hot-burning-speakerI’m awake now. It took me a few days to recover from the festivities last weekend.  It’s amazing what a handful of Advil and 14 hours of sleep can do. I needed it though. I didn’t get back to my hotel room until at least 3AM to 7AM from Friday through Sunday night. I got plenty of good networking done. Some know the holiday as Labor Day Weekend. Nerds like myself count down all year to the same date so we can return to our mecca in the South East known as Dragon*Con.

Leading up to this year’s freak fiesta, I had been negotiating with Dragon*Con management since last April. I received a call from Mr. Eric Watts, Trek Track Director for Dragon*Con, during my lunch break at work. I was pleased to hear him tell me that since last year’s Trek party I DJed was a big hit. (Yeah, I already knew that. I was there. But every now and again, it’s nice to get that kind of validation.) Eric went on to ask if I wanted to DJ again for the Klingon Disco and the Party at Ten Forward. This year would be nothing out of the ordinary – sponsorship by Outworlders and will double as Dragon*Con’s Rainbow Flag Party for the geek LGBT community (translation: my mix needs to be a bit girlier than usual with more 80s / 90s flavor). Naturally, I accepted the invitation without a second thought. I love convention crowds, and have had a good amount of experience spinning at gay clubs.

(Side note: A DJ who gains acclaim from the LGBT crowd in any form is more or less the highest compliment you could get anywhere as an artist. When you play at a gay event, the general focus is no longer is about the DJ. Instead, the party becomes focused about how the DJ’s selection and style makes the divas on the dance floor look good. If the mix is too aggressive or just something they don’t like, they will let you know ASAP complete with snide comments and dirty looks. Do, or do not. There is no try.)

Fast forward to early August. Eric called again. He said he has this brilliant idea: He wanted to have a theme song for his annual Miss Klingon Empire Pageant. He knew that I occasionally produced remixes, he thought it would be fun if I did a mashup of “Supermodel (You Better Work)” by RuPaul and the Klingon Battle Theme. After I stopped giggling, Eric said he was serious. Certainly, I have experimented with mashups that had more bizarre source material than this. What did I have to lose, right? I can pull this off working a 40 hour a week job and do this mashup in less than a month. No problem.

The following month flew by and I finished the mashup with less than a week to spare before the convention. When I offered to email the finished product to Eric, he says, “I’m sure it’s great. But I wouldn’t know how to get the music from my AOL email to burn it to CD. Bring it with you to the convention and drop it off in the Trek room.” The tech junkie in me was in awe. I wanted to ask him how he was always surrounded by nerds, geeks, and techies while simultaneously being that technologically illiterate. Rather than verbally abusing my elder director in an attempt to untie the knot he put my brain in using ‘AOL email’ in a sentence in 2009…I simply said, “Yeah, I can do that,” and hung up soon after.

Saturday of the following weekend, I rolled my hijacked luggage cart stacked overflowing with my DJ gear to the Trek Track room in the Sheraton. The time was around 9:20PM. I parked the luggage cart in the hallway outside the Trek room to see that one of the actors from one of the TV series was still fielding questions from the audience and doing in-person live commentary of select episodes he starred in. Despite my need to have at least 30 minutes set up time for the Klingon Disco, all I could do was quietly find a spot in the hall to chill until the room cleared. Five minutes passed. Ten…fifteen minutes passed. Finally, the panel ended with only 10 minutes before show time. There were a few people in the hall sitting with me to be first in line to get into the party.

Immediately, I fought my way inside to park the luggage cart and start wiring electronics together as fast as I could. Eric and his staff cleared the 30 or so rows of chairs out of the way so people could dance. I dug in my bag for more stuff to connect when I heard “Where is your DJ?” coming from one of the doors. I perked up to greet the volunteer from D*Con’s Technical Operations crew who brought some speakers to place in each corner of the long rectangular room. Soon enough, I managed to get all of my gear situated. Turntables, computer, headphones, mixer, mic and a couple jugs of Gatorade were right where I needed them.

Everyone was waiting on my signal to let people in to start the event. I said, “Not yet,” stepping from behind my makeshift DJ booth to run to the men’s room through a back door marked ‘hotel employees only’. When I emerged from the restroom around the corner from the Trek room, I was amazed at the long line of people that were waiting to get in. The line stretched down a 50-foot hallway into the hotel lobby and ended just past the automatic doors next to the hotel valet podium. I was overwhelmed with thoughts of, “Holy crap!” “They’re waiting on ME,” and “HELL YEAH!” simultaneously.

When I slipped back into the Trek room, the Tech Ops minion who brought in the speakers told me she was ready when I was.

I asked, “Are you sure?”

She said, “You should be fine.”

I double checked, “Everything is powered, plugged in where it needs to go, and all set?”

She said, “Absolutely.” I thanked her for the much needed help and gave the green light to open the doors. I started the music a bit after 10:10PM. The crowd cheered as they filtered into the room. Within seconds, the room was stuffed elbow to elbow.

About 30 minutes later, Eric storms up to the DJ table. I tossed my headphones around my neck to see what he wanted. Instantly he barks at me, “You. Come with me. NOW! …Put on a long song you can walk away from for a bit. Then come with me.” Slightly confused, I nodded and threw on an extended remix. I put down my headphones. I pushed my way through the thick crowd of costumed dancers to find Eric at the rear of the room.

Eric was seated along the wall and started yelling at me again, “What the hell is this?!”

“What the hell is what?” I asked, still puzzled.

“THAT right THERE!” Eric yelled. He angrily points at the speaker on the stand in the corner. There was a smoldering hole about 6 inches wide in the speaker’s subwoofer. The edges of the hole were still glowing amber like a lit cigarette. Eric continued to scold me about the speaker and who was to pay for it. “You did this. YOU set the damn speaker on fire!”

I explained, “While I may have set the speaker on fire, I checked with the Tech Ops volunteer who set up the system if everything was ready. She said yes. My hands on this are clean. Now if you’d excuse me – not to be rude – but I have a show to keep going.”

The following 3 hours, the Klingon Disco / Rainbow Flag / Outworlders event became the event to see. I found out after my set was done that nerd icon and Joss Whedon alumni actress Felicia Day dropped in to check out the Trek party and wrote about the event on her Twitter feed. Rumor has it that Felicia kept getting hit on at the Battlestar Galactica party nearby and figured that the best way to avoid that was to surround herself with sweaty gay men and women.

 

UPDATE: It seems that the burned speaker thing became an instant urban legend in the convention community. I have heard over and over on random occasions well after the 2009 con recall the event as they heard it or how security and Tech Ops got involved afterwards.

According to a few people who were on Dragon*Con staff that year, Eric put the damaged speaker out in the hall for it to be picked up later. A member of security noticed it was still smoking a little and reported it over the radio. Instantly, the multiple conversations on the same channel stopped in a giant collective ‘wait …WTF did he say?’ moment. One of the security directors asked him to repeat the part about what was burned and where it was found. After clearly repeating the report, the speaker was rushed outside to prevent the smoke alarm from going off causing the fire department to come evacuate the entire high rise hotel. 

In hindsight, I still think it’s a little funny to have yet another one of these stories to tell about the wake of destruction I’ve had over the years. 

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