Sweating The Small Stuff: Ten Teeny-Tiny Mobile DJ Irritations
You’ve all seen those social media posts haven’t you – ‘things not to say to a DJ’ – and all that? Whilst being largely true, they’re a little tiresome now. Yes, it is insanely irritating to be asked to play a request “next” but is that not rather stating the obvious! So, instead of just regurgitating all the old clichés, for this article I’ve tried to pick out some lesser-mentioned irritating aspects of the job that, to be honest, annoy me far more than they actually should!
1 // FADING OUT…
Something that has always bugged me, not only as a DJ but also as a music fan, is the pop record that just fades out at the end. As a music fan, if a song I like fades out I feel somewhat cheated. It’s like there’s more to hear but I’m not allowed! Why couldn’t they just end it with a nice clear finish? Lazy! As for DJing, well I try to beat mix wherever possible, but there’s always large parts of the evening when that isn’t possible and a nice clean segue is the order of the day (night). The main culprit for this is The Jackson 5 ‘I Want You Back’. Not only does it fade out, which makes it a bugger to cut from, but it fades out rapidly and at a high point of the track. ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ is another little git of a track. And then there’s Tiffany’s ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’... Anyway, you get the idea, and I’m sure you have your own nominations for the ‘most annoying fade’ award.
This has been remedied somewhat in recent times due to the invention of Mastermix ‘DJ Beats’ – a continuing series of DJ-only releases featuring popular tracks enhanced with mixable intros and outros. However, having just worked through another Christmas season, like me, I’m sure you probably played ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ roughly 346 times. The fade on that one makes me anything but merry and so far Mastermix haven’t include it on a DJ Beats release. All I want for Christmas every year is a version that doesn’t fade out, but the fat git in the red suit still hasn’t delivered (that’s Santa I might add, not anyone at Mastermix!).
2 // THE ROGUE CONGA…
I’m always reminded of a line in nineties sitcom ‘Men Behaving Badly’ whenever anyone mentions a conga:
“Gary, why did you and Tony conga through my room as 2am this morning?”
“It was on our route.”
This, I think, illustrates just how important it is in British culture. I especially enjoy a conga that leaves the room and takes ages to come back. I did one the other week and it got to the point where a look of genuine concern for the line began to sweep around the room before they burst back in through a door that nobody had previously realised was even there! I have noticed over the last few years, though, a somewhat cavalier attitude to conga regulation. For starters, I’ve seen congas start during songs that do not signal a conga under any circumstances. No, no, no! You can’t conga to ‘YMCA’ or, as I had the other week, Justin Timberlake’s ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’! I was almost tempted to halt the music and ask them to pack it in!! A conga should only begin with Black Lace. It’s that simple. Alright, you can have ‘Hot Hot Hot’ too then, but really, you should be ashamed of yourself if your ‘train across the floor’ is chugging along to ‘Come On Eilieen’. You may as well do the Macarena to ‘Three Times A Lady’!
3 // STAIRWAY TO HELL…
“Hello, I’m doing the disco here tonight. Where do I set up?”
“Upstairs. There’s a fire exit round the back.”
What, that rain-soaked, unlit metal death-trap? Great…
We’ve all been there, that pokey little venue in the most awkward place ever. It usually starts with there being nowhere to unload – or park the car afterwards. Then you find there’s no lift, simply a small spiral staircase to the fire escape. Of course there’s no way your bass bins are going up there, which leaves you with no other option than bringing all your gear in via a slightly more basic re-enactment of the ‘Total Wipeout’ course. Older readers might like to substitute ‘Total Wipeout’ for ‘It’s A Knockout’. If you’re very lucky, it might not be a spiral staircase this time!
4 // LITTLE ANGELS…
My day job is a primary school teacher, so the last thing I want at my gigs is kids to deal with. I remember back when I made the decision to abandon my plastic lights screens, it was after a little cherub at a wedding slid into them on his knees for the fifth time! If they’re not hurling themselves towards your rig they’re running round the back of it, trampling all over the wires whilst you try in vain to locate a parent who might take responsibility.
I’ve recently noticed a trend of leaving piles of plastic tat on a table for children to ‘entertain themselves’ with at discos. However, far from keeping them quiet the result tends to be the complete opposite! Thanks to the fact that these ‘brat packs’ always contain those little blow trumpet things (proper name anyone?) that unravel and make an incredibly annoying noise. One that can be heard over the music and is blasted incessantly for the first three hours of the party! Occasionally you hear of couples asking for ‘no children’ at their weddings and people getting mortally offended. I can see why someone might introduce such a rule and in fact I actively encourage it.
5 // SOUND LIMITERS…
I thought I’d seen the last of these electronic buggers in the late nineties, but a hotel I regularly work at has suddenly put one in. I don’t know why venues have these, other than to make trouble for us with the punters!
“Turn it up mate.”
“I can’t” – points to sound limiter.
“Turn it up mate.”
“Look, I can’t. There’s a sound limiter. It’s nothing to do with me, I can’t turn it off.”
