Wednesday, 17 August 2011

My DJ Debut

Let's start with the grand narrative of the night, shall we? And this may move us on to the moment where I was wearing a fascinator that Laura McD said reminded her of fireworks, hunched over my computer, while a drunken man got down on one knee and proposed that I play "Everywhere" by Fleetwood Mac. Let's rewind to about 11:30pm and give this wonderful night a bit of context, shall we?

Andy and I had been brainstorming a fun night for our first party of the festival, and after throwing around a few ideas that were either too taxing or not quite awesome enough, we decided to throw a "Paper Disco" - a party where people would make paper cranes and other kinds of origami from old unwanted flyers and then dance around a bit. Why we thought origami and dancing were complimentary activities, nobody knows, but making art out of publicity does seem to contain a certain degree of subversiveness that is key to the ethos of Forest Fringe. And this, if anything, was a good reason to make a disco out of paper.

So the tables were set up, the flyers had been sourced, the lights were down, the dicso light was up. And yet - barely anyone was there. A few hitches had come up - the woman who was meant to teach us to make paper cranes is in a show about paper cranes herself and seemed to give up on her drunken and needlessly slow pupils relatively quickly. She's probably just a little tired of paper cranes. The paper plane flying contest that Andy had started with the best of intentions and through a sudden burst of energy flittered away like the first flight of the aerodynamically unsound paper airplane I constructed, before I remembered that the boys back in school had taught me how. And no doubt because he had been in the building since 9am, Andy was playing relatively ambientnmusic, so that punters seemed to be coming in, looking confusedly at our terrible flyer origami attempts (picture row after row of poorly folded boats with ""Four Stars" printed on them.) and then swiftly leaving. Myself, Harun and Tania decided that what the party needed was a little bit of upbeat music, and I was put in touch of making that happen.

I approached the dj booth tentatively - at first with a request - but it was immediately obvious that my co-director was in need of a break after his 16 hour day before he could bring himself to play the best of the 80s. So heart in mouth, I suggested that I take over the DJ responsibilities - and this is when my evening really began.

I played Fan Favourites at first, trying to hype up the mood of the Folding. My first song was "Everybody's Going to Be Happy" by the Kinks - which I played again later on, and I brought in some Paul Simon and even a bit of Elton John and Elvis Presley to keep it upbeat. There was one couple quietly sitting/dancing in the corner, and a couple of Spanish men who would occasionally saunter over to the computer to try and chat or to see what I was playing and why. I noticed some stragglers come in and phone friends, but they looked at the empty dance floor and quickly left. For one beautiful moment I played swing and our technical director and bartender danced to Duke Ellington and some other joyful number, but things were still relatively slow.

Then suddenly, it seemed to pick up all at once. It began with the sitting/dancing couple who were on their way out coming over to present me with a beautiful fascinator fashioned entirely out of flyers that they had decided the DJ should wear. I am convinced that this paper fascinator contained magical DJ-ing powers now possibly lost forever to mankind. I began wearing it and the very simple rule of playing whatever made me want to dance was wonderfully clear. Then Harun came over and complimented me on my set, buying me a glass of wine and watching me make my song selections - and the first group of youngsters arrived and staked a claim on the dance floor. Harun and I became both anxious and excited about the possibility of this group of whippersnappers. They were ready to dance and for that readiness, I owed them my best.

I started with some tracks off of Nuggets and Lux'n'Ivy's favourite, mixed in with a couple of wild cards, and they started dancing. It was a wonderful responsibility once this group of young excited people started dancing - I had to test their moods, try and decide what they would respond to best, and move the set from Psychedelic pop to Rockabilly to Swing to Doris Day to Bruce Springsteen to a little bit of Mo-town. They just kept dancing. What was wonderful was the moment when I got a request and the young man who asked found that I didn't have the song he wanted - when I said that I was thinking of playing the "Electric Prunes" he said they were brilliant and went back to the dancefloor to continue his merry boogie. I am nearly certain that he didn't actually know who the Electric Prunes are - they are a one hit wonder from the late 60s featured on Nuggets - but I'd earned his musical trust, and that was enough for me.

The crowd steadily doubled, then tripled, until eventually there was no question about it - there was paper on the floor and lots of people dancing. We were officially at a paper disco. By the time we'd heard the Pixies and the legendary Fleetwood Mac proposal had been agreed to, the dancing had built its momentum, and the crowd were happily rolling down and uphill with us from there. Andy came back invigorated after a dance and took the DJ-ing home beautifully for the last half hour of the night - a moment of wonder and madness. I got to jump around a lot to an MGMT song that I not-so-secretly like. Everyone who had been there since 11:30pm felt like characters in a movie from the 1980s. The straightforward success of a party that no -one comes to turning into a party that nobody wants to leave. And I must admit that I felt as though I'd helped to build it by dancing with that crowd, by trying to follow their mood and dictate and coax them into new things. (At one point I had everybody dancing to a song by a now defunct band from Halifax, Canada who were never signed. This was a very good moment for me.)

So there you are - it's now 4:06 in the morning and I'm still posting to say, thank you to the dancers. This was my first set, and together we saved the paper disco. The paper Beejees would be so proud.

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