The event, a birthday, was to be an intimate affair for 25 people and would take place in the afternoon of Sunday the 31st of January. I met with the client on a number of occasions to discuss their requirements, including music and special requests. A lively character who knew exactly what he wanted, I'd go as far as saying he was quite demanding, but I liked him a lot. The client had plenty of input into the kind of music they wanted playing and also requested a few party games to keep his guests entertained. I was informed that they would be a young audience who like to party, which usually has me politely declining, but on this occasion I was persuaded by the clients’ family to accept the booking after they guaranteed there would be a few older family members there to maintain order if required. The venue, the local village hall, was conveniently situated close to my home. So, despite my misgivings, I thought to myself: “it’s a daytime event, it’s easy to get to, I really liked the client... I'll do it!”
I always take time to prepare for any event and this one was to be no exception. Firstly I programmed the music so that I could easily access it during my set. All the music would be taken from my main digital music library but spending a little time collating the tracks into relevant digital crates makes things so much easier when performing. Next up were the party games. It's been a while since I've performed at an event that wanted a few games but, after some careful research, both online and with industry friends, I was confident that I was prepared with the required content.
Eventually the day of the party came around and I don't mind admitting I was feeling a bit nervous about it all. I'd not had the best night’s sleep and it was obvious that this event had put me under a kind of pressure I hadn't experienced in many years. I've stood on the pitch at Wembley Stadium to make matchday announcements, performed at music festivals to crowds in excess of 25,000 and even appeared on national radio to speak to 10 million people. But none of that mattered, it was all about today’s event and whether my nerves would hold out.
I arrived at the venue with plenty of time to set up my equipment, sound-check and even help out with setting up some tables, blowing a few balloons up and even making a few extra sandwiches for the buffet... which was a new one for me! The venue was a good-size room with a stage at one end and the usual facilities associated with a local village hall. Once everything was set up and in place, it looked perfect ahead of the guests arriving. I changed into my attire for the party before kicking off my warm-up set as guests began to arrive at the venue.
I could tell immediately this was going to be a lively crowd. From the moment the first guests walked through the doors they headed straight for the dancefloor where they proceeded to kick and pop all the balloons, bumping into each other whilst either running around or dancing in the strangest of ways. I thought to myself that I might have my work cut-out for me, one bad song and I could lose them… how was I going to maintain this pace for the entire party? I was used to guests arriving at a venue, grabbing a drink, speaking to other guests and generally taking things easy until later when they would hit the dancefloor but this crowd were like nothing I'd ever encountered before. They were shouting, screaming, running around everywhere and one guest even staggered over to my DJ booth and just stood there giggling at me whilst muttering some inaudible nonsense.
What was going on? The last event I performed at was at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. It was elegant, refined and the guests conducted themselves with the level of dignity I've come to expect. Had I been spoilt by the audiences there? Was I expecting too much of this crowd? Either way, I was alarmed at the way some of them were acting, especially so early into an event. A few guests even started to climb on to the stage and proceed to run around until several of the older guests intervened and removed them. I expected this event to be lively, but this was getting silly... and we were only 10 minutes in!
I've been a professional DJ for over 30 years and in the early part of my career I cut my teeth at some really rough venues, with some rowdy audiences, and more recently have performed at some exclusive venues in France where the clientele can be rude... well actually rude is an understatement... but none of that came close to what I was having to endure at this party! It was spiralling out of control and I had to do something quick... it was time to change the set. I needed to ensure the music was the best it could be in order to keep the guests interested on the dancefloor rather than anywhere else in the room... it was time to bring out the big guns!
I quickly changed the music from a warm-up set to my main set and with it came the big hits, the songs the client had requested and the ones that were my best chance at getting everyone on the dancefloor and keeping them there. At least until food was served... or the first party game was played! That's it... a party game... a sure-fire way to occupy the guests and avert attention from the stage area back to the dancefloor. So after a couple more songs it was time for a game... which was very well-received. I couldn't believe it, after everything that had just gone on for the last 10 minutes, the guests participated in the game in an almost hypnotic way. They were completely in the zone, totally in the game and transfixed at the prospect of winning the big prize.
The game ended and I used this moment of calm as an opportunity to announce that food would be served and for everyone to take their seats at the table. As the guests tucked in to the food I reflected on what had just happened over the last 25 minutes. From chaos came order and I needed to use that format for the rest of the party. I quickly programmed a selection of floor-fillers into 4/5 track sets that I would use between games and hoped that would allow me to get the balance right to ensure the guests were entertained in a controlled manner for the remainder of the event.
Food service was interesting. A combination of hands flying everywhere, grabbing the best of the morsels on offer, more shouting, a fair bit of screaming and even some crying! I took that as my cue to get things back under-way and did so using my new plan. A few songs to ease guests away from the table and back on to the dancefloor, followed by a party game, then a few songs and another game... the new formula was working! It had taken some doing but I had tamed the beast and it felt good. I had control of the room and could now guide the party accordingly.
As the party approached its conclusion I had one of the younger guests approach my DJ booth and deliver a range of lines we have all heard many times before: “My daddy's a DJ”, “Can I have a go?” and “I don't like this one” as well as a line I hadn't heard before, and don't really want to hear again if truth be told: “Can you play 'Hokey Cokey'...again?
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 101, Pages 32-36.