Kill The DJ

by Evelyn Pelczar

You may remember our blog post titled "Hey Mr. DJ!," The Anchor’s very own take on DJs and DJ culture we posted a few months back, where we extolled the virtues of the professional, working DJ, explained some of the technical stuff that goes along with the craft and poked some fun at the “celebrity DJ” and venue operators who micromanage the talent. We also spoke about how the Anchor is a place where the DJ is free to be creative in his sets, and how this mostly works in our favor.

In fact, aside from the time a DJ decided to launch into a set of early 90s television show themes (in their entirety) to a packed room at 12am, or the time a DJ showed up blackout drunk and played Iron Maiden to a crowd of girls in their early 20s who were looking to hear EDM and current dance hits (and definitely NOT looking to do what he suggested when they complained), or the time a DJ played “Mambo #5” and cleared out a packed dancefloor completely -- the freedom we give the DJs we book has been a positive thing for us, our customers and has caused the DJ community at large to consider us a “DJ friendly” venue over the years.

DJs who used to carry crates of records back in the day, and always maintain a standard of professionalism such as DJ Phresh, DJ MOS, Mel Debarge, Mick Boogie, DJ Fresh Direct, Brooklyn Dawn, DJ Kalkutta and Claudius Raphael, as well as newer DJs who exhibit the same level of dedication to their craft such as Nick at Nite, DJ Marco and Boogie Dash are always a pleasure to work with, bringing an energy to the room that only comes from loving what you do and working hard to perfect your set. They are always on time, ready to rock the crowd and are humble people with a genuine love of music and nightlife. Even with most lesser-known DJs, unfortunate incidents are few and far between.

However, there is another side to it. As I’ve said, we’ve already been over the well worn joke-fest that is the “celebrity DJ” and the Hollywood scion DJ. But what about the new crop (and not so new crop) of DJs popping up with a sense of entitlement larger than their skill set and riders longer than their resumes? Those whose egos barely fit into the already cramped booths they embarrass themselves from? As a particularly cynical and often drunk bartender I know once said (during a brief moment of clarity), "DJs have become like drug dealers: they’re always late, kind of annoying and they overcharge for an inferior product."

We’ve received everything from riders (really? only 4 bottles of Grey Goose? Do you think that will be enough for a 2-hour set?) to hilarious equipment requirements. We’ve had DJs show up without slip mats and needles then look at us like we’re the assholes. Unknown equipment. Unknown DJs who absolutely must use their own mixer because they are “sponsored” (by who? LA Looks hair gel?).

We’ve seen people try to play pre-recorded mixes and turn knobs and move the crossfader in an attempt to pretend they are DJing live. We’ve even had to pull a DJ (admittedly, we let a promoter book him) that played “Laffy Taffy” at 1am and completely cleared the room. Nobody should ever play "Laffy Taffy." To be fair, we’ve also seen Mr. Brownstone clear the room, but still…

In what we consider probably the most brazen act of DJ hubris, we recently had a fairly well-known DJ show up a 3am (!) for a gig booked more than a month in advance. A gig that had a 10pm start time. That’s right, he showed up 5 hours late for work, and just opened his computer and tried to plug it like it was all good. He even f*cking acted surprised when we asked what the hell he was doing!

Even worse than being comically late, showing up hobo drunk with bloodshot eyes and slurred speech and leaving an inexperienced and ill-prepared opener to play to a packed room all night, was actually having the balls to show up at the end of the night like nothing happened and believing that was okay and within the bounds of a professional working DJ. That we should be happy, even.

The newest hackneyed phrase that has been thrown around since the rise of the nationally-known open format DJ, and since EDM DJs have begun commanding six-figures per appearance, is that “DJs are the new rock star.”

The only difference is that actual rock stars have paid dues, practice exhaustively, act professionally by giving people a great performance and arriving in a timely fashion, and know that other people and businesses depend on the part they play in a larger picture -- the debauched, irresponsible and over-the-top antics are mostly myths from another era. Not to say that some of the best DJs in the game don’t get down, but those are the ones that can do that. It’s not an attitude that should be embraced from the outset.

All in all, most of the DJs who pass through the Anchor are hardworking professionals. As in any field, there are those who think their twitter feed is more important than their performance. For all the new guys out there looking for a way to break in, dedication and hard work is a must – but also remember you are being paid very well to do a job. And most jobs require you show up, not be a complete douchebag and be ready to perform. You don’t get to be “the new rock star” unless you are actually rocking crowds.

For more on The Anchor, check out their website.