DJ Hell

February 12, 2009

I used to fancy myself as a DJ. Still do.  I went to a PTA disco the other night and couldn’t help but sneer at the guy on the decks from the safety of the bar. The crowd didn’t seem to mind his questionable musical taste or the fact he couldn’t mix for shit though. It is the easiest thing in the world to get a bunch of pissed 40-something parents, desperate to have a great time in the two hours before they have to get back for the babysitter, dancing. 

I couldn’t mix for shit either, but I did have a great bag of tunes, could throw in some curveballs, and I knew how to fill a floor. And keep it filled. I used to play at ULU (when Ricky Gervaise was ENTS officer – but that’s another tale). I did a few sets at the Borderline and one at the Highbury Garage. I loved it. For a wannabbe musician this was easy. 

Then it all came tumbling down. Horribly, horribly so. I’ve never been able to return to the wheels of steel. And it’s all Siouxsie Sioux’s fault.

A guy who had heard one of my triumphant sets (guys stripped to the waist dancing on the speakers) called me and asked if I was interested in being resident DJ at an after gig night he was setting up at the Shepherds Bush Empire. The first night would be after a Siouxsie and the Banshees gig (this was about 1994 when they were still hauling their sorry asses out on tour). The idea was that I’d play after the band had finished, keeping the punters drinking (and hopefully dancing). If it was a success it would be a regular slot.

I had a few reservation about playing to a load of old goths, but I couldn’t turn it down. Especially as he was offering me a share of the bar takings.

The place was (surprisingly packed). The plan was I’d set up in the mixing booth after the band had finished their set. I settled myself in the VIP lounge taking advantage of the free drink, easing myself into the superstar DJ life. This was quickly cut short by the promoter suddenly appearing to tell me there had been a change of plan. The Banshee’s road crew were behaving like tossers and wouldn’t let them set the decks up anywhere near the mixing desk. So my set was cancelled. No worries though, I’d still get paid and I could help myself to the rider.

So I cracked open another beer and wandered out to watch the Banshee’s (dull) set.

Just as they were building to a crescendo, I saw the promoter run into the bar looking rather panicked, eyes wildly scanning the room. They met mine. My stomach lurched. He ran towards me and grabbed my arm. “Get your records you’re on in five minutes”.

I followed him into the bowels of the building. He quickly explained  they were going to set the decks up in the wings of the stage and I’d play from behind the curtains. I picked up my box of records, arranged in set order, and followed him up a flight of stairs.

The band passed me on their way down off the stage, a brief glimpse of the ice-maiden. I could hear the crowd baying for an encore. Up another flight of stair and then the stage where my decks would be waiting for me in the wings.

Except they weren’t in the wings. They were bang in the centre of the stage, just behind the curtain. 

I could still hear the crowd shouting for more. I fumbled for my first record – a techno remix of the Sisters of Mercy’s Floorshow which I thought the goths would like. AND THE CURTAINS OPENED.

I stared out at 2000 expectant faces. 2000 Banshees fans waiting for the object of their adulation to come back. But what they saw was me, trembling behind a set of decks. For a split second they were bemused, this quickly turned to anger. The booing started. Then the rain of plastic glasses.

I cued the first song, hoping the music would calm the goth beast. I got the next record out, set it up on the deck. And nothing happened. THE SECOND DECK WASN’T WORKING. I looked around wildly for the promoter. He’d disappeared. The first record ended. Like a school disco, I had to lift it off the turntable and fumble to put the next record on. The booing subsided into laughter. The torrent of plastic and lager continued. One bounced off the deck, making the record jump off the grooves. I scrambled in my bag for another.

This pantomime continued or a while. The goths gradually got bored of aiming their beer at me. Realising there was going to be no encore they slouched towards the exits. I was finally put out of my misery when the curtains closed and the house lights went up.

I gathered my records and headed backstage. I found the promoter at the after gig party. “How’d it go?” I didn’t even bother to explain. He said he’d be in touch about the next gig and send me my money.

He didn’t.

I never played again. I still break into a cold sweat when I think about those baying fucking goths. And I hate Siouxsie fucking Sioux

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4 Responses to “DJ Hell”

  1. And I thought that goths were totally harmless (twats, but harmless).

    Awesome story by the way.

    I have only had just the one DJing experience although it doesn’t even come close to the impressiveness and subsequent trauma of your experience. I was asked to DJ at a big private party after the professional guy they hired fell through. I was told that he was going to lend me his decks but that didn’t happen either so I was left with a 5 stack CD player that couldn’t be loaded while it was playing anything. So after every 5 songs (more if I used a good mix CD) I had to stop the music and quickly load the next batch up. It was a joke. And this one drunk guy kept on insisting that I play something by The Cars. Who the hell requests The Cars?!?

  2. indieanorak said

    Inappropriate music at parties is a whole other subject. I once went to a party with a friend who is a HIV counsellor and they played “the Streets of Philadelphia” by Bruce Springsteen – great song to get a party going!
    As a teenager I once killed a party stone dead by endlessly playing Bella Lugosi’s Dead.

  3. When I was at Uni (mid-late 90s) it was a running joke that there would always be somebody who would insist on playing Radiohead and/or Jeff Buckley. And somebody always did. Great music, but not for parties.

  4. Harry Butterman said

    I went to a 50th birthday do recently (tho i’m much younger) and the band they’d hired just played Leonard Cohen covers. No really. Rockin do. Love the blog Indieanorak!

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