Cue abuse for being a “s**t DJ” etc. (See also No. 9 for being blamed for things beyond our control!)
I don’t know, maybe some councils insist on it for licensing reasons. But this regular venue of mine that suddenly fitted one now routinely bring me out a large extension lead that’s plugged into a kitchen socket in order for me to bypass it! And my word, I’m glad they do because the level it allows is about as loud as a dormouse moving a pebble. Utter insanity!
6 // A SHORT HIKE TO THE DANCEFLOOR…
It can be a real effort sometimes to get them up and dancing. You can throw out all the usual fare but, invariably, drinking is more important. I think it’s a very British thing, but most of our guests won’t go near the dancefloor unless they’ve downed seven pints of gin! So the best we can hope for is that the bar is within reach of the dancefloor, so that dancing is only a few steps away. There are times, though, when things aren’t quite that easy. I’m talking about the bar being in a separate room to the disco.
I’ve had it on numerous occasions – usually at old hotels – and, oh dear, what a waste of time. Sometimes there’s even a bloody corridor and a series of doors between the two! When that happens, you may as well just turn around and go home as you’re going to have as much chance of success as a snake in an arse-kicking competition. Honestly, don’t the people booking the venues factor in this sort of thing?
7 // FAMINE AND STARVATION…
With an arrival time somewhere around the late afternoon and early evening, I find I don’t quite have the time to eat before most gigs. Either that or I’m not that hungry yet. And I’m sure I’m not alone. Luckily, though, there’s usually a huge buffet with all manner of Iceland’s finest on display. “The food is now available” we announce, before everyone meanders over to the heaving trestle tables. However, I’m finding it less common that anyone will come over and offer me anything. Not even when just the dregs are left. Or when the hotel staff start collecting it all up to simply chuck away! I’m stood there, drooling like a dog in the Beano looking into a butcher’s window, but still nothing.
That said, there are times you’d prefer not to be asked. One of the rare occasions I was offered a bite was at a scabby old community centre – you know the kind, they’re the ones that actually smell of the 1970s! Anyway, my helper and I watched this somewhat unkempt middle-aged woman peel away the cellophane from the most unappetizing collection of sodden crisps and dog-eared sandwiches you could imagine. The icing on the cake – or more to the point, ash on the cake – was the fact she readied all these delicacies with a battered Marlboro Light hanging from her lower lip.
“Help yourselves boys,” she crowed. My friend informs me that I did actually say, “Nah, you’re alright.”
8 // I’M 92 YOU KNOW…
In they come, shuffling across the floor, bless ‘em. Hmm, where might a good place be to sit? How about right over in the corner away from the noise and lights? A sensible idea I’m sure you’ll agree. Shame then that almost every OAP at my gigs seems to think that sitting as close as they possibly can to the speakers is the best option, whilst spending the remainder of the evening complaining about it being “too loud” or, my favourite, not liking “all that thump thump thump”. It’s funny though, it’s never too loud when I’m playing something they like of course…
9 // NOTHING TO DO WITH ME…
I’m the DJ. I do the disco. My equipment is the stuff I’m using that you’ve seen me bring in from my car. If that packs up, or there’s an issue with it, then that’s my problem.
Things I didn’t bring in my from my car, though, include the lighting in the venue and the drinks that are available at the bar! Despite this, punters seem to think it’s down to me that the house spotlights suddenly come on halfway through the night, that there’s no real ales at the bar and that it’s my decision to call last orders because the place has to shut at midnight. I’m not “boring” because I’ve stopped playing, it’s called the law! I’ve not been paid yet, so I’d like to keep those paying me on side.
Whilst I’m on the subject of the end of the night, can I just complain about those punters who, despite the house lights being on for the last fifteen minutes, despite me not having played any music in that time, despite me having pulled all the leads out of my mixer, still come up and ask for a request!!
10 // HELP!
“Do you want a hand with that mate?”
I’m never quite sure if I want any help moving my kit. It does my head in lugging it about, but I still think I’d prefer to do that than have someone drunkenly drop a light, or scratch my Avensis with a speaker stand. Or, even worse, bugger their back and sue me for the pleasure! So, yes, I usually decline the offer. But it’s nice to have that offer.
The amount of times people have simply stood there watching while I struggle and juggle or am about to drop something is unbelievable. The worst one was at a sports club a few winters back. It was ice cold. I’d already put my back out but didn’t want to let the customer down. It was on the top floor. There was a lift, but it was about the size of a festival lavatory. Anyway, I got all the stuff up there and after the event I was shattered, cold and my back was shot. Whilst I struggled to take everything back down, via an inordinate number of lift journeys, and load up my car, the barman stood, hands on hips the entire time, just watching. No expression of compassion, no offer of help, just watching. By the time I was almost down I had a small number of choice words for him. Even then he didn’t react. DJing is a solo job after all, but the milk of human kindness had clearly been left out of the fridge that evening and gone off!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 93, Pages 30-33.