Monday, April 19, 2010

Airlines, Anchovies and Alpha DJs

Eyjafjallajökull (I can't get over how similar this is to my maternal great-grandmother's maiden name, Eyjafjallajökullstein) continues to erupt, disrupting air travel across the globe for a sixth straight day. However, the aggregate pressure from the International Air Transport Association, large commercial airlines and thousands of disoriented clubbers has yielded a decision to open large swaths of European airspace. This makes real the possibility of my actually reaching Lisbon for a gig at Lux Frágil on Friday. (While people make a big deal over the fact that Lux is co-owned by John Malkovich, I only deem it noteworthy because it has one of those giant chandeliers made of tampons hanging inside.)

Eager as I am to return to touring, I must confess this resumption of flights at the behest of the airline industry has me concerned that commerce is being prioritized above safety. Giovanni Bisignani, the head of the IATA and a skilled taunter of EU governments, said that the transportation crisis (or perhaps the volcano) was “really a failure of Europe." Personally, I think it would really, really be a failure of Europe if I found myself plummeting towards earth in an ash-stalled Airbus on Friday.

Speaking of failures of Europe, I'd like now to lodge a complaint against a specific breed of music nerd/"DJ" I tend to encounter primarily on this continent. Their preferred habitats are record stores and clubs, but this time around I had a rare interaction with one at a supermarket here in Berlin.

I was innocently procuring anchovies for today's lunchtime preparation of my favorite Great Grandma Eyjafjallajökullstein recipe when I heard my name called out from behind me in a German-accented voice. I turned around (fearfully, of course, since crippling guilt pervades every atom of my being and I figured I was in trouble for something) and found myself facing a large, hirsute man with a puffy black beard (the puffy beard marks the disco nerd as the red breast marks the robin). It turns out he was an acquaintance of "Darshan's" and had been at a Berlin gig we played earlier this month at Cookie's.

We had only been engaged in small talk for a minute or two before it started. "Zo," he began, "are you usually playing this sort of classic house music like you did at Cookie's when you DJ?" I answered honestly that we simply felt like playing that style on that night. "Mmmm, yes," he replied, "because I can't play those records anymore. When I began getting into all this music, in '93 to '95, I was buying all of these kinds of records. But now, I just can't listen to them anymore. They make me think of my adolescence or something." He closed his eyes and shook his head gently from side to side. "Not for me." We stood there in silence for a bit, me nodding mutely with a close-lipped smile frozen on my face, not knowing what to say. Eventually he excused himself, claiming that he needed to finish shopping with his girlfriend, and left. (I should note here that I had my suspicions about the "girlfriend" part, but this anomaly was confirmed when I narrowly evaded the pair in the sardine section.)

The truth is my Beardar (like radar, but for Beardos) is so exquisitely developed by now that I was already tensing up at his initial "Zo." Yet in spite of my considerable experience with these interactions, I always feel a bit ambushed and dumbfounded afterward. While I'm theoretically fine with someone giving me negative feedback about my music or "DJ" set, his timing (minutes after we met) and the context (amongst potentially-impressionable anchovies) made it feel like an assault. In fact, I think I'll "throw down" a therapeutic illustration:

The great mystery is what motivated this Beardo to volunteer such a harsh critique in the first place. What were his aims? Was he testing me, and if so, what exactly was the test and was there any way I could "pass?" Did he need to prove he had "cred," and the only way he knew how was to cut me down in terms of his own superior autobiography (complete with dates)? Was he trying to determine if I was a nice, normal guy or an arrogant and immodest crobag undeserving of my gigs (with the corollary that he was more deserving)? Or is he just compelled to sniff the ass of every other "DJ" he meets in order to establish who is the alpha dog (and by that I'm talking about this, not this).

The more I mull it over, the more I think this "alpha DJ" theory is closest to the truth. I find these interactions confusing because I have no desire or compulsion to establish my status in the "DJ" pack. I'm just not competitive as a "DJ." The truth is I don't really give a fuck ("IDRGAF"). I play music because there are records I enjoy sharing with others and I need the money. It's really quite simple.

Despite this, such interactions leave me feeling exhausted and defeated by their lose-lose nature. On the one hand, I have no interest in being subordinated by another "DJ," since I have faith in my own facility as a record-spinner and am free to play and relish whichever records I choose (plus hey, nobody wants to be subordinated by a "pinnwand"). On the other hand (or paw, since we're discussing alpha behavior), I have zero interest in trying to "win him over" or dominate him, because (remember?) IDRGAF.

Ah, well. Eyjafjallajökull allowing, I'm sure I'll have ample opportunity to research this phenomenon further.

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