has angered you and who you have angered. Peace is accepting you have been wrong and they have been wrong too. Peace is that familiarity that is the foundation of love. Peace is the happiness you feel because you are in the same room as them, same life on planet Earth. Peace is the hug and the smile and the silent look that says I'm glad you are part of my life. Peace is accepting that although you may never see them again, there is a bond. Peace is the happiness you feel because no matter how far away they are, you know they are happy.