So last week I was talking about the forthcoming joint birthday party for the kids and I mentioned that I had failed to book a DJ for the event so I might have to resort to my ‘plan’ of hiring the equipment and doing it myself.
Huh, I bet some of you thought, no chance. Pure fantasy! Play safe and just compile a CD to play on the day. They’ll have a stereo at the pub.
That’s exactly what I thought as I was writing, anyway. But by Friday morning, when I knew for sure no-one else was available to do a disco, I felt the alternative wasn’t enough. I had to step in. It didn’t just become my ‘plan’, it became my ‘challenge’.
I explained to the wife that I was going to hire the equipment and do it myself. She smiled as though humouring me and said: ”Yeah, ok, and then we can just compile a CD or playlist, right?”
I smiled back. I didn’t think this was the time to reveal the full extent of my ‘challenge’.
Hiring the equipment was easy enough – £50 for a mixing desk, CD player, speakers, two lights and a smoke machine. Pick up that afternoon, return Monday.
Blimey, I thought, I could get a couple of other gigs in at my local too. Then I calmed down. Hiring the equipment was all well and good, lifting it up was more of a challenge that Geoff Capes might have set himself.
It was the amp that was the heaviest, back-breaking in fact. By the time I had lugged everything into the house, I was beginning realise why you don’t get very many weak and skinny looking DJs. Fatboy Slim obviously had people to help him.
Anyway I set it all up and started jotting down my playlist. With this being a party for kids mainly under seven, my brief was to keep it contemporary. Or, as my wife put it, ‘play lots of Lady Gaga.’
Lady Gaga, I chuckled inwardly. How 2009!
Besides any half decent DJ knows that there are certain classic songs that can get people of any age up on the floor. Dancing Queen is the obvious, Car Wash (begrudgingly) another, but I had already decided to give Crazy Horses by the Osmonds a punt too.
So list jotted down, a fair bit of practising with the mixing desk achieved, next afternoon we took the children and the mobile disco equipment down to the venue and set everything up. Then I put on the first three songs on Now 74 – starting with Fight For This Love – while people arrived and things warmed up.
The trouble was, before the CD had even got to I Gotta Feeling, it became apparent I had competition. I had set up the disco in the pub playroom in front of a shelf full of toys. The boys that came in didn’t want to know the Black Eyed Peas or Cheryl Cole. They wanted the monster trucks and a go with the speaking Cyberman head.
In fact my first request said it all. One little boy came up to me and said: ”Can you turn the music off please?”Not down, off. I could have coped with ”down” but ”off” felt a little catastrophic. As though the noise was putting him off his game of trucks.
Still I perservered and braved trying a little banter over the microphone with some of the parents in the room. The microphone actually helped warm me to some of the young guests. They all wanted a go. They kept asking: ”Can I have a go on the microphone”
All my precious DJ persona went out of the window and I gave it to one boy. The sound of him burping promptly filled the room. Then one of the girls grabbed it and shouted ”hello”. This set a pattern for the afternoon. I expect studies have shown that when given a microphone, girls will usually speak or sing into it, while boys will belch, or worse. Actually did we ever need studies to show this?
Not that I minded – it was helping me gain popularity with the crowd that was forming. Well, six or seven kids at least. My other competition was that it was a reasonably nice day outside for a January and the kids were enjoying running around the pub garden with their friends. And Lady Gaga, to prove a point, wasn’t doing enough to pull them back in.
So it was time for a game: musical statues. An oldie but a goodie.
And it worked wonders. To Jump by Girls Aloud and then Toxic by Britney Spears, a lot of girls danced about and then expertly paused when the music stopped, even when I tried fooling them by dancing along as though I wasn’t even thinking about putting the volume down.
I wasn’t eliminating anyone, this wasn’t a contest. This was a fan club, a much needed audience to my two hours in the DJ spotlight and, to be honest, I could have carried it on for the rest of the party.
Unfortunately, my wife came in and said: ”So shall I go around and tap people on the shoulders then?”
Now I didn’t refute this idea but nor did I look overly keen. And so before I could consider the implications of such judging, my wife scouted the room and eventually tapped the shoulder of one girl who had not only been one of the best musical statues but also was one of the guests who didn’t really know very many others.
The wife tapped her shoulder and the poor little thing looked crushed, I mean, quite close to tears. I flapped my arms and cried out what a terrible call my wife had made and just about managed to keep the little girl on the dancefloor and more importantly from running to her mum and telling her about the injustice that had just occurred.
The game continued without anyone being eliminated but the wife suggested making this the last song for musical statues. She later said she was trying to stop the kids getting bored with the game but some were only just beginning to join in and hitting their stride so I have another word for it.
Couldn’t hack Lady Gaga being a bit of a flop, could she? Couldn’t hack me performing marginally better than an iTunes playlist!
Of course in retrospect it wasn’t sabotage at all; it was all my own doing – I made a schoolboy error by not keeping the statue kids on the floor with the next tune.
In my defence, I went for something ‘contemporary’, a No.1 hit from last summer no less – one of those tunes I had actually downloaded onto my iPod back then so I could listen to what ”the kids” were listening to.
The tune I played was Club Can’t Handle Me by Flo Rida. Disaster. The floor cleared faster than if there had been someone outside handing out free Nintendo DSes.
Any professional DJs reading this will probably be thinking ”Ah, yes, Flo Rida, Club Can’t Handle Me. What a turkey! See, boy, you’ve got a lot to learn. This DJing isn’t easy…”
And that is what I was beginning to think. I quickly switched to Dancing Queen but it was too late. You know your DJing career is in trouble when you can’t get a single person – child or adult – to get up to Dancing Queen.
I tried Rihanna and even gave Lady Gaga one last chance. Not so much as a shuffle from the audience.
Then it was time for food and I played my most popular song yet. 4 minutes 33 seconds of Silence by John Cage – the extended remix. Certainly it got the thumbs up from the little lad who had made the first request of the afternoon.
My two hours were close to being up and parents arrived to collect their kids. I have one mum to thank for dancing with her young daughter as I played Dancing Queen and Parklife and even sticking with it when I put on Yes Sir I Can Boogie (another surefire classic, though it takes a while to get going).
But most reviews from people – apart from having overdone it with the smoke machine (mainly the doing of the kids who kept switching it on while I was busy lining up the next tune) and one kindly soul who joked about booking me for when she was holding a party – was that I was a bit too retro.
Retro? Retro?! I played Lady Gaga, Girls Aloud, Flo bloomin’ Rida killed the mood completely. How could anyone say I was retro and that be a bad thing?
Oh well, I thought, as I did my back in one last time lugging everything into the car again, at least I didn’t play Crazy Horses…