Posts tagged: DJ

Dead By Dawn

By , November 2, 2009

Me trying to explain my party to an out-of-state friend, via a series of text messages:

the party is getting out of control, but in a good way

so many people came that by 11:00 PM they wouldn’t all fit in my place and so the party has spilled out into the hallways of all 4 floors of the building and into the street

guests are launching flaming pumpkins off the roof

someone tagged graffiti on my bathroom wall

a completely naked girl is hanging out the window peeing…

an entire bar full of people migrated to my party at 2 am when the bar closed.

around 3am bar staff from various bars started showing up. at 5 am the staff of Blakes showed up.

the guests didn’t all leave until 4:30 am Monday (today) over 30 hours after the party started

all day yesterday there were still people here, which was good in a way because they helped clean up on Sunday night

we demolished my place and basically the entire building and really an entire city block…

they made us clean up Adeline Street on Sunday.

my neighbors all hate me, the rest of west oakland loves me

the landlord posted letters all over the building basically yelling at me in bold faced all caps, threatening to evict me if i ever have such a party again

it was my best party ever.


Music Saves

By , June 28, 2005

I’ve been through many times when I thought I might lose it
The only thing to save me has always been music

– Mike D

At one point in time it would have been difficult to imagine a Beastie Boy lyric being used as the epigram for any bit of serious prose, but there you have it. Today I turn to Michael Diamond for inspiration. The above couplet resonated with me when I first heard it, and it has never rang true so clearly as of late. A while back, a groom’s request of Fifty Cent prompted me to write in semi-jest about the power of music, but in all seriousness– music has always been integral to my life (which I’m sure it is to many people’s lives), and a never-ending source of solace when circumstance deals an unexpected or difficult blow.

I think it was also Mike D. who rapped:

Life ain’t nothing but a good groove
A good mix tape can put you in the right mood

Of course, mix tapes gave way to the mix CD, which has in turn been replaced by the iTunes playlist. I’ve concocted a fair number of playlists since the advent of the mp3, and lately I’ve put together a new one. At the risk of appearing old-fashioned, I will confess that mp3 playlists always feel more than a little bit sterile to me. I’m not a hardcore vinyl purist, but I still prefer whenever possible to listen to an actual record. I often consider selling my vinyl collection– after all, most of it is languishing in storage– but I reconsider whenever I play one. A song feels so much more alive on vinyl, whether it be from the physical act of dropping the needle into the groove, or the faint crackle of dust in the background… Tangent aside, I’m here to talk playlists. The title of this one says it all– Melancholy. And before anyone chimes in with a comment advising me to avoid playing sad songs when I’m sad, let me offer this bit of, well, for a lack of a better word, wisdom.

There seems to be two general ways that one can deal with great sorrow– either hide from it, i.e. bottle it up, push it deep down inside of yourself, and try to forget about it, or embrace it and let it take you places within your psyche that you would otherwise never dare go. I am a big proponent of the latter method. It has always been the saddest times in my life that have taught me who I really am, and allowed me opportunities to improve myself. Often it seems that only by listening to my darkest emotions and visiting the farthest reaches of my soul can I get to the bottom of what ails me. Sure, my method is not a happy one. You’ll visit dark places, and you’ll suffer, but when you emerge from mourning, you are a better person for the experience. Conversely, I think the people who ignore or bury the sad feelings find those feelings cropping up to haunt them later in life, usually in altered, unrecognizable forms which take years of therapy to identify and conquer.

What does this all mean? It means that lately I’ve been listening to a lot of sad songs. This trend has not been the result of a conscious effort; I haven’t trawled my iTunes folders on a quest for unhappiness. It was more of an organic process, but the resultant playlist, which I’ll share below, definitely has a consistent vibe to it, hence the aforementioned name I assigned to it. For me, music and poetry have long been my main access points to my inner self. I frequently find myself aware of an attitude or emotion I didn’t realize I had, or at least had been unable to crystallize into coherent thought, after hearing a similar sentiment expressed in a song.


