In And Out In A-Minute-and-Five

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Hip Hop Party Style - The DMC style. - shoot, even the electrohipstermash-up it what you will. I'm referring to party/club DJing where you're in the record, then out of the record, then on to the next REEEEEAL quick-like. Somewhere around the one minute mark, maybe faster.

There are lots of different versions of this game. Most people who rock it are good technically. Technical skill is pretty much a prerequisite when you are choosing and blending that quickly.

The only person I have seen who I could call 'sublime;' who I think brings a true artistry to it, is Jazzy Jeff. He brings block party flavor, constantly combining his mood and his crowd's reactions to give some sensual quirks to his set. It's not super-predictable when he does it, and the choices are ALWAYS on point. The flow keeps you wryly grinning without even knowing it.

All the others, regardless of their genre of choice, I tend to put in the same boat. I don't care if you're talking about 2 Many DJ's, Klever (who I had the pleasure of getting dance-floor sloppy to on Saturday night) or the multitude of rapid attack rap party DJ's. Their routines are usually planned out, and if they don't "wash-rinse-and repeat" they tend to have a pretty small cache of records that they choose from at any given time. The goal seems to be to blow the roof off the joint from start to finish.......there ain't a whole lot of subtlety. Most of the records are sing-along or hands-in-the air. Don't misunderstand me, the shit can be fun - LOTS of fun, especially if you're ready to put down some alcohol and you're dressed to sweat. It's just not something that leaves me wanting more. I couldn't have fun with it often. It produces a blinder of a night when it's right, but can lose it's potency quickly if you keep going back to the well.

All this being said, Klever rocked it for Sloppy Seconds at MJQ on Saturday night, and we had a funky good time. My brother and I were on the 5th row blue line of Phillips arena earlier in the evening to watch our Pittsburgh Penguins lose to the Atlanta Thrashers. Not only did they lose, but they lost at the hands of one of their beloved former players who now wears that ridiculous multi-hued blue uniform. We weren't too sad though. Being that close to world class athletes was the reward in itself, and we had good times and good friends waiting for us later that night.

P.S. - Went to a little heat trap in ATL called El Bar for the first time.........VERY curious about the future possibilities of the joint. Gotta see Presto there!

Enter Soundboy

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Some time ago, my good friend Peter (cheers for the New Year's Celebrations Pete) suggested that I chronicle bits and pieces of my various thoughts and experiences, especially as they pertain to music. This suggestion came months and months ago, and being that I am naturally wary of blogs (I have winced FAR too many times as I have read the blogs of acquaintances putting their deep feelings on the superhighway for everyone to drive around in) I have had the idea banging around in my brain for some time now.

Well, in the end, I decided that he was correct. Being that we have a bit of a clean sheet going with the New Year and all, I figured that this was as good a time as any to get things started.

Although this will probably focus on things music - and music business related, it may go onto other topics from time to time. Who knows......

I chose the title b/c at the current moment - I'm not quite a performer or DJ, definitely not a casual fan, and not on the payroll for any record company, magazine, or nightclub. I'm just a bratty punk who thinks he knows better than anybody else. ;)

So here we go:

Over the extended New Year weekend I came to the conclusion that going to see local music acts doesn't necessarily suck, you just have to know how to 'pick your spots.' I started off Saturday by going to see the James Brown Band in a very small, but very well loved spot called The Soul Bar in James's hometown of Augusta, GA. The vibe and energy both from the group and the crowd was definitely made a difference that's James's memorial statue was right down the road, and that his spirit was kind of floating around. To be fair, the fact that a documentary was being shot (and subsequently, the band members were probably putting a little money in their pocket as a result - some of them looked pretty haggard) probably didn't hurt. The current version of the Bittersweets weren't too bad as they handled most of the vocals - especially one larger black lady who looked and sang quite a bit like Rosie Gaines, she was the shit!!! Ray was even there to handle the MC duties - completely suited up with hat stylishly cocked to the side as always. The sax player told me afterward that they hadn't all played together in a year. This just proves that the godfather drilled the SHIT out of them; to the point where they were practically robots. Even with all the interplay, sound and vocal cues, and changing on the fly their musical performance requires, there were VERY few mistakes. Kind of like riding a bike I guess.

I spent New Year's Eve in Columbia, SC. Going back to my college town always sparks some trepidation with me, b/c I'm a bit afraid when I see people from that period that they will automatically superimpose on me all the old roles and perceptions that may (or may not) have applied back in those times. Obviously things have changed quite a bit since then.

So it takes a bit of cajoling, and a very good reason for me to go back to Columbia. Cajoling provided by Peter. Reason: getting a chance to see Peter, Erik, and Richard again - - - and to goof off to the DJ stylings of DJ Keane and Erik Hess as I rung in the New Year. My brother was also coming along, and that means when I've exhausted the small talk with people I don't know well - or the girls who I'm not really interested in, nor they interested in me - I don't have to just stand in the DJ booth all night with my arms folded looking like a knob. I can always go into the goofy shared language and inside jokes of brotherhood and ignore the other stuff I'm not interested in while I enjoy the music.

The lads delivered as always. Several years ago I used to like to tell people that per capita, Columbia probably has better DJ's than most places in the US. It may not be quite what it was then, but it hasn't lost much. These two guys especially have always been good at using their eq's and effects to blow up records, and using their record selection to blow up crowds. I've always been impressed with how they know the environment and crowd they have in a certain venue - and doing little things to cater to their audience without completely playing a record or style that they're not feeling just to cop out to the crowd. They do a great job of finding the balance. If I was starting a club, I would want DJ Keane as one of my residents, b/c he is especially good at essentially playing his sound, but keeping recognizable melodies or vocals involved from time to time so that he doesn't lose the dance floor.

So, local musicians don't HAVE to necessarily suck. I realize that in this case, we weren't exactly talking about your local 'beer band' badly jamming in the hope that a record deal or an orgy of dumb groupies is right around the corner...those still do suck. But it at least proves that going out in smaller towns doesn't have to be a complete loss - it can occasionally still be a good time.