Murphy’s Law happens to everybody and believe me, I’m no exception. There is no such thing as a concert, event, or massive party that goes on without a glitch. Whatever can go wrong, usually will. The success of that event depends on how quick you can recover from what goes wrong. This seemed to be the general theme for this night in particular.
Leading up to the event was the same thing like any other day doing tech support at the day job for people who have no business owning or operating anything with a screen. If dealing with the who’s-who of the Darwin Awards all day wasn’t enough to increase my heart rate, my boss had me stay for an employee survey after I was supposed to clock out, leaving me with a slim amount of time to get to the gig prior to my set. I somehow managed to call the event promoter for Bubblicious 2.0 to let him know about when I will be able to arrive. Originally, I had the opening time slot on the main stage. Now that I told them I will likely be late, the promoter says he will shuffle the DJs around to allow me to play later.
Now for those who don’t know, Bubblicious 2.0 is an underground foam party event in Atlanta with 12+ DJs and live Electronic music acts that spans three stages at a local off-the-map community center in midtown that hosts parties for niche groups – i.e., an all night rave. Obviously, the original Bubblicious party which was done at the same venue exactly a year ago was a huge success. So, yeah. This gig is a pretty big deal.
So I parked in the Arby’s parking lot next door, and fought my way up the sidewalk scattered with people waiting in line to get inside, Security spotted me. Instantly an off duty officer – who looked as if he missed out on his life calling to be in the NFL – made a path for me to get in and check in at the front counter that doubled as the box office. A different security guy waited for me to sign a clipboard before he patted me down and gave me an off-color VIP wristband. After nodding a quick thanks, I grabbed my gear and hustled my way through the halls searching for anybody in charge of the event.
Fast forward a few hours later. It’s a bit after 1AM. I ended up driving from work to the gig at breakneck speeds for nothing. Rather than opening the show on the main stage at 10PM, my set was shoved back to 3AM at a remote corner of the place they called ‘Stage 3′. Was I happy about this? Not really. But at this point, there was nothing I could do. At no fault of my own, I wound up arriving late, which is unusual for me. So, I kept my mouth shut. Considering that this was one of the few gigs I was playing solo without Detroit Mutant Radio, all I needed to do was kick back, chill, network, have a few laughs, and keep my head in the game for another two hours. No problem.
By now the main indoor stage was bumping. The usual wall of speakers, blinking lights, and various glowing party favors were all pulsing to the beat. The second stage outside was on a raised deck overlooking a fenced in portion of the patio below that served as the dance floor. The fenced in part was covered with a bright blue tarp where the foam machine poured in chest deep suds for the crowd to go wild in. The party was a success. There were bodies jumping, headbanging, raging, and flailing everywhere. …Everywhere, that is, except 20 yards away from the foamy dance floor through a closed pair of tinted glass doors where Stage 3 was supposed to be. I say ‘supposed to be’ because aside from a small speaker on a stand beside a 6-foot table that was propped against the wall, nobody had bothered to set up Stage 3. Current time: about 2:25AM. The odds of getting set up, having a sound check, plus attracting enough traffic where I’d be playing would be slim to none. Time for me to roll up my sleeves and put this adventure into overdrive.
I managed to track down some help to get the table upright and start plugging in gear.
Laptop booted up. CHECK!
Box linking turntables to laptop. CHECK!
Sound check. DONE!
All the while we were getting situated, somebody poked their head in the glass doors to see what all of the noise was about. Occasionally, they’d get curious enough to ask, “Y’all got another stage setting up? Cool! What time?” My reply was always the same. “About five minutes ago.” It was already a few minutes past 3AM. My volume was up to 11. It’s showtime.
Much to my surprise, people began to filter in within the first thirty seconds after I put the needle to the timecoded vinyl. Things were looking better already. …Until I attempted to transition to my second song. My laptop wasn’t responding to what I was doing with the turntables…meaning that unless I figured out what was glitching to cause the next song not to play, in two minutes there would be dead silence. I frantically started tracing wires to check if the gear on the left deck was connected correctly. There was a nest of wires on the table like a plate of spaghetti was trying to form a Celtic knot. It all checked out. Time was ticking down to the end of the first song I was playing. I bumped the box that linked the decks to my laptop just enough to get a signal. Good news: I found the problem in time to continue my mix. Bad news: There was a short in the box and it could cut the music off at any time. As small as the room was, it was already 2/3 full of people getting into my set. I managed to slide by until mixing in my fourth track when the left turntable shorted out enough to bring everything to a glitchy stop. All 150+ people on the dance floor stopped and started staring at me looking confused and upset. This is bad. There was nobody around that I knew could help get me back up and running. This was very bad.
As a club DJ, you are only as good as your last public appearance. It sounds cliché, I know, but image is everything. Especially since my solo gigs lately were few and far between because of my heavy involvement with the band, my image was sinking quickly.
I ran out the door and up the short staircase to Stage 2 and started asking around for help replacing the shorted box in the Stage 3 area. I caught word that one of the other DJs that was finishing their set has the uses the same software and I/O box that I had. He was gracious enough to let me rewire the gear from Stage 2 to move it to Stage 3. There was only a 10 minute gap between my music shutting off, finding a replacement box, and frantically getting everything reconnected restarting my set from the beginning.
No sooner than the first note pounds out of the speakers, I see Stage 3 flood with cheering club kids. I was shocked. Within the last hour, I went from ‘epic fail’ to ‘epic hell yeah!’. Stage 3 became so packed, management had to open the barn door at the back of the room to prevent a fire hazard. I got people who were born in the early 90s singing along to The Eurythmics, Duran Duran, and Beastie Boys. The crowd was moving as one and I was pulling all the right strings.
The moral to my long winded adventure is this: From my perspective, it’s the greatest rush to have everything fall into place in a matter of seconds…to have everybody hanging on your every move and want more. This is the potential has when I or anyone takes center stage if given the right time and the right circumstances.