Love Songs

By , June 13, 2005

You know how when you break up or fall in love, or you just miss someone, every song you hear suddenly makes so much more sense to you? As an example, on Saturday night I was DJ’ing a wedding and the groom requested a special song. I played it, and as I listened, the lyrics overwhelmed me:

I don’t know what ya’ heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a dollar outta’ me
No Cadillac, no perms, you can’t see
That I’m a motherfuckin’ P-I-M-P

It really sank in. To think I’ve been wasting my time in a relationship for all these years when I *could* have been honing my skills as a pimp.

And when the song continued:

I don’t know what you’ve heard about me
But a bitch can’t get a crumb up outta’ me
I drive a Cadillac, wear a perm ‘cuz I’m a G
And I’m a motherfuckin’ C-R-I-P

it made me harken back to my single days– you know, back in the last century. Yah, it’s been that long. But with my new Snoopy Dogg muse by my side, I’m sure I’m on the road to happiness all over again. Plus, I already own loads of blue clothes, so I’ll fit right in with my new Crip friends. Or do they wear red? I’d better find out before the first gangsta party! How terribly embarrassing it would be to show up wearing the wrong colors– I’d surely be soundly chastised for such a fashion faux pas.

Love songs…they suddenly become so coherent when you miss someone.


Final Casino Party of ’05

By , December 16, 2004

Huzzah! The final casino party of 2004 has come and gone. No more loading and unloading, setting up and breaking down, sorting chips, and most importantly no more staffing. I do have a few more DJ gigs, but those are significantly less work.

Speaking of which, here I am, hard at work. It’s a tough job, but I guess it beats digging a ditch.


Today’s event was a nice, early one; it was over by 7:00 PM. It was fun to watch the Sun Microsystems engineers dancing to the surf rock band. They had loadsafun, those techies did.

After Saturday I am free for the rest of the year. I can hardly wait!


First Dance Foibles

By , July 20, 2004

I DJ’ed weddings on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend. On Sunday, the bride and groom showed up as expected, and the groom handed me the promised CD of their first dance song. They insisted I play the version of the song they were to provide, as they had prepared a routine to it, so I arrived ready to oblige them.

I took the CD and just to be sure I popped it in the CD player. No response. So I popped it into my computer and looked for it in iTunes. Nothing. Next I double-clicked the CD icon and looked inside. Aha! The groom must have taken it for granted that I’d have a laptop with me (even though very few DJs bring one) as he saved the songs as mp3s. I dragged it into Traktor, my mp3 DJ software. Still nothing. A closer inspection of the alleged mp3 revealed it to actually be an m4p. Okay, not a problem, time to open Quicktime. I dragged that pesky m4p into Quicktime and it opened right up. Their particular version of “Fly Me to the Moon” ready and a-rarin’ to go.

The bride and groom take the floor and embrace in preparation for their routine. The guests are a-quiver with anticipation. I click play.

This computer is not authorized to play “11 Fly Me to the Moon.m4p.”

Turns out the groom had purchased the song online at the Apple Music Store and did not know the appropriate trick for playing it on multiple machines, nor did he know his password info to authorize the song on my computer.

Today’s Question: Do you know that trick?

All was not lost. I regaled the guests with jokes about Napster, the R.I.A.A. and the groom’s honesty in actually paying for the song while he ran to his suite to get his own laptop. In all it turned out to be a pretty humorous and hopefully memorable situation. I was just glad I could come up with enough schtick to cover it all. In the end, a good time was had by all when the song played and the newlyweds performed their exciting dance routine.


