Sunday, December 30, 2007

From Brooklyn to Bordentown [continued]

Friday night
Last Exit Bar - Brooklyn, NY

Friday nights at Last Exit are a blast. Although a relatively low-paying gig as far as DJ'ing goes, it's one of the most fun. I stand at the end of the bar and play lots of sixties garage rock, Motown, soul, R&B, funk, disco, 80's, and early 90's drinkin' music. My friends stop by and hang out, and the bartenders are the coolest in Kings County. Whereas my normal Friday night would consist of paying for overpriced PBR's or drinking endless pints of (even more expensive) Bass and feeding fivers into some crappy digital jukebox, I get PAID to play my favorite music and drink for free. I really couldn't ask for much more out of life.

But like everything else in life, you gotta take a little bit of the bad along with the good. The Gods are continually conspiring against you to test your abilities at dealing with drunk people and your ability as a DJ to satisfy the crowd. There was one such moment a few months ago on what's usually a pretty down-to-earth bar.

It was September, and the Red Sox were playing the Yankees as the Yankees were fighting to stay afloat in the playoff race. Towards the end of the game, as the Yankees were about to win, the bartender (the lovely Lauren, who got me this gig) asked if I could play Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" (see a theme developing here?) after the Yankees won, as they traditionally do at Yankee Stadium. So I happily oblige, and after Frank, I segue into a brief set of other Rat Pack legends such as Dean Martin and Sammy Davis. Classy, right?

So some overly-liquored asshole, who's been eyeing me down for the last couple hours for whatever reason, finally gets the drunken courage to confront me. The following is my approximate recollection of the exchange. Keep in mind a large group of my friends are standing there watching this transpire...

Douchebag: "What is this crap?"
Me: "Dean Martin?"
Doucebag: "Yeah... why are you playing this?"
Me: "It's a Rat Pack set... people wanted to hear Frank after the Yankees won, so it kinda made sense. You don't like it?"
Douchebag: "Why you gotta play that popular shit though? Why not Luck Be a Lady?"
Me: "New York New York? It's what they play when the Yankees win. And Luck Be a Lady is just as big a Sinatra song as any..."
Douchy: "What is this? Is this what you use?"
Me: "What, an iPod? Yeah, that, cd's, records..."
Douchy: "That's fucking lame dude... who can't do that? The bartenders could do that..."
Me: "Well, they kinda gotta tend bar, not play music..."
Douchy: "What is this music? Are you trying to be ironic? Is this supposed to be ironic? You fucking suck. You're the worst dj ever..."

At this point, several other people begin arguing with Douchy and a brawl nearly ensues. Douchy and his friends leave, one of whom was very cordial, I had actually talked to earlier in the night and played a couple of his requests. While this was seemingly an isolated incident, I would be called the "worst DJ ever" at this bar again about a month later, when some smelly, drunk hippie chick was upset with my choice of smelly hippie music (how can you like the Grateful Dead, but not the Doors?)

Tomorrow night, I will be manning the decks for the New Years Eve party at this very bar. It's a 70's theme, so I've gathered some of the Me-decade's greatest disco, funk and pop hits - I can only imagine how many un-ironic people it's going to piss off...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

From Brooklyn to Bordentown

People often ask me what it's like to be a working DJ. On the surface it sometimes seems glamorous and easy. I sit around and drink and party and play music, and get paid lots of money to do so. And sometimes I do, but this is rare.

The truth is, it's a job like any other. You're paid to act and perform like a professional. The money is (sometimes) lucrative, but gigs can be few and far between at times. Necessary job skills include being able to deal with drunk people, fixing things that go wrong (in the dark, while drunk usually), lifting heavy speakers over your head, being on your feet for seven hours straight into the wee hours of the morning, pleasing the most amount of people as much of the time as possible, and driving to exotic locations such as Mercer County, New Jersey.

Now, as the introductory series in my new blog dealy, I will detail for you a typical busy weekend in the life of DJ Milky Manchester.

Part One: Thursday night
Harvest Moon Karaoke Night - New Brunswick, NJ

About a year and a half ago, I took up residency on Thursday nights here at the Hub City's only microbrewery for Karaoke Night. Things were slow for a few months, but gradually picked up steam until we started to pack 'em in on a regular basis. I have a quality crowd of regulars who make this night exponentially more enjoyable than it would otherwise be. I also get a free bar tab, which allows me to sample the excellent variety of microbrews on a weekly basis. My usual night goes something like this:

9:00 PM: Arrive to an already packed bar still buzzing from the most extensive happy hour in town. Lug 200 pounds of equipment through bar full of drunk "young professionals", who generally don't acknowledge there is someone lugging loads of equipment through the bar, and have to be repeatedly told to MOVE.

9:40 PM: Finish setting up equipment. Do a short DJ set consisting of songs to help me mentally prepare to endure the next four hours of banshee wailing.

10:10 PM: Begin Karaoke night. I always do the first song to make sure the sound is OK from the performance area. It's still early and people generally do not appreciate my karaoke talents at this point.

11:15 PM: We're an hour deep. All of the regulars have arrived by now, and people are well on their way to getting sloshed. Most common question I'm asked: "How do you deal with the awful singing week after week?" Answer: "A Zen meditation process wherein I am able to effectively 'tune out' karaoke."

11:17 PM: The first of 146 times in the night when I'm asked, "When is my song up?"

11:22 PM: The first of 82 times in the night when someone asks if THEIR song can be up next. Common reasons why "my song should be up next" include: "I kick ass at karaoke", "I rock that song", "It's my birthday", "It's my friends birthday", "My friends are leaving", "I'm a hot blonde girl and always get my way", "I'm the best", and "These people suck".

Occasionally, someone will understand the concept of tipping, and I will move their song up in line accordingly. This rarely happens, though.

11:40 PM: Someone sings "Living on a Prayer".

11:57 PM: Someone who can actually sing is singing!

12:10 AM: Someone sings "Don't Stop Believin'".

12:22 AM: Someone sings "Sweet Caroline".

12:31 AM: Someone sings "Bohemian Rhapsody".

12:40 AM: Someone drops a glass/beer bottle on the floor near the stage, causing it to shatter. Amazingly, little to no blood has ever been shed on the floor of karaoke night.

12:52 AM: I unsuccessfully attempt to get a girl to show me her tits in exchange for moving up in line (it's never happened, although DJ Rob gets 'em all the time at the Golden Rail).

1:00 AM: The home stretch. Coming down from my slight drunken buzz (I do have to drive home), it's the longest part of the night. The energy level usually starts to wane, and I have to deal with a bunch of latecomers who demand to sing.

1:30 AM: Almost there. This is also the point in the night where I have a shot to score (since it's almost closing time. For the record: It's happened twice in 18 months. Not sure if that's a good or bad number. It looks pretty bad to me. )

1:42 AM: That's it! Get home safe. I play a recorded version of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" as per managements' (Dario's) request. 9 times out of 10, someone will grab a microphone and try to sing along, even though I've turned off all the microphones.

2:10 AM: I've finished loading out the gear and drive home, exhausted. I always sleep really well on Thursday nights. Sometimes I'll stop for a Fat Veggie Indian sandwich in New Brunswick, but usually the need for sleep prevails, as my Thursdays usually involve getting up at 7:30 AM and working most of the day until 3:00 AM. Thank god I have Fridays off. Kind of... (to be continued!)

It's a brand new era, but it came too late

Stay tuned for stories from central New Jersey's fourth-best DJ!