April 5, 2007

DJ Play My Song

Print More

Man, ever since I first heard DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist’s Brainfreeze — two brilliant, twenty-five minute tracks that open with a booming voice, “Hey, martial arts fans, are you ready to get your guts kicked out?” — I have desperately longed to learn how to spin. I remember when Pixel installed its first set of tables, back before it was the club-surrogate we’ve come to know and love. We had a nice collection of records between us, but for the most part the tables were left untouched. Once, however, when the place was empty, my manager invited me over to try my hand at spinning. The record was an episode of the old “The Green Hornet” radio program, and I was too overwhelmed to do much more than imitate the scratching movement so characteristic of the DJ image. Distorting Al Hodge’s voice was interesting, but I clearly sucked. However, that feeling of living vinyl beneath my fingertips was heavenly, and I was thrilled by the idea that I could manipulate those ridges into an entirely innovative sound.
To spin is my not-so-secret-anymore dream, the ultimate expression of my love of music and movement. I have long since shed any inhibitions about being on the dance floor; I feel that, to be able to control the rhythm, style, and mood of the floor’s inhabitants would make me some sort of unstoppable dance god. Unfortunately, as I discovered from my pathetic Green Hornet experience, learning to work the tables is a legitimate hobby, one that takes time, money and most likely a willing mentor. At the moment, my record player boasts “Jennie Moore Elementary” and has a built in speaker. Also, I think it’s broken. Until some beautiful, sympathetic soul volunteers to take me beneath their wing (hint, hint), I’ve taken the duel groupie/critic approach. DJ’s are hot — and I mean that in the most brazen, starry-eyed way possible. Accompanying this recent rebirth of dance music, DJ’s have been sprouting up all over quaint little town. They are in our bars, our mixers, our fraternities and common house parties, manipulating our bodies with everything from old-school rap to European electro-trash. They have united in groups such as Cornell’s Electronic Music Collective, and their community has already begun to permanently shift the style of Ithaca’s nightlife. Dancing has a way of keeping a party going until the early hours of the morning, until the hosts finds himself repeating his iPod playlists, or people start to pass out from exhaustion. Consequently, in some sort of inverted Walk of Shame, there is a growing contingency of us trekking home through the streets of Collegetown at the crack of dawn, covered in dried sweat and coming down from a string of adrenaline rushes. You know who you are, and I salute you in solidarity.
However, it is excruciatingly apparent when a bad DJ hits the tables. Well, okay, let me clarify. When a DJ compiles a decent selection of tracks to spin, but simply can’t quite establish a coherent, consistent rhythm or style, I’m willing to assume that he’s just starting out. The dancing is disjointed, but I admire his drive towards a goal I, myself, am afraid to pursue. However, as I was unfortunate enough to discover last night at a party downtown, when a DJ starts fading his already intolerable ’80s music into an Ace of Base track, everyone within audible distance has a serious problem on their hands. Has it yet become acceptable for guests to band together and forcibly carry a DJ out from behind his table?
For those of you about to kill my buzz, I have a newsflash: ironic dance parties are a thing of the past. Nobody wants to dance like an idiot for more than three minutes at a time, so while sprinkling your set with recognizeable, respectable tracks (Dizzee Rascal, KRS-One) is fun and appreciated, sprinkling your set with the Spice Girls is not. Yes, last night I was brought to a complete standstill in the middle of the dance floor as Scary Spice told me what she wanted, what she really, really wanted. The only time I would ever consider dancing to “Wannabe” is with my housemates, preferably when we’re drunk, single and in our pajamas.
The market for DJ’s is expanding here in Ithaca, and our very own classmates are doing some amazing things with the turntables. For now, I must resign myself to that phantom feeling of vinyl on my fingertips as I watch enviously from the floor. In these last few lines of my column, I shamelessly implore all you DJ’s out there to think back to when you first started out; you have the possibility to make a small-town girl’s dreams come true. I don’t have much money, but I’m a good conversationalist, and I make a mean turkey sandwich.