Bombing the Van

By , April 6, 2004

For some time I have wanted to repaint my van. It’s super old– a 1981 model– and the paint job has deteriorated over time. True to my hip hop roots I have always wanted to cover it in graffiti, and last Saturday seemed the perfect opportunity. I was DJ’ing a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in Berkeley’s famous People’s Park, which is coincidentally where I park my van. I knew I’d be outdoors all day, in full view of my ride, so I made some phone calls to some artists what that I know. While I spun tunes on one side of the court, three graffiti artists bombed the van on the other side of the court. It made for a nice addition to the games, and by the end of the day, I had the freshest van in town. Here are some pictures.

The first one is the “before” shot. Gotta’ have a “before” shot.


Here is one of the taggers taping off the lights. They were very good about keeping my lights, plates, and permits paint-free.


They are getting started at last.


People walking by stopped to stare.


Things are coming along nicely in this picture, and you can start to see the final design taking shape.


Here is the fellow on the other side doing his thing:

More Progress

Now it’s REALLY starting to come together.


Let’s check in and see what’s happening to the back of the van.


Almost done now.


And at last it IS done. Here is the right side:


And the left side:


And the back:


Def, right?


Link Wray and his Ray Men – Rumble

By , January 9, 2004

Turn the dials with your hand

Till you find the short wave band

Electronic music sounds from Radioland

The new trend in online content is streaming radio stations. It’s a relatively new development, and every day more and more stations are popping up; as of today I can number myself among the broadcasters. If you have iTunes or Quicktime or anything that can play streaming audio, go check out Radio Peasprout. I only broadcast sporadically, as I am hosting the station on my computer, but from time to time I sign in and play songs. Such as this one:

Currently Playing: Link Wray – Rumble

(Odds are I’m not streaming Link Wray right now, so you will have to click the “currently playing” link to open the mp3 in your browser.)

This is one of my favorite songs, ever. It was regularly heard blaring from the stereo of my Thunderbird as I cruised the moonlit streets of turn-of-the-century Oakland. Wow, it feels weird to write that. In fact, everything about this post seems out of time. The epigraph is from Kraftwerk, and reads like an archaic document, though it was vastly futuristic sounding when released. The song, from 1958, playing in a 1962 vehicle, is utterly incongruous with the streets of Oakland in the year 2000. Even the concept of radio– that medium which predates even television, now being ushered into the digital age– makes for an even greater temporal jumble.

Link Wray - Jack the Ripper

This is widely considered to be the song that invented the heavy metal sound. You can certainly hear the roots of the genre in the trembling, distorted guitar riffs, and heavy has to be one of the first words that comes to mind when trying to describe the sound. The song was written to emulate the feel of a gang fight, hence the title. It made it to #16 on Billboard’s pop music chart, and would likely have gone higher, but was banned in some markets for being “too suggestive.” It is the only instrumental song to have ever been banned for that reason. Go impress your friends with that interesting bit of trivia.


Is It 2004 Yet?

By , December 5, 2003

Tomorrow the December holiday party season begins in earnest. I shouldn’t complain, for I make a significant percentage of my annual income in the month of December, but it comes at a cost. While everyone else is enjoying the holiday season, taking vacations, shopping for gifts, and generally making merry, I am hard at work. In some years I have had 15 day stretches in which I have at least one event per day. Some days I have had as many as five simultaneous events. It really ruins the month, and makes me dread December. I really cannot wait for this month to be over.

In fact, I am already looking forward to New Year’s Eve, as I think this is going to be one of the rare and wonderful years in which I don’t have to DJ that night. I read about a neat party on an aircraft carrier, at which a big band will play a salute to Benny Goodman. That sounds like my kind of New Year’s Eve party!

Pessi is going to be in town, and I imagine she will want to drag Fizzy and I to some swanky, trendy night spot, but I’ll definitely put in my sales pitch for the big band. Either way, the highlight of it all will be kissing my girlfriend at midnight. Though this will be the sixth time the calendars have changed since we met, it will be our first New Year’s Eve together, for in previous years either she has been in Los Angeles, or I have been working. I can hardly wait for a Fizzified smoochero come y2.04k.

