Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Times They Are a-Changin'

Perhaps it's mere habit from growing up in a relatively liberal household in the New York metropolitan area (or simply because I don't know how to change my Web browser's homepage), but I've always chosen the venerable New York Times as my go-to source for world news. I value the journalistic integrity of its writers and editors and generally believe (and parrot) every single word I read in it. Bearing this in mind, you can imagine the shock and alienation I experienced this morning upon reading an article entitled "Europe's Cloud of Ash Casts Pall Over World of Music":
Travel disruptions from Europe’s volcanic ash problem have brought a heavy measure of turmoil to the classical music world. More than in many other fields, its practitioners — conductors, singers, pianists and other instrumentalists — depend on plane flights. Opera casts are increasingly international. Concert promoters, especially in this country, place a heavy premium on foreign talent. After all, where does “jet set” fit better than adjacent to “conductor”? [enraged emphasis mine]
Now tell me: what sort of a crobag thinks "jet set" fits better adjacent to "conductor" than it does to "DJ?" I was flabbergasted that the Old Gray Lady (respected journal of language Urban Dictionary notes this nickname for the Times is "now often used with a disparaging tone") completely ignored "DJs" like myself, whose Sasquatch-sized carbon footprint dwarfs any conductor's. In fact, the only non-classical musicians featured (aside from a single titillating mention of Dee Dee Bridgewater) were the pop-music "pinnwands" associated with the Morrissey-vexing Coachella festival:

Coachella, which has a daily attendance of about 75,000, began Friday and runs through Sunday. Festival organizers said the major headliners — including Jay-Z, Pavement, Public Image Limited, Gorillaz and Faith No More — were safely in the country.

Frankly, I am disgusted that the Geriatric Ashen Whore saw fit to affirm that Faith No More, a (US-based) band that broke up in 1998, were "safely in the country" for Coachella while ignoring the countless stranded "DJs" like myself who were missing vital gigs (in my case, a one-off in Arnold Schwarzenegger's hometown of Graz, Austria). Well, faith no more, indeed: I intend to contact the Computer-Aussenseiter-Gruppe (the German version of Geek Squad) first thing Monday morning to assist me in changing my computer's homepage to my second-favorite news source, Tageblatt of Luxembourg.

Moving on, I must confess I am in awe at how quickly this Icelandic ash-hole has, like Björk before it, thrown so many lives into disarray. With nearly all flights in Europe canceled, non-resident "DJs" like myself are unable to reach our gigs, and a curious phenomenon is occurring as a result: clubs are using whatever spinners are locally available, much like what might happen if Michael Pollan finally wrote a book on minimal techno instead of rehashing "The Omnivore's Dilemma" over and over. Fortunately for me, Berlin is full of clubs, and as a result I was booked at the last minute to play records with my ex-friend and music collaborator "Darshan" at a 3-to-5 a.m. set at Watergate, a gorgeously-situated venue in Kreuzberg.

"Darshan" and I had been told by our agent there was a 50 Euro buyout, so instead of our usual dinner of water and a split bag of Nic Nacs, we ran out to the nearby pan-Asian doucheteria (from their Web site: "Established Western interior design rituals have been modified to accord with Feng Shui tenets") and racked up a bill of €49.20. After leaving a generous (by Berlin standards) 80 Eurocent tip, we proceeded to the club, whereupon our arrival the manager informed us that the fee our agent had promised us was somewhat higher than what the club expected to pay. After a few tense minutes of negotiation (we employed our usual tactic of standing silently and staring at the floor), we were told the promised fee would be honored, but at a cost: we would have to pay for our own hibiscus blossoms and sauerkraut juice-strawberry-basil shakes. Lesson learned: don't spend your buyout before it's paid.

Even though I'm burning to write a line like "Nixon had an easier time with Watergate," the truth is it was a pretty easy night. There's not much to report, nor are there many photos, since the same cruel despot who deprived us of our buyout instructed me not to take any photos (I can only assume this has something to do with Germany's privacy laws). Nevertheless, I sneaked a few in, including a readout on the club's decibel meter confirming we were in compliance with the house rule of playing no louder than the grunts of tennis star Maria Sharapova:

I also got a shot of the lights, which (by Tron standards) were more than adequate:

And finally, the insanely enthusiastic crowd, just before they all dozed off:

Suffice to say the high point of our set occurred while I was playing Bottin's "No Static" and a smug-looking crobag with oversized hipster glasses summoned me to the periphery of the DJ booth:

Him: You know this Bottim track?
Me: It's "Bottin."
Him: Yes, do you know this Bottim track is going perfectly with a mix of Michael Jackson "Say Say Say?"
Me: ...
Him: You see then, I must do a mash-up with it! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!

He then retreated backwards, apologizing all the while and making some sort of exaggerated, "this food is delicious!" charade with his mouth and fingers. It was an oddly compelling performance.

We were home by 5:30 am, and like the line from the Elderly Light-Black Slut article I began this post with - "That violinist onstage this weekend may be addled by a 14-hour drive" - "Darshan" left the apartment an hour later for a 14-hour train ride to his next gig in Milan.

Take note, New York Times: the gaping, post-Björk ash-hole that plagues the skies of Europe has casualties that extend far beyond the borders of the classical music world and Coachella.

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