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ARTICLE
One of the most iconic movie shots of all time is that from the inside of a car as it drives along Las Vegas boulevard at night. Neon signs and huge LED screens are hardly unique, but just a few seconds of footage instantly identifies the infamous city we all know and love from film and TV. For me, the camera panning the sights at night from a car seat with intense lights reflecting on the dashboard and with glare bouncing around the wind shield is a work of art.

Many consider Las Vegas to be wonderful. Then there are those who think it’s tacky. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who has made the trip and then thought it tacky; most who visit come away captivated by its charms. I have now been lucky enough to visit four times – always for work. I mean, it’s not my fault that the entertainment capital of the world hosts huge entertainment expos (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

Last year I was on a Zoom call with Jason Walsh (president of the US Disc Jockey Association) and I told him how much I enjoyed achieving a personal bucket list item, driving an open-top American muscle car down that famous strip at night, taking in all the familiar sights in real life (remember though, the primary reason I go for is work). Jason then told me about his association’s plan to bring a purpose-built, truly mobile DJ setup all the way from Seattle. It would give DJs the unique chance to play to a live audience whilst driving up and down the strip. My mind was blown.

The best way to visualise this idea is to think of the Popemobile (if you’ve never heard of it, do a quick Google search) and imagine yourself DJing from it. A ‘DJ-mobile’, if you will.

I was somewhat relieved when I first saw images of the van Jason planned to use – thankfully there was a lot more room than I’d expected! I knew this was an opportunity I could not miss. A chance to perform a proper DJ set to people from all over the world, whilst being driven through all those iconic sights and experiencing what it’s like to be a properly mobile DJ.

Within an hour of that Zoom call finishing I had secured enough interested DJs to join me for an all-British journey – six of us were set up to share a two-hour set in this venture, which sounded completely and utterly insane.
As the experience itself got closer, two of our DJs dropped out due to other commitments. I wasn’t too concerned, as we’d booked a two-hour slot, so each of our 20-minute sets would now be extended by 10 minutes – and we would be joined by Jason.

The DJ-mobile


Now, I have always known that Seattle features a lot of rain. And that Las Vegas, located in a desert, does not. I also know that the two cities are located on the west side of the USA. It’s difficult for us in Britain to imagine the vast distances our American cousins know. Most journeys between major UK cities are done in no time – indeed, I live well under an hour from four pretty large cities.

So, even though it doesn’t look far on a map, the journey the DJ-mobile needed to undertake from its home to Vegas was significantly further than John O Groats to Land’s End! The cost of driving the thing down would be significant. The expenses to cover its owner’s stay in Vegas were bound to be considerable. Yet the price to take part worked out at little over £100 each.

The vehicle is the type of van that we don’t have in the UK, a kind of mini truck. And while it’s not the prettiest thing, the DJ-mobile is very effective at its job. It looks very impressive from the outside and you can clearly see that it functions as a giant DJ booth. For anyone who hasn’t worked it out, there’s a large screen advertising exactly what it does.

By now I’m sure you’ll be wondering about the sound system.

This is all located at the rear of the truck, simply strapped down with ratchet straps. In order to project sound, the rear door is propped open – which was exactly my first concern. How safe is it to bundle five DJs, a photographer and Sophie (Steve’s other half) into the back of an open-ended vehicle whilst it drives around? And what are the legalities of driving a vehicle with multiple passengers who aren’t wearing seat belts, aren’t even sitting on seats (Toni spent most of the journey on a cool box) and actually spend most the journey standing up and walking around?

By the time it was our turn, the vehicle had already been stopped and checked over by the Las Vegas Police Department. We got our answer: yeah, that’s OK, off you go. This must be the case for most places it goes, I suppose. I couldn’t help thinking if you tried this in Blackpool, you’d be stopped and the vehicle impounded before you could say, “Go on, I’ll play your request officer.”

The Experience


We joined the vehicle at the entrance to New York New York, an iconic hotel at the top end of the strip. Clambering onboard with our laptops we immediately found an issue. Until that point, the on-board Pioneer controller had only been used by DJs armed with USBs, and it wasn’t the model we expected.

The only DJ amongst us who regularly works with USBs was Steve and even he had come armed with a trusted laptop. There was a certain amount of messing around to get connected and this reduced our time slot, effectively taking us back to 20 minutes each. It was a real frustration – if we’d known, we’d have been better prepared.

I was first to play. Having tried, and failed, to get the correct patch for my laptop to work with the controller, I simply used a spare channel and worked without the benefit of all the controller features. This is something we can all do, though many of us prefer not to. And I now know that mixing on a laptop without a controller, whilst standing on a moving, swaying and bouncing vehicle, surrounded by DJs you respect and admire, is quite an art form.
Beat matching was about as ambitious as I was going to get. Using loops and effects was something I could live without.

I have a love of both house music and classic disco, particularly nu-disco and funky house. My chosen first track was Jet-Boot Jack’s mash up, ‘Mo Money Mo Problems’ vs ‘I’m Coming Out’. I continued in the range of 115 to 130 BPM and, all things considered, I thought I did an OK job!

My personal mission was to play music that would be both unfamiliar and familiar to anyone who heard us. Both Steve and Nigel took a similar approach, playing mostly dance tunes. However, Fabio finished our ‘show’ with a different flavour and played a cracking garage set, a refreshing change of course. At the end of my set I handed over to Steve, leaving me free to take in the experience and watch the reactions of people having their evening interrupted by several thousand watts of British DJs.

People watching was a lot of fun. Mostly there was an initial ‘what the heck’ look. They would then stare at the truck for a while until it all fell into place. A huge grin would then break out, followed by lots of arms pumping in the air. We couldn’t hear anything they said or shouted, but they seemed to appreciate our efforts. I’ve since heard that there were some more extreme reactions involving people flashing parts of their bodies, but I’m glad to say that wasn’t what we experienced.

Our journey came to an end and I look back on the experience as one of my favourite activities, ever. There is nothing sane about DJing standing up in a moving vehicle. But being a truly mobile DJ even for just a short time, in one of the most glamorous places on earth, is something very few will ever experience. I’ll certainly never forget it!
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 114, Pages 66-69.
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