Let the casino parties begin! Today’s Question: Do you hit a 3 card 16 vs. a dealer’s 10?


Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight

By , October 7, 2003

In the comments section of my last post I promised a commenter that I would write about a Frank Sinatra song today. Choosing one Sinatra song about which to write took some time. My initial thought was to go with Summer Wind, as that was the song I’d traditionally play for my roadies and security agents before the start of a fraternity party. We all knew the rest of the night would be upbeat pop and rock music, so something a bit more mellow from Ol’ Blue Eyes made for a nice buffer before the onslaught of drunken revelers came charging into the venue. While Summer Wind is certainly a fine song, and would have made for an interesting blog, I’ve instead opted to go with:

Currently Playing: Frank Sinatra – The Way You Look Tonight

Now, after a few years together, I imagine most couples start bandying about the idea of a wedding, and this is by no means any sort of official announcement, but yeah, Sue (Fizzy) and I have whiled away some of childhood’s happy hour by imagining what our wedding may be like, were we ever to have one. The Way You Look Tonight has been mentioned more than once as a potential “first dance” song. I don’t think I’ve ever DJ’ed a wedding at which this was the first dance, which is something of a surprise to me; I think it makes for a great one. It’s fast enough to avoid having to stand doing the rotating-hug-dance in front of all one’s friends and relatives, but it isn’t so fast as to leave one breathless by the end. It’s also romantic, and evocative of many ideas associated with one’s wedding day– looking one’s best, a memorable night, being in love, and so forth.

Frank Sinatra - The Way You Look Tonight

One evening not long ago, Fizzy and I were sauntering through San Francisco’s Union Square after a romantic dinner at some cozy eatery, and this song began playing through the park’s loudspeakers; it completed the evening. We danced to it right there in the park, amidst a mixture of stares of both incredulity and admiration from what few people were out and about at that hour, but we felt anonymous enough and didn’t mind. A few people clapped when we finished, and it definitely made for a grand topper to an already wonderful evening. Moreover, it cemented this song in our minds– we finally had an “our song.”

Today’s Question: What will/ did you dance to first at your wedding?


How I Got a Job

By , September 2, 2003

I think I’m finally getting the hang of this blogging thing. I’ve been at it for 7 months or so, and I feel I have something of a rhythm going. The hardest part has been fine-tuning the balance between “what I did today” entries and “here is something that interests me” entries. I’ve also noticed that as I’ve grown more familiar with the medium, I’ve become more comfortable with sharing personal information here. I’m slowly warming up to the fact that the internet is not the scary, stalker-laden labyrinth I once feared it to be. In the spirit of divulging information about my personal life, and because more than a few people have asked me to elaborate on my job, today I shall explain how I came to do what it is I do for a living.

So when I was a kid, like maybe 4 or 5 years old, I’d sometimes poke around my brother’s room when he wasn’t around. He had this gigantic collection of jazz records, and while I didn’t know the first thing about jazz, or music, really, I’d sift through his records, and soon decided to start my own collection. I think it was for my 8th birthday that I got a plastic, self-contained Fisher Price turntable as a gift. “Well,” I thought, “it’s about time,” and promptly began collecting records. By the time I was 10 I had a boom box too, and I was making tapes of my “radio shows.” Around that time I read about DJs in New York scratching and mixing and so forth, and started trying to figure out what they were doing. Of course, I had no one to show me what “scratching and mixing” meant, so I kind of made up what I thought such things might be, and slowly taught myself how to be a DJ.

