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Still Going Deaf in Smokey Clubs

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 6:16 pm
by Jamie Renton
At 12.45 this morning I found mtself standing in an expensive Holland Park restaurant playing Barry White's "Your My First, My Last, My Everything", watching a Middle Eastern couple dance cheek to cheek. How (in the words of David Byrne) did I get here?

The answer is simple: As a DJ, I'm big news on the Arabic wedding circuit ... oye vay, am I big news on the Arabic wedding circuit! OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, I've only DJed at 2 Arabic weddings, but as I've only ever DJed at 3 weddings of any kind, that consitutes "big news" as far as I'm concerned (besides which I wanted an excuse to write "oye vay, am I big news on the Arabic wedding circuit!")

Now when you DJ at weddings, you leave your ego at the door & play what the bride & groom ask you to play. Last night this included the aformentioned Walrus of Love, Sade & the Arabic wedding song. The latter is a great, wild piece of music & not, as I'd foolishly imagined, "Here Comes the Bride" played on ney, oud & darbucka.

Such events call on the DJ to act like a kind of musical barman, serving up whatever the guests request. But as with booze, people don't always really know their own tastes or limits. A group of women who'd been dancing with great enthusiasm, requsted some bellydance music, which I duly played, emptying the dancefloor in the process. Even the group who'd make the request slinked off. I didn't see a lone tumbleweed blow across the dancefloor, but then it was pretty dark in there. What got people back on the floor? Gnarls Barclay's "Crazy" followed by Stevie Wonder's "Supersition", who'd have predicted that?

But that's the fun of DJing at such dos. You can just never tell what will get the floor filled or emptied. Ska Cubano's cover of "Istanbul" got them moving, whereas when Rhianna's "Hey Mr DJ" was playing, I could have sworn I saw that tumbleweed. Khaled, Amr Diab & Samira Said inspired some of the wildest dancing this side of Cairo, Yousef's "Salam", usually a big hit in such circles, was met with indifference & irritation.

Volume is an issue too, with such a range of ages amongst the guests, someone's always going to be unhappy with how loud or soft you're playing. As a DJ, I try not to bulldoze with my basslines, but am always mindful that the bride & groom have paid me to play the music that they like & have every right to ask for their money back if they can't actually hear it.

You just can't win at these events, but it's kind of fun trying.


Re: Still Going Deaf in Smokey Clubs

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 8:00 pm
by That Was Jonathan E. Then
Jamie Renton wrote:You just can't win at these events, but it's kind of fun trying.


You must still be young to find it fun — or perhaps just a little in need of professional counseling for masochistic inclinations!

Well, seriously, what an excellent summation of the perils and pleasures of DJing at weddings. One or two of my best DJ experiences were at weddings — and plenty of my worst. I finally understood why, at least in the US, the price for every single service connected to a wedding was so exceptionally high, two or three times the rate of the same service if not wedding related.

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 8:17 pm
by judith
What a great read, Jamie. It's fascinating to see which tracks (well, that and the alcohol) lift people (most of which, most likely, don't usually have music going around the house all day and night) off their duffs onto the dance floor. Your account is, in my opinion, more accurate (and far more interesting) than all those million dollar market and demographic studies people (to use a broad non-exclusive term) are so obsessed with over here.
Thank you.

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 8:41 pm
by Jamie Renton
Glad you enjoyed my post Jonathan & Judith.

I think my enthusiasm for all things DJ (weddings included) stems from the fact that, whereas most DJ start out on the decks in their teens, I only started out 2 1/2 years ago at the tender age of 41 & can't really believe my luck in being allowed to get away with it!

More tales from the bottom rung of the DJ ladder to follow ...


PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 9:04 pm
by Rob Hall
judith wrote:What a great read, Jamie. It's fascinating to see which tracks (well, that and the alcohol) lift people ...

I was wondering about that - was there alcohol being consumed? I should imagine that it makes for a very different atmosphere where it is not, and probably makes the DJ's job quite a bit harder.

But yes, a great read Jamie, thanks for that.

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 9:22 pm
by Jamie Renton
Rob Hall wrote:I was wondering about that - was there alcohol being consumed?

Alcohol certainly was being consumed, not by everyone I would guess, but certainly by a good few.

In fact, one of the perks of djing at weddings is the food & drink. Last night I enjoyed some very good wine + the wedding was held at a Marco Pierre White restaurant, so the food was delicious, the kind of thing we would never usually get to taste (the bride very kindly invited Sue along too) & I put on a 37 minute instrumental track so that I could relax & enjoy it!

See what I mean? fun, as well as hard work.


PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 10:40 pm
by Jamie Renton
Last summer I was invited to DJ & host an unusual event. It was organised by a blind writer & director & inloved a group of people, some sighted, some blind, playing a theatrical game. Within this group were 8 blind people all with mobile phones, on the balcony were 8 volunteers, also with mobiles, whose role it was to describe what was happening & guide the blind person they were supporting through the game, which was based around quoting lines from a film (& trying to find the people with lines from the same film).

I was asked to play music from popular films. Not really my sort of thing (the organisers made it very clear that they were only after mainstream sounds) but it was an interesting project & a good cause, so I agreed to get involved.

As luck would have it, someone I work with collects modern popular film soundtracks & was kind enough to lend me a case full of CDs called things like "The Best of Chick Flicks" & "The 80s Go to the Movies", armed with these + some compilations of classic film themes I picked up in a 2nd hand shop, I set off for the hotel where the event was held.

