Sunday, August 15, 2010

Setting It Up

I played a local gig last Friday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to a crowd of twenty-something "hipsters" who (lucky for me) apparently just discovered house music the week before the party.  The concrete box in which the party was held was stifling (no A/C) and the sound was awful, but the youngsters danced anyway, yelping enthusiastically at even the most overplayed house anthems.  I should also note the party was called "Let's Play House." House, apparently, is back - meaning we can expect a New York Times article about its nascent resurgence in about 18 months.

On the down side, the promoter paid me a fifth less than promised (ever trusting, I didn't open my payment envelope and discover this until the following day), an out-of-control friend was doing lines of cocaine off the floor throughout my set, and the "DJ" following me yelled the following line into my ear as he took over: "You set it up perfectly!"

I'd like to touch on why this line irks me. It's one I've heard before.  Contrary to what this "DJ" might have thought, I did not "set it up perfectly."  I did what is known as "playing my records."  Sure, perhaps this "DJ"  thought he was paying me a compliment, but I tend to see the glass as half-empty (and filled with putrid tar-like substance rather than the resplendent, pink, freshly-squeezed watermelon juice commonly associated with the metaphor) and therefore receive such a statement in the worst possible way: as a passive-aggressive, pecking-order establishment move typical of alpha DJs.

The way I see it, if you tell the a "DJ" who plays before you that he or she "set it [the party] up perfectly [for your "DJ" set]," it implies he or she played records in your service.  Viewed in this light, instead of treating the preceding "DJ" as a peer whose set is a distinct and important part of the night, he or she is reduced to someone prepping and arousing the crowd for your arrival and your more-important "DJ" set in much the same way a "fluffer" might prepare and/or maintain the arousal of a porn actor's you-know-what (and by "you know what" I mean "weenis," and by "weenis" I mean "baloney poney") for an all-important scene.  And let's be honest: no one really wants to be the fluffer.  (Of course, I realize there are such things as "warm-up slots" and "chill-out slots" and other temperature-based and hyphenated roles that are vital to the ebb and flow of a successful party.)

Anyway, there's little else to report about the party.  It was a short set of 90 minutes and relatively easy.  Therefore, in lieu of a more detailed write-up, I will leave you with a transcription of a short conversation I had with a Hasid on a return flight from Europe about a month ago.  The exchange amused me at the time and I scribbled it on the back of a xeroxed page from the American Airlines Passenger Service Manual page (Section 220-70SH, Page 9) I found in the plane's galley.  It's nothing special, but I figure it's time to clean up my desk and that means throwing the paper out.  Rather than lose all memory of the exchange, I'll dump it here.


I had been waiting on line for one of the mid-cabin lavatories to become available when the Hasid ambled up the aisle from Business Class.  He had wild eyes and wet lips, grinning at no one in particular and loudly blowing his nose.  Despite the obvious queue leading towards the rear of the plane, the man walked directly up to me and, gesturing at the closed lavatory door, asked, "Were you here first?"

We heard the whoosh of a flush, and the lavatory door opened.  The man who had been waiting ahead of me in line slipped in after the erstwhile occupier exited the toilet.  I was next.

"Yes, I was after him," I answered.
"I'm not  sure he was after me," said the Hasid.
"Whatever," I replied. "Go ahead if it's urgent."
"It's not urgent, but I'm very quick."

I let his non sequitur claim of briskness in the john slide, especially as I was becoming increasingly disturbed by the way he was staring at my chest and grinning.

"What is WNYU?" he asked, referring to the design on my T-shirt.
"It's a radio station," I answered, slightly relieved. "Are you from New York City?"
"It's the radio station of NYU."
"My alma mater," replied the Hasid.

I must admit I was nonplussed by his ignorance of WNYU, considering the fact that the station has been around since 1949 and has call letters that are essentially an eponym of the school's name. Even if he missed those connections, my shirt's accompanying graphic of the Washington Square Arch should have tipped him off.  Nonetheless, I soldiered on with the small talk, if only to distract myself from the increasing pressure in my bladder.

"What did you study?" I asked.
"English," he replied quickly.
"A useless degree," I said, smiling. "I did the same."
"It guarantees unemployment!"
"True. So what do you do?"
"I'm an author."

So, he was employed in a field directly related to the degree he just proclaimed guaranteed unemployment?  I was starting to feel like a urine-filled Abbott to his Kosher Kostello.

"What did you write?" I asked.
"Novels and short stories."
"Fiction, then."
"Non-fiction," replied the man.
"Short stories that are...non-fiction?"
"Yes.  Stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things."

I felt my sphincter clench a bit at this, most likely as a result of his description of his stories (and the way he drew out the word "extraordinary" to a full fifteen seconds), but also as a result of my now-blinding need to urinate.  Thankfully, the lavatory door opened.

"May I go in?" he asked.
"Please," I replied through gritted teeth, and gestured expansively towards the foul-smelling booth.

A minute later, the door opened.  The man walked out and leaned towards me conspiratorially.  I instinctively backed up, fearing he hadn't washed his hands and might touch me, causing me to wet my pants.

"I just wanted to clarify something," he said. "I wasn't asking to go before you.  I'm quite sure I was here before you."

I nodded, slipped past him into the safety of the lav, and locked the door.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Philly Cream

I had a fun gig in Philly last week.  I also love driving through New Jersey at night and not having to get to airports or sit on planes.

The crowd in Philadelphia was ideal: hungry and alluringly naive (like the mythical "farmer's daughter"), but somehow in possession of a disco instinct (her father is a gay farmer who came out when she was three and grows only opium poppies).  Such a crowd is rare and usually cultivated, like opium poppies, by a few optimistic, trendy/cool kids doing something new in their city.  Sure, the crowd will soon grow jaded and the kids will turn into various variations of me, but let's try to enjoy the now.

Speaking of the now, I'm going to be playing in Munich and Plock (that's Poland) this week.  I may or may not report back on that.  My recent blogular silence confirms an inner conflict, since I've come to the conclusion that I can't really report on anything truly scandalous (or pick apart in detail the doltish promoters, agents and clubbers I'm forced to deal with in this "profession") without implicating the hands that feed.  After all, I make my living from promoters, agents and clubbers.

I suppose I'll struggle with this issue a bit and eventually resolve it one way or the other.
  1. One Way: It's OK to be a douche and I hate the music business.  I'm naming names.
  2. The Other: I should be thankful. Plus, I'll stop getting gigs if the wrong people read what I write about them.
  3. The Third Path: No one reads this except my dad.  I'll just send him private emails.
  4. The Fourth Dimension: I'll become the Perez Hilton of "DJing" (but somehow less hated - maybe more like a mix of Hilton and a waiter at Ed Debevic's) and people will book me at parties just to get trashed in my blog afterward.  Even though this is a long shot, it's the reality I wish for the most.