Fast forward to high school. On the first day each freshman was assigned a senior to help him get acclimated. Mine was one of the cool seniors. He said “hi” and talked for a few minutes about his exploits on the baseball diamond, and then left me, no more informed about high school than I had been prior to his arrival. I must have mentioned DJ’ing to him, though, because around Halloween time he found me and said “my buddy’s parents are leaving town this weekend…can you DJ a Halloween party?” Now, at that point I’d never performed for a crowd, I had only messed around at home, but I figured it would be fun, so I said “sure.” Then he offered to pay me $50. I hadn’t even thought about getting paid, but I recall that I sort of played it off and said something to the effect of, “well, I usually charge more, but I’ll give you my friend discount.” On the inside I was like “Wow! $50!!” which to a 14 year-old kid from a really poor family was a fortune– I’d honestly never even seen $50 in one place before.

When the big night came, I snuck out and brought my mismatched turntables, crossfader-less mixer, and borrowed home sound system and played music for a bunch of upperclassmen. Inexplicably, they loved me, and I started doing random parties here and there– usually just house parties and such– but it was way fun, and I learned to read crowds and select music. Along the way I put together a rap band, and we performed at shows and fairs and such, and won some prizes and had fun. Too much fun, I suppose. My parents sent me away to Santa Barbara, to a low-income boarding school for Mexican-American immigrants. But even down there I’d sneak out after bed check and eventually scored a gig spinning at a night club a few blocks from the beach on State Street. I don’t think the owner knew I was 16. I told him I went to U.C. Santa Barbara. I was getting $150 a night and free drinks to spin there once a week. So much for putting a stop to my excessive fun. We even had half-days on Wednesday, so I’d ride my skateboard to the beach and surf.

Eventually I came to U.C. Berkeley. I still didn’t think of DJ’ing as much more then a fun hobby that occasionally netted me some cash. But my roommates all joined fraternities, and they started calling me to DJ their parties. It was the same thing all over. “Wanna’ DJ a frat party?” “Sure!” “Is $250 okay?” “Ummmmm…..well, normally I charge more then that, but for you…”

*puff puff* my fingers are getting tired…I’m going to finish this later…

Okay, I’m back. Where was I? Oh yes, I was in college, where it seems I was the only DJ who played more than one style of music. I mixed in a little bit of everything, which kept fans of all genres happy. One by one, fraternities and sororities started to hear about me, and within 2 years I was doing just about every single fraternity and sorority event at Cal. The dorms and co-ops were hiring me too, as were various student groups and grad schools. Even the houses at Stanford, U.C. Santa Cruz, Sonoma State, and S.F. State were calling. I had to hire 5 more DJs to cover the work. It was intense and time-consuming, but also one of the most fun periods in my life. It was also when I branched into event planning.

Before I came along, in addition to hiring a DJ, each organization’s social chair arranged the rental of a restaurant or club for the party, hired security, chartered buses to bring the guests to and from the party, and hired a photographer. I came up with the idea of doing all the work for them. They’d call me and give me a date, and I’d call back the next day with 5 or 6 options. I’d handle the buses, security, bartenders, venue rentals, photographers– all of it. The money was better, and it gave me and even stronger lock on those clients.

Business boomed. I decided that I’d found my career, so when it came time to choose a major I went with what I enjoy: English; I like to read, I like to write. I knew that my career options with that major would be limited to teaching, continuing on to more school, or panhandling, but it didn’t matter, as I had my job all lined up. I was pretty sure my boss wasn’t going to fire me, after all.

DJ’ing college parties was very good to me– it paid my way through school, and provided me with some fun times, but all good things come to an end. I graduated and had less time to devote to the Berkeley clientele. Besides, the connections I’d made with all the venues in San Francisco led me into the world of corporate event management and wedding planning, which not only involves far less work, it pays significantly more. That was a trade-off I had to take. In a way, I miss the reckless, overworked days of college when everyone knew who I was, but fame like that is fleeting, and sort of overrated. I much prefer well-paid, secure anonymity. And okay, maybe I miss late night phone calls from infatuated, anonymous Kappa Kappa Gamma girls, but only just a teensy bit.

So now that you know what I do for a living, let me ask Today’s (Two-Part) Question: What did you think you would be when you grew up? Are you one?


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