I had fun early on, playing the classics, following The Pink Panther with The Bond Theme. Hosting the game itself was chaotic, but fun (I always have a laugh when handed a mic). It was the closing couple of hours after the game was over that I struggled with. Here I was doing something I love (djing) but playing sounds that left me cold. Part of me thought " Just get on with it! It's all for a good cause & it's only pop music", but I couldn't help feeling tired & uncomfortable.

What to do? Clearly I couldn't get away with my usual global selection in this situation, but I'd brought along some soul sounds with film associations (Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack, Aretha etc) & decided I could probably slip those in from time time. No one seemed to be giving the music their full atention anyway & it would make me feel better.

The trouble was it didn't, not really. Because even as the funky bassline to "Superfly" was bouncing out of the speakers, I was lining up something from Grease, or Wet Wet Wet singing "Love is all Around" or ... well you get the idea.

"Have you got any Depeche Mode?" someone asked me. For god's sake, I thought, do I come accross as the kind of DJ who would play Depeche Mode? Before I realised that, on this evening's showing, I did!

Towards the end of the evening, one of the participants in the game, came over, supported by his volunteer, who had now come down from the balcony.

"Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed what you were doing tonight" he said.

"Thanks" I replied, trying to sound grateful, but thinking: You actually like this crap?

"Your a soul man aren't you?" he added


"You like soul music. I was listening, I could hear what you were doing. Slipping in a tune whenever you thought you could get away with it. Accross 110th Street, what a great song, it made my night hearing that!"

PostPosted: Sat May 26, 2007 10:40 pm
by Adam Blake
I love Dj-ing and don't get enough of it. Three or four gigs a year at most. The best advice I ever got given was three words: "chicks love Motown". Ain't it the truth? If you get the girls dancing you've won. Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" is the final ace up the sleeve. If THAT doesn't work then you're really in trouble!

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 1:06 am
by Rob Hall
Jamie Renton wrote:For god's sake, I thought, do I come accross as the kind of DJ who would play Depeche Mode?

I'll bet you a fiver Jamie, that you edited this, and that you originally wrote "do I look like the kind of DJ..."

I only say this, of course, because I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt, etc.

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 9:54 am
by Jamie Renton
Rob Hall wrote:
Jamie Renton wrote:For god's sake, I thought, do I come accross as the kind of DJ who would play Depeche Mode?

I'll bet you a fiver Jamie, that you edited this, and that you originally wrote "do I look like the kind of DJ..."

I only say this, of course, because I've been there, done that, got the t-shirt, etc.

The woman who requested Depeche Mode was sighted, as you'd have known if I hadn't edited out my description of what happened next: I, rather politely I thought, apologised for not having anything by Depeche Mode, but I think my face gave away more than I intended, because she looked a bit hurt & muttered "Actually Depeche Mode are a really cool band!" before huffing off.

Don't worry about the fiver Rob, but if you fancy getting a beer in at the next DJ Relay, I wouldn't complain, (cue mutterings from Howard & Con along the lines of "At Darbucka's prices ... ")



PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 8:01 pm
by alex stewart
Fairly recently I was asked to DJ a Golden wedding party, I admit it, the answer "yes" came out when they named how much they would pay!
Each table had its own spirits and beer selection which was rapidly demolished by the guests who were of an average age of 60+. Then the dancing started! When you see a lady of a certain age charging up and down to Tina Turner singing "simply the best", and dressed in fake leopard skin trousers, one knows that it will be a good night, but possibly not for the purist music lover!
Frank Sinatra caused mass sing a long and "Oops inside your head" by the Gap Band brought on the sitting down and rowing dance( I still don't know where that comes from), although there did seem to be a fair few people stuck and unable to get up after!

A really fun and old fashioned knees up, but I do have limits and it came when Boney M was requested, I do have some pride!

PostPosted: Sat Jun 23, 2007 7:31 pm
by c hristian
done too many weddings in my time.

The creativity came in trying to get the audience to go somewhere they weren't expecting to go. It can always be done if you have enough music with you.

but yes, the competing musical demands of the bride's gramma vs. the groom's older brother can get intense. resolve alllll the request issues first, as soon as possible, then get on with it. And by resolve that means either : 1 ) play it 2) tell them you don't have it 3) tell them you'll play it later when you do your ______50s 60s whatever____ set in a few minutes and/or 4) actually do play it later when it's a good song "in the mix" anyway.

like i've said, I've done too many weddings in my time. But sometimes, if it's the right family , you find yourself surrounded by the best possible working conditions. People are here, in this room, b/c they (more or less) WANT to be, and what's in the spotlight is 2 people's LOVE for one another, and it's your job to honor that.

could be worse. (sometimes).

there really are some good depeche mode songs out there. at least she gave you room to choose. she didn't keep asking incessantly for the chicken dance, right? that was my experience at one wedding in VA. I think the same one, when I got such a big lift from the crowd for "Cotton Eyed Joe" , confirming my every worst fear and stereotype about the crowd, I played it maybe 2 or 3 more times in a row, and each time, the crowds response got more and more enthusiastic. i had to change the song finally just to maintain my self-respect. But these people could NOT GET ENOUGH of Cotton Eyed JOe. PArt of me still wonders if I kept playing it more, if they would have just gone right with it.
ah well.

I think I then followed up with "Crazy" Patsy Cline, not Gnarles Barkley. IT was a good cooldown from their doseydoing. If they wanted a square dance DJ, they should have called for a square dance DJ.