Getting Booked: The Hookup
Early in the week my buddy saw a friend of his from college posting about needing a DJ, as soon as he tagged me in I jumped on it. Turns out it was actually their friend that was the booking promoter. The first thing he wanted was a sample mix, as luck would have it I had just finished polishing off an audition mix for an international gig all week. Halfway in he booked me having liked what he heard. Boom.
A few days later he reached out to see if I could DJ last minute that night. Their scheduled guy was stuck in Florida because the airport had shut down. I couldn’t unfortunately, but the next best thing would be finding someone else who could get him out of the bad spot. Despite being out with friends I spent a good portion of the next 45 minutes or so hitting up all the DJs I knew while spamming my social networks. I ended up finding someone but the promoter was already set by then. Ohhh well. It would have been easy to simply decline and go back to my beer, but therein lies the gold in that extra 10%. It set a good first impression and a chance to help out another DJ in my network.
Gig Prep: Tracklist & Logistics
The week of the gig I spent a few hours putting together my setlist but made sure to grab some extra new tracks to drop. All in all I had about 15 hours of tracks in my prep list including the dozen or so crossover gems I procured from Beatport & Crooklyn Clan, much higher than the 2-3x I usually put together. It crossed my mind I had too much but this would actually come to benefit me greatly the night of the set.
By way of logistics, I backed up my setlist onto a key chain flash drive so I’d be all set in the event I needed to use my backup laptop. Since I wasn’t going to be using a standalone mixer I also made sure my S4’s RCA inputs were working and calibrated the gain so my levels wouldn’t be off. If I needed to use my phone in a pinch, I’d be ready.
Luckily the snow that was forecasted before the party was extremely light and let up by nightfall. I had an hour drive ahead of me so I needed to be fully prepared to leave early in the event of traffic and poor driving conditions. The gig was at midnight and I wanted to give myself a full hour to set up just in case something came up, this meant leaving at 9 pm to allot a half hour buffer for traffic & parking. I didn’t need to setup any sound gear but you never know.
Thankfully I found a free spot within a 5 minute walk of the venue. I grabbed a slice of pizza across the street and headed in w/out my gear since I didn’t know where I’d be able to put anything. I found the sound guy and introduced myself, there were live bands on but he said I could stick my gear back in the staging room.
As my buddies showed up I grabbed a beer and waited for the bands to finish, as usual they were behind schedule. I would end up starting a full half hour late at the whim of the stage clearing. Even then, once plugged in the sound tech was only receiving my left channel. No matter, we just went mono being how late it already was.
Once I finally hit play the tech faded me in. It’s not what I wanted as I had a five second James Brown clip to kick off with but it was well received regardless. I rolled right into the beginning of my audition set- a pairing of Rock redrums, Run DMC, and a Biggie overlay. The floor started hot and stayed hot over the next hour. My transitions were clean, on point, and the crowd was rolling HARD. I looked down and of course I forgot to hit the record button.. doh! Bunch of comments began coming in how well I was doing. One of the floor managers mentioned in passing that I was doing a good job. Score. A little later he asked if I wanted anything. My ‘water’ response is definitely not something he expected… Water? Just water? Yep. More points, seemingly. I wanted to be fully aware and have my wits about me this first go around. In the future maybe I’ll have a bourbon or two, but I usually don’t drink at gigs anyway.
About halfway through I lost a little steam. I hadn’t quite foreseen needing 3 hours of bangers! In the slicing and dicing of my hottest tracks I had burned through more than usual in less time. Now I was left endlessly scrolling through my playlist looking for the next track never quite happy with what I was finding.
Requests, Distracts galore
What was left were largely Pop/Hip-hop tracks that I was struggling to blend very well. Many of my remaining transitions would be cuts, fades, and spin backs. This is fine, especially for the crowd and how much they were already rolling but my buddy’s friend over my shoulder was making endless commentary. “Oh the vibe is dying you feel it?” “We both know that wasn’t your best transition..” “Yo play some Skrillex.” “There’s the drop, here it is! Ohh you missed it.” Etc.. This was definitely NOT helping. I had to ask him to leave more than once to let me focus.
I was able to keep rolling until 3 at which point I began looking for a signal that the bar would be closing up. In my haste to setup I had unfortunately not yet hooked up a mic so I texted the promoter to ask the sound guy to make an announcement but no response. In the meantime I was throwing around singalong throwbacks one after another not knowing which one would be my last. Ten minutes later I hooked up a mic as I got confirmation from the floor manager that I could continue for another 15 minutes. More throwbacks ensued but it didn’t matter, everyone was jamming out. Even the bartenders were throwing me smiles and dancing around.
Pack-up, Bar-staff Input
Most of the night the room was packed, all the way through last call at 3:15. As I was packing up my gear the floor manager came by and gave me compliments on a solid night. “This is the kind of sound the owner is looking for, I’ll be sure to pass your name along” Boom! They’d apparently been getting a lot of complaints about the DJs lately. I got his name and gave him my card to pass along. Not two minutes after the bouncer comes up and piles on the compliments. Apparently I made his night easier and proceeded to also say ‘it’s the exact sound the owner is looking for’. “That’s what I just said!” says the manager. Bang on baby. Five minutes later, shout outs from the bartenders on the set and working through a bunch vibes into the mix.
By the time I got to my car it’s about 4, in the end a dozen or so friends came out which was awesome. Getting home at 5 wasn’t so bad given how well everything had gone.
Next morning the promoter reaches out saying how he loved my opening rock tracks, that the bartenders were blowing up his phone raving about the night and he wants to bring me back. Two days later my follow-up gig is booked just three weeks after my first.