Monday, July 28, 2008

Hey, Mr. DJ! Do You Have to be So Good?

Stop It! You're Killing Me

© 2008 Leighann Lord

A life time ago I dated a DJ. His specialty was House Music and I was a House Head. It was love at first beat. This is back when DJs spun on turntables, carried records in milk crates and could save your life with a song. It's not brain surgery but DJs have a hard job. The success or failure of a party lies in their hands. No matter how long you wait on line to get into the club; no matter how expensive and watered down the drinks; no matter how grimy the bathrooms; if The DJ is on point, all is forgiven.

A great DJ is like a mind reader; seeming to know intuitively what song will make you jump up and yell, "That's my jam!" They have the challenging task of playing the right combination of songs that moves the crowd. Knowing what song to play when is critical. A packed dance floor will clear out in seconds if the DJ plays the wrong song. The collective expression on the faces of everyone returning to their seats is, "The DJ messed up."

The more diverse the crowd, the harder the job. If you've ever been on a cruise ship then you know it's like a floating United Nations, with crew members representing over 50 nationalities. How do you DJ a party for a group like that without causing an international incident? At one crew party I attended the DJ kept the crowd happy by playing a little bit of everything. He was literally all over the map. I heard music I've never heard before, and will probably never hear again (Egyptian Trance doesn't always make it onto HOT 97's play list) but I enjoyed it.

It reminded me of a night club I partied at in Rotterdam. The DJ played such a wide variety of music I thought he was schizophrenic. Within minutes he went from Michael Jackson, to Frank Sinatra, to Biggie and the crowd was with it. They just wanted to dance and have a good time. The only thing that would have made them angry is if the music stopped entirely.

Such a disparate repertoire might not have gone over as well here in the States. In the melting pot we don't seem to care for music mixing. If we go out to hear House, the DJ plays Country & Western at his own peril.

It all comes down to your point of view. If the DJ plays music you like, he's good. If he doesn't, he's not. But sometimes no matter how good the DJ is there are some folks he just can't reach, namely The Wall Flowers. I used to get an attitude when I glanced up from the dance floor and saw people leaning on the wall. I would think, "If you're not gonna dance, go home. Why are you standing in here sucking up my fresh air?"

Sadly there are some folks who are Wall Flowers because they don't know how to dance. These folks have my deepest sympathies. Unless you were raised in Elmore City, Oklahoma (the town "Footloose" was based on) you should know how to dance and if you can't, I blame your parents.

Dancing is an important social skill. If parents can stimulate a baby's intellectual development in the womb by playing classical music, then they can put on a little R&B, Funk, Rock, or Rap and teach Baby how to keep a beat. It doesn't have to be "Mad Hot Ballroom" or "Dancing with the Stars" but teach them enough to get them off the wall and enjoy themselves.

In my arrogance I never realized that there could be another type of wall flower. Those for whom the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak; or more accurately the arches are unable. These people aren't leaning on the wall sucking up the fresh air as much as they are just trying to catch their breath.

You don't realize how athletic dancing is until you haven't done it in a while. In your mind there is no gap between the last time you cut a rug and now, so you jump on the dance floor with both feet. In your excitement you may not even pace yourself and hey, why would you? You invented dancing didn't you?

The body, having only vague memories of such public vigorous movement, may not react as your mind intends. Even if you're in good shape, the muscles required to lift weights or run on a tread mill are not the same muscles you need to do the Chicken Noodle, the Harlem Shake or whatever organ jarring gyration being done these days.

I learned a little about this at the crew party I attended. Somewhere between a salsa and working it to the bone my body said, "Hey, I didn't sign up for all this! I quit." Actually, my whole body didn't quit all at once. It started with my feet. My bad, I was wearing the wrong shoes but who wears Hush Puppies to a party? Other parts of my body turned in their notice over the next few days. I'm sorry. I didn't know you could get whiplash from doing the Wop.

Despite what my body says, the Axis of Evil (my Pride, Ego and Vanity) have let me know that they are not ready to be relegated to wall flower status. So I've come up with a plan: stretching out before a party, finding cute shoes with good arch support and praying for a bad DJ.

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