I like shooting live concerts. There’s more than one guy or girl on stage, and there’s a lot of activity to document, from the vocalist to the instrumentalists, there’s always someone moving about and in action. Plus, the lighting can’t be argued with since the whole point of them being lit is to be seen. I actually like that almost every Tuesday I get to shoot Jive at Blue Martini Brickell.
It’s a singing contest of sorts, but it brings out some real talent. Whether they are there for fun or hoping for a big break, I don’t know, but it’s a fun event to shoot. The band, Higher Ground, is on point with their covers, so it gives the contestants a real thrill to have a genuine live band behind them. And the dynamics of shooting it are a welcome change from my usual club shooting.
Not that I mind the DJ-oriented shooting. It’s interesting, still after all these years, even with the proliferation of the DJ-as-rockstar during this current dance music bubble. Though some of these guys, it’s gone to their heads.
When I first started this, over a decade ago, DJs kind of knew where they fit in within the musical ecosystem. They were curators and purveyors of music. Even if they produced their own tracks, they were still sought after and regarded first and foremost, as musical librarians of a sort. You went to a specific DJ’s club night to hear new music since you trusted their musical taste was in line with yours. The end result was that you hopefully would go out to the record store the next day and purchase the tracks you heard. Even when the internet flipped the record store idea on it’s face, the hope was you’d go to your online record shop and do the same.
Then came the rockstar phenomenon. DJs demanded more and more salaries, for correspondingly less work. Even disregarding automation, most DJs are content to go from A to B and back again and ask for a $50,000 paycheck. I can remember when DJs would get paid a tenth of that, and do far more work behind the decks, even when the change from vinyl to CDs happened. And most of all, DJs knew where they fit in the scheme of things. They knew their job was to provide the soundtrack for a night out, not be the sole focus of a night out. They helped maintain the dynamic of providing great music to a party. Now, unfortunately, we’re in a sort of twilight zone where DJs get stage setups that rival those of genuine musicians, all to frame them pressing some keys on a Macbook. Now, some of the kids might argue that they’re “really doing something” up there, but the sad fact is, it’s all just sequencing and basic mixing. Very few DJs are actually doing anything innovative with the tools at hand. Though, those that are, ironically enough, are working the club scene and not about being the glory hogs of the world. You have veterans like Carl Cox who still throw down ten hour sets, working three or four inputs at once, and creating new compositions on the fly. And you have one of my favorites, the legendary Pete Tong, who generally eschews the festival scene, preferring to focus on his BBC show, and bringing the newest records and all the classics to the clubs. He knows he’s there to drive the dancefloor and show the party people a good time. One of the best sets I’ve heard recently was his WMC session at Space. He’ll actually be on the very same Terrace this coming weekend. I personally can’t wait, and I’m at the point know where I’m pretty jaded and it takes a lot to get me excited with regards to DJs.
Maybe that’s why I get a kick out of a little party like Jive. It’s a bunch of people having a good time and not taking everything so seriously. The cash prize ($200) isn’t going to solve world hunger or put a kid through college, so the people participating are usually just up there to have a good time. I think in the end if the rockstar DJs in the world remember that’s all people really want, we can get back to some sort of rationality in the dance club scene. It’s ironic, the live music scene in general (not just little singing contests in Brickell!) from what I can see is actually getting more down to earth, whereas DJs are getting more and more egotistical in their demands. Even Axl Rose in his prime would be envious of some of these guys’ riders. But, from where I sit, I see it as a bubble. I’m confident the DJ world will get back to reality soon.
Oh and a disclaimer, I do sincerely appreciate what some DJs do on and off the decks. Those guys usually end up in my iPhone playlist. I’ll post it up someday. I think I do have an audio player plugin. Actually yeah I do. Note to self, start posting some sets of genuinely good DJs. But if any of you dear readers want a good place to start, just hunt out the sets of (in no particular order): Pete Tong, Victor Calderone, Roger Sanchez, The Martinez Brothers, Dennis Ferrer, Danny Tenaglia, Loco Dice, Marco Carola, Oscar G, Patrick M, Mark M (Miami), Trent Cantrelle, the Cocodrills, Louie Vega, Frankie Knuckles, and Eric Prydz to name a few.
I’ll try and kick up a favorite mix of mine in the next few days. I gotta see how it will affect my S3 bill. And also if there’s anything copyright-related I might have to worry about.