So last week’s schedule was really busy for me, in terms of live sets– something I don’t really do too often and find somewhat hard to enjoy. My anxieties get really in the way of my concentration– mixing and selection-wise. But I’m starting to sorta realize that I get more irritated and nervous whenever I spin at a venue I’ve never spun at. These are when my main concerns come into play, mostly dealing with what type of soundsystem the venue has, room acoustics and the house mixer.
Like I don’t wanna throw any local Miami venues on the boat here, especially since those owners might get to know me sooner or later, but these are just helpful tips and constructive critiques that they could either use or not. It’s just some of them need improvement, especially when dealing with room acoustics.
Main booth at Eve (formely White Room) has a couple of sound issues, because the venue is shaped like an L, and the booth is in the lower part of the L, and there’s no PA where you’re at to hear yourself. So if you mess up on a beatmatch, it’s harder for you to notice. And I don’t really like hearing cues for both channels on my headphones, because it’s hard to concentrate on that, while the main sound is playing throughout the club. Anyway, that’s the main booth. But the small red room, where they used to hold Exposure Mondays, has nice acoustics, and the dj booth’s location in that room, has a PA facing the DJ, so you can hear yourself perfectly. I spun a small set in there for the Numbers Showcase during Winter Music Conference while Hudson Mohawke was spinning in the main floor. Got compliments for that set! That was nice.
I’ve spun at Bar a couple of times, too, and that place makes me the most nervous for some reason. The DJ booth is in a really awkward corner on the right. PA system is kinda behind you on the main stage to the left, and is blocked by this wall behind the booth. Really awkward acoustics when you’re spinning from that little corner, on top of the mixer being kinda crappy. It’s a 2-channel mixer with a really weird delay from what’s played on the decks to what you hear on the PA. It’s like less than a second delay, but still. And for you to hear the channel completely and fully, you have to put the fader up all the way. I don’t like that, especially when fading into another song. I don’t know. Maybe I’m too picky.
Maybe I should hold my venue gripes for another post, and just do a rundown of my sets this past week.
No matter the quarrels I have with sound, when I’m asked to spin, it’s hard for me to decline any kind of opportunity like that, especially if I’m trying to harbor more attention on this blog and radio show.
The Fin Du Monde show, run by Smut + Bass head honcho Dave Betamax, celebrated its last party, with sets by Chalk, Organicarma, Dave, Bats and me. Though, I actually never played. The show was running like an hour and a half late, and the party was dying down a bit by the time Dave finished his set. I just decided to leave since it didn’t seem I was gonna play for any crowd.
I really only got to watch Organicarma and Dave’s set. The DJ setup had the decks on the mainstage, which I’ve never spun on. Maybe the sound from that vantage point might be clearer, but I wouldn’t know I guess.
That night, it seems Dave wanted to offer a different spin on the DJ set, by putting a drummer alongside the DJ. On paper, it sounds cool. Maybe it was the acoustics of the room, or maybe the drummer banged his drums too loudly, but the whole sound of it was too loud, overmodulated and kinda awkward. The whole idea was for the drummer to keep the same rhythm as the backing track, but some of those tracks are complex tunes. The girl from Organicarma played “You Tell Me” by Boddika, which is kind of a 130 bpm electro tune. I could see the drummer struggling to keep up with it. Cool concept overall, though, it might need some work to flesh out.
Dave’s set was really solid, as always. He’s undoubtedly an excellent mixer who uses a lot of ambience to transition from track to track, especially if they’re drastically different bpms. I think once he played a 140 bpm tune and then mixed it with Afrika Hi-Tech’s “Out in the Streets“, which is pretty much a 160 footwork track. And I didn’t even notice until I counted the beats in my head. Fuck I didn’t know he changed tempos that quickly during the set!
So yeah, unfortunately I didn’t spin at that one. It happens. I felt really guilty for leaving that I even sent Luis, S+B co-owner, and Dave a facebook message apologizing.
Next night, I spun at Get Low in the Tropical Bass patio. I’ve never spun at Get Low, or at Vagabond really, and I have to say, the staff working there are incredibly accommodating. I’ve honestly never had that kinda treatment ever as a DJ. On top of the equipment and PA setup being ridiculously on-point. I’ve never felt more comfortable with a live set. Not a huge crowd in the back, since everyone was in the main room getting hyped for Plastician, but it got the attention of some people.
I played a lot of 123-130 bpm tunes, ranging from Funky to Kuduro to Garage. Really dug that set a lot. I even got a request: Blawan – Iddy, which was actually the last track of the night for me. Shout-out to the dude who requested that tune. Really had no tropical rhythm whatsoever, but still a great track to blend in.
After that, I went inside and saw some of Plastician’s set, which started off pretty strong because he was playing some classic grime tunes, but even I wasn’t responding that well to it after a bit. He just decided to play more aggressive, brostep vibes and obviously people were all over it. I’m not huge on those jams, so I went outside and ate food. (Curry Parmesan Truffle Fries)
Overall, though: my Get Low set and experience was the best I ever had.
Saturday I had a gig at this place called The Stage. Brand new venue in the Design District. It was a small show meant to showcase local talent, and some DJs from the station were set to spin in between bands. Place is REALLY cool. Reminds me a lot of the Awarehouse a couple of streets down and West. I guess the show was supposed to be like an art walk afterparty, and yeah– a ton of people came through after 10. I was the first to go up, and I spun a set for like an hour and 45 minutes. For the first time ever, I was playing to a crowd who really had no affiliations with dubstep or bass music. So I saw it as a chance to play what I wanted. It didn’t work out like that, though. People weren’t responding to stuff like Bok Bok or Kode9. For the first time as a DJ, I had to really read a crowd, and play music accordingly. The selection process becomes difficult, but manageable. The crowd went kinda nuts for “Shawty” by Teeth, off of his recent 502 release, and “Boy U Got Me” by Brenmar, off of the Truancy Compilation. Both tracks had familiar samples, a Beyonce and Ashanti snippet, respectively. That familarity, and a heavy bass rhythm in the background, and kinda got everyone in a different mood.
Again, though, acoustics in that place, are awkward especially from the DJ booth. There needs to be a PA facing the DJ booth so I can hear myself. I know we’re just DJs, but Tony Wilson, who started Factory Records and jumpstarted the now-defunct but legendary rave space Hacienda in Manchester, said: “For the first time, people where cheering for the DJ, not the bands”.
Please, venues: take care of your DJs.