Monday, 10 June 2013

The View From The Booth

In most venues where I play if the DJ booth if not on a raised plinth then at the very least it is usually in a pretty good vantage point to see everything that is going on in the club or bar. And what a view it is. I can usually see who is going to make a move on who quite sometime before they build up the courage to do so, I see prostitutes identifying and then zone in on new engagements, illicit office affairs and young loves on their first nervous dates, and holidaying couples who, shell shocked by two weeks together 24 x7 realising sadly that they have run out of things to say to each other and oddly mismatched couples brought together by the attraction of excess wealth to youthful beauty. Recently I saw a group of three women, who sadly, I realised too late, had come into the bar with the express reason of creating a flirty wall of distraction while one of the group focused on lifting and emptying someone bag. I have often been the first person to note when someone in the bar is getting troublesome usually because of over consumption and have, on a number of occasions been able to notify the security to rescue a girl who had become the unwilling focus of increasingly agressive attention from some dope who could not understand why anyone could resist his alcohol and coke fuelled charms. In fact I made one noted rescue myself. A teenage girl had been flirting with me by the booth. I recognised immediately that it wasn't because she fancied me but because she hoped to get me to play her favourite selection of tunes. Whatever, it was fun to chat. Part way through the evening she returned and apologised for troubling me but, "There's this guy on the dance floor and his hands are everywhere." What to do? "Tell him I'm your Dad." She looked at me shocked for a moment but then realised it was very plausible so she went away armed with me as very virtual cool Dad the DJ. That night I realised that I was getting older.

Because of my vantage point I have always made a point of introducing myself to and get to know the security. A quick nod to them means that distressing incidents on the dance floor can usually be avoided. In the main they are a decent bunch of guys and I am quite happy that someone is making sure that no guns or knives are finding their way onto dance floors. To my mind it is one of those jobs where contrary to popular opinion, brain and psychology are much more effective than brawn. One guy I met told me that his main strategy was to simply say hello to everyone who walked past him on the way into the bar. If they returned his greeting they were generally let in but if they ignored him he would then stop them and take it from there. Maybe they hadn't heard him or thought he was talking to someone else but more often than not he found that when challenged he would discover a person with an attitude.

Sadly many security guys seem to be more intent on intimidation than protection. The last time I visited London's Ministry of Sound (and it will be the last time) it felt as though I was in a concentration camp policed by over aggressive guards with torches which they used to like search lights scanning the dancers below them. When they were really needed the were useless. It was in the early hours of the morning and a mate was taking over the decks in half an hour when somewhere on the dance floor one of the punters threw up. A horrid acrid smell of vomit began to fill the dance floor and people gradually moved into one of the other dance areas. We tried to alert the security who seemed totally uninterested in doing or requesting anything be done about it. Our team of friends then sent out our own patrol to sniff out the location so that we could lead someone there to clean it up which they did ineffectually. Half an hour into my mates set I had to make my excuses and leave before I added to heaving stench.

In some of the larger clubs the DJ booth is set so high above the crowd that it can be quite isolating. Yes its great to feel the roar and response of thousands of clubbers but it can also be quite lonely which is why many of the big name DJ's arrive with an entourage. Its good to have people within talking distance who can shout encouragement and, occasionally take the piss if something goes wrong and you produce a train crash mix.

On a number of occasions I've played the wonderful Atzaro Spa hotel in Ibiza where its not so much a dance floor as a fairytale garden. The objective is not to get everyone dancing but rather to entertain with an eclectic set. Even when it's quite busy there are times when many of the people are concealed in small groups on fabric strewn day beds. Periodically I would leave the booth and wander round the garden to see who was still listening. One evening around 1am I realised that there were only two couples left, both oblivious to each other but loved up and drifting with the music. For the next half and hour I played an unapologetically romantic and suggestive set directed specifically at these two couple until they could constrain themselves no more and hurried off to their hotel rooms to consummate the evening. Mission accomplished.