Five things that will definitely happen when you play in public for the first time
If you're a bedroom DJ or have only ever spun at friends' parties and barbecues, then your goal is almost certainly to DJ at a decent club or festival. You get to play on a huge system, test out your tunes and mixing in front of a (hopefully) discerning crowd, maybe play some of your own productions, and probably get your friends in for free, too. It's a big first in DJing - up there with getting on promo lists, getting your mixes on decent radio shows, and getting your first production downloaded for Richie Hawtin - and, obviously, it's the best part of the job.
First gigs vary from DJ to DJ but are usually characterised by one factor - nerves. Inevitably, the first time you take control of a club soundsystem, you're going to feel a little nervous. This is good, and normal. If you weren't a little nervous at taking the helm of a party full of people, it would suggest that you hadn't fully understood the gravity of the situation. Your nerves will give you an edge. Try not to worry, its your first gig, it's going to be brilliant.
Here are a few things that will definitely happen the first time you DJ at a club...
1. All that planning will be for nothing (except it won't be, really)
You meticulously plan what you're going to play down to the Nth degree: track order, mix techniques, exactly when you'll do a quick 'Jesus' pose etc. And then as soon as you get on the decks, all your planning goes completely out the window as you try and keep up with the dancefloor.
The good news is, all that planning wasn't really in vain at all. It means that you are prepared, pre-armed - you know your music well, which tracks are warm-ups, builders or killers, and you know where the breaks are.This is when DJing gets really fun - heading out into the mix, a room full of people who are totally willing to go with you and you've got a bunch of great music that you know inside out. It's like heading out on a *Halo mission fully armed and upgraded.
2. The music will be really, really loud
This sounds obvious but if you've only ever mixed tunes at home, then your first time playing out on a big system will be something of a shock. Firstly, your music is going to sound different from how it does at home - the low end is going to be accentuated by the rig you're playing on and at high volume you might just be amazed at how different tracks you thought you knew well actually sound. The volume in the booth will be really loud too, and again, the experience of feeling the bass through your feet and of the amplified sound bouncing back at you from the walls of the club or warehouse will initially affect your ability to mix like you do at home.
The secret is to remain calm, take a moment and allow your ears to adjust. Make sure you've got some decent closed headphones so you can block out some of the outside reverberation and extraneous noise and remember, although it sounds very different to how it sounds at home, the principles are the same. Now pull yourself together and get in the mix.
3. The equipment will be different
The club might have a different model of CDJs than what you're used to, you might have never used the mixer before and the last DJ has left the effects on on the left channel and the filter on on the right. Good luck with sorting all that out before the current tune ends. Really, this situation has happened to every DJ and at some point you will have enough experience to not be phased and to methodically tackle it and deal with it like a pro.
Having a small torch on you helps. So does not acting like a dick and filling the booth with your terrible mates snorting ket off the current DJ's CD wallet prior to realising that you need some help: funnily enough, people are more likely to help you if you've not been acting like a dick.
4. You will bring WAY too much music
You will bring enough music to play for a week solid, every single possible type of genre and sub-genre, so that you are prepared for any possible DJ scenario. Veteran DJs suffer from a similar problem, in that if you spend a few years in the game it becomes ever more difficult to pick what music to bring to gigs simply because you have so much good stuff and so little time to actually play it.
Don't worry. Being over-prepared is what DJs do, that's why you’re a DJ - because you're over-thinking about how best to soundtrack a night. It is that over-thinking that separates the good DJs from the truly obsessives - and the obsessives are the best DJs. Bring whatever you like.
5. You won't believe how fast time goes
Your set is three hours long. The first 15 minutes go by in a blur of nerves, but then you settle down, realise that the dancefloor is still heaving and you haven't driven them all away. Then you start to relax, get into it, start to remember all the amazing music you wanted to share this evening. Then you get into the mix... at some point someone will come up to the booth and shake your hand. Later, someone else might press a drink into your hand and shout something incomprehensible. But way sooner than you expect, there will be another DJ looking over your shoulder, holding their headphones, wondering how they're going to follow you.
There are plenty of mistakes to be made - switching off the music, playing the wrong thing, getting a mix really badly wrong, spilling drinks over the equipment and many other horror scenarios. However, I can personally guarantee you that these things never happen at a DJ's first gig. It's in the DJ rule book, section 39 (a). sub-section IIV - check if you don't believe me.
Try and remember to take a moment, mid-set, to take a mental picture of the scene. It's your first gig, you've not been bottled off, this might be turning into one of the mot enjoyable evenings of your life so far. And it might just be the first of many more. Enjoy it!
Words: Harold Heath Pics: Pixabay/Creative Commons