DV Digital

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When Did the DJ Become More Important Than the Crowd?

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A random blog post over at Faith Fanzine caught my eye today. One quote from the article summed it up:

When did we start watching a DJ instead of dancing with our mates , why do we put up with idiotic people taking up the floor who are filming the DJ ,why is the best dance floors now being cut to ribbons to provide extra table space for naff VIP’s ( Pacha in Ibiza hang your head in shame ) ,people with more money than taste and who in some extreme situations in the US have had DJs thrown off the decks because they did not like the music .

Yes, when did we stop dancing?

I can’t dance, that’s a given. I pop around and do monkey moves, get embarrassed, and then I shuffle off to the side. But in the end, I’m still interacting with the crowd and my friends, and squeezing in a few photo ops as I mix and mingle. I take a few (OK a lot in some cases!) photos of the DJ, but I’m not in the middle of the dancefloor gawking at the booth the entire night.

It’s actually part of the reason I prefer clubs to the current form of dance music experience, the festival/concert setup.

In those setups, there is a stage, and a general admission “pit”, much like a rock concert. The setup works well for rock concerts, since the whole point of a live musical act performing on stage is so you can see them work their instruments and sing. The act of a DJ mixing, no matter what tools they use, is generally a very passive act, and doesn’t lend itself much to a rock-performance aesthetic, no matter how much jumping around and handwaving the DJ is doing. Anything more than that (I’m looking at you, Aoki), smacks of being too contrived and “trying too hard”. Essentially the guy playing other people’s music in the club has been placed in the center of a stage usually reserved for rockstars. And no matter how many pretty LED screens and image-mapped 3D renderings one throws up there, it comes down to that he’s still up there playing back prerecorded sounds in a predetermined sequence. And a lot of DJs in concert situations don’t even alter their playlists much from date to date. Zero musical flexibility. Might as well put an iPhone up there and play a prerecorded mix.

Plus, the shows are often at capacity, so there is actually zero room for dancing, and certainly no room for social interaction, since everyone is either focused on the guy pressing play on their laptop, or has their head buried in their phone, stroking their ego on Facebook.

I’m generally regarded as a borderline sociopathic personality. However, I do value social interaction when I’m out for a night of entertainment. It’s why I value the few clubs left that actually encourage social discourse and interaction. Venues in town like Space, the Vagabond, and so forth, while they book DJ talent, don’t rely on the DJ exclusively to drive their business. Some of my best nights out have been with the local guys on the decks, and I’m just there with my friends, having a good time. Some DJs still get it. Pete Tong is a great example. This past weekend, he took to the decks at Space. No grandstanding, no tricks, he just played a great soundtrack to a night/morning out, and the crowd responded in kind. People were dancing, socializing, and having a good time, but not buried in their phones or gawking at the booth for hours on end. So there’s hope…

Let’s save the rockstar setup for the rockstars.