(Migrated from Myspace.)
Well, the manifesto had its day and its theoretical uses. I get so analytical sometimes, but I can’t help it. I’m an academic.
Today I’m reflecting on my DJ set last night at Hot Jam and my experience DJ’ing Saturday night for Enter the Blues. Here’s my Hot Jam set list, if you’re curious:
On The Sunny Side Of The Street – Roy Milton
Trouble Blues – Joe Turner
Come On Over To My House – Julia Lee And Her Boyfriends
Baby Don’t You Tear My Clothes – Harlem Hamfats
Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Kay Starr featuring Novelty Orchestra
The Stolen Alphabet – String Swing
Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt & Stephan Grappelli
For Dancers Only – Junior Mance (out of towners jam)
Old Man River – Ernie Andrews
If You’re A Viper – Harlem Hamfats
Mardi Gras Boogie – Joe Turner
Julia’s Blues – Julia Lee And Her Boyfriends
St. Louis Blues – Louis Armstrong
Rock Me Baby – Etta James
Poison Ivy – Willie Mabon
Gal from Joe’s – Erskine Hawkins
Ridin’ And Jivin’ – Earl Hines
Hesitation Blues – Wingy Manone
Teardrops From My Eyes – Ruth Brown
Barrelhouse Bessie From Basin Street – Bob Crosby
Honeysuckle Rose – Kay Starr featuring Novelty Orchestra
‘Taint Me – Roy Milton
Coleslaw – Jesse Stone & His Orchestra
Shoe Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy – Ella Fitzgerald
(and after yells of “one more song,” I whipped this out on the fly)
Hound Dog – Big Mama Thornton
So. During the dance, Jesse shared with me that there were some HJ folks who had previously voiced their doubts about my abilities as a DJ. They thought I always just played “my thing” and that’s it. You know, old school chunky jams, and probably too many songs with crackle playing over the top. But last night’s set didn’t include one tune by Basie, Ellington, Goodman, Hampton, Lunceford, Henderson, etc. etc. etc. (not counting Frim Fram Sauce, which I think of as Ella).
Nima came over to compliment me on my set early on in the dance, and did so again as I was leaving. Jesse complimented me more than once, Solomon Douglas complimented me last night and Saturday night, and so did Mike Legett–everybody seemed really happy with what I’d played. It felt great to get that kind of positive feedback.
I can understand some people having reservations about what I’ve generally played when I’ve DJ’d around town. I like a certain type of music more than most others in the scene probably do. But I also have what I think is a pretty varied taste in music. I’ve been searching out all the DJ opportunities I can get in order to practice the craft and improve my skills at reading the floor. I think last night that really came together for me for the first time. I was paying the closest attention to the floor as I ever have before, and tried hard to create a mood, a direction, to keep things interesting. I tried to take the dancers places by playing music that excited the different people on the floor and made them want to dance the next one. I tried to switch up the feeling and the tempo to keep everyone interested. When the crowd started to thin around 10:30, I searched through my top-rated songs and tried to pick the one-two punch that would get everybody who was left in the house on the floor and excited. (That would be Gal from Joe’s followed by Ridin’ and Jivin’.) I felt that I was successful in what I’d been trying to do, that the crowd was responding to what I was playing, and it felt GREAT. I think that last night I reached a new level of awareness of the floor and understanding of how to use my music collection to reach different people. I hope I can keep it up.
Almost all of my 90 eMusic downloads for this month were specifically chosen to prepare for my sets at Enter the Blues. So I got all this great new bluesy stuff, and I consciously tried to choose songs that were both bluesy and lindy-friendly at the same time. It was fun discovering new music and artists, and diversifying my collection to include a new style. I think that this weekend I proved that I’m not limited to a certain style, and that I have the adaptability to play to a different crowd. However, I won’t play songs that I don’t like. Every tune you’ve ever heard me spin is one that I’d want to dance to myself. I consider that a point of integrity and of pride as a DJ.
So, if you weren’t there, or if you’re still not convinced, don’t write me off yet. I haven’t actually been actively DJ’ing for all that long (maybe 6 months now?) and I’ve got plenty of room to grow and adapt, and to keep expanding my collection. And it’s my mission to learn to do this really, really well–to help make sure everyone on the dancefloor walks away saying “MAN, that was a great time!”