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Sunday, August 5, 2012

The DJ - What's the Point?

I am of the firm and unshakable belief that karaoke and the DJ are twisting their dull, rusted knives into the tender underbelly of the once-proud world of live music.

Case in point: Yesterday, being a Saturday, I wandered into the local watering hole, which in addition to ice-cold beverages aplenty, offers up a fine selection of live music nightly. I planted myself on a stool and ordered one of the ice-cold beverages over the din of jangly rock and roll that was playing over the sound system. I glanced at the stage and saw a young fellow who looked like the guy from The Black Crowes - you know, the one that was married to Goldie Hawn's daughter - slouched over a couple of laptop computers behind a makeshift wall of translucent plastic. I leaned forward and asked the bartender, "What gives?" He shrugged and said "DJ..."

I nodded and sat back, taking this information in. The DJ held a set of headphones to his ear briefly, then went back to his slouching. I leaned forward and called the bartender over again. "A DJ?" I asked. "On a Saturday night?" He nodded. I nodded back and took a sip of my beer. The DJ had started a new song and was now checking his telephone. The bartender, possibly sensing that I would be needing him again, had not moved. I leaned forward. "Can't you do that on your computer, or the jukebox?" I asked, pointing a thumb over my shoulder toward the sound booth, where all the music gear was. "Yes," the bartender nodded. I nodded, too. "So," I pondered aloud. "Why have that guy up there with all his gizmos - why not just hook up an iPod or something if there's no band?" The bartender laughed. "People really enjoy the DJs," he said. I watched a while longer and tried to decide if the DJ looked more like Chris Robinson or George Harrison, from around the time of the "All Things Must Pass" album.

George Harrison and Chris Robinson - tough call.

"Excuse me for a moment," I said and made my way to the front door, where the young, hip doorman with whom I also had a passing acquaintance was stationed. "Hey man," he said, greeting me in a young, hip manner. "What gives with the DJ?" I once again hitched a thumb over my shoulder toward the stage, where Chrisrobinsongeorgeharrison was currently bobbing his head in time with whatever he was listening to in the single headphone he was holding. The timing was different, however, than the music blaring through his speakers, so he looked retarded. The doorman shrugged. "People really like the DJs," he confirmed. I glanced at the bar, where both of the other patrons were engrossed in their telephones. "I can tell," I said. "Do you think the DJ looks more like George Harrison or the guy from The Black Crowes?" I asked. "Black Crowes guy," the doorman answered. We nodded and I walked back to my beverage. 

"So, no live music at all tonight?" I asked the bartender. He shook his head. "Nope, just a bunch of DJs..." "What???" I said, motioning for another beer. "There's more than one - it takes more than one to do this?" He shrugged. "They take turns..." "Why?" I asked. "Do they get tired or something?" Again the shrug. "Folks like it when they take turns..."

I sulked and sipped my beer. Here it was, a perfectly good Saturday night and I was sitting in a live music venue watching a guy play music from his laptop. A violent black and white movie played silently in the background and I watched that for awhile, then turned back to the bartender. "Do you think the DJ looks more like George Harrison or the guy from the Black Crowes?" "Definitely George Harrison," the bartender said. I nodded. "From the 'All Things Must Pass' album, right?" "Exactly," he said. 

I watched for another song or two, which as it turned out was plenty, finished my beer and wandered back across the alley, which as good fortune would have it, was where my house was. I sat on the floor and watched some of "Mars Attacks" with my daughter, who is eighteen. "Do you like DJs?" I asked. She shrugged. "Would you rather listen to live music or to a DJ?" I clarified. "Live music any day," she said. Slim Whitman's yodeling was making martiens' heads explode in their space helmets. "Yeah, me too..."

It occurred to me then that on any given evening, one could probably find a good half-dozen places to enjoy a DJ or sing karaoke, but that listening to a live band would be a rare thing indeed. I sighed. I completely understand that the place across the alley has to do what it can to bring folks through the door and that twenty nights out of the month, they put on live music shows, usually with three or four bands per night. This is becoming a rarity and the fact that they stubbornly persist in staging music events is nothing more than The Lord's Work, in my humble opinion. But the fact that they even have to consider the DJ makes my heart just a little heavy. We can only pray that live music doesn't go the way of the rotary telephone.


  1. Ya I saw a lonely DJ playing for no one in front a department store at the mall the other day. Expensive iPod lol

  2. Nothing makes you question your ability and desire to play music more than attractive young lady asking your band to please stop playing so they can dance to the DJ.