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Posted at 5:51 PM ET, 06/ 2/2005

Hey DJ, Play That Song


The viral nature of blog content recently brought this to my attention. Comedic value notwithstanding, I figured it was a good way to set off a more sober question that I've long been curious about, especially because we frequently write about DJs and surely everyone doesn't care about them to the same degree.

For our readers who like to shake a leg occasionally (or often), how important is the work of the DJ to you? Does the success of your evening at a club rest heavily on the DJ's skills or is that an afterthought? How would you rank a DJ on a scale of relevance against other factors like drinks, socializing, people watching or meeting the opposite sex?

For those of you that follow certain DJs, how particular are you about your favorite jock's style? What makes you favor certain DJs and feel ambivalent about others? From reading questions in Got Plans? over time, it seems that it often gets no more specific than selection, as in "I want some good old school" or "none of that techno stuff please." Other times it seems that loyalty is a function of familiarity.

For those who couldn't be bothered to even acknowledge some cat in a booth with a furrowed brow framed by headphones, what details did you notice the last time a DJ crept into your attention span, whether they were really good or really bad? How did this compare to your usually preferred nightlife musical accompaniment, whether that's a jukebox, a live band or just a room full of loud conversations?

If this generates some insight, perhaps we'll open a line of inquiry on club promoters next.

-- Rhome

By  | June 2, 2005; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  Bars and Clubs  
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Posted by: Alexandria | June 3, 2005 9:09 AM | Report abuse

DJs are super important. I'd say the music is the most important part of the evening, with people watching/opposite sex next and drinks last. That said, I agree with the article. Who cares about who DJs are? It'd be totally cool with me to just have a burned CD playing on a loop as long as the tracks are fun and danceable.

Posted by: meg. | June 3, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

I realized how important DJs are a few weeks ago when I was at a popular Arlington establishment and the music was bad. The songs that were chosen were too slow and were left to play for too long. The guys ended up just hanging out and not dancing and hardly trying to pick up chicks. It was bizarre.

Good DJ's are crucial!

Posted by: Leigh | June 3, 2005 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Granted, I'm not into that whole scene. But, it seems you can put together a boat load of MP3s and get a similar experience as some dude with 900 lbs of old records, headphones, turntables, and a booth. Having good music is definitely important, but whether it's DJ uber-hip or your buddy's iPOD doesn't matter a bit.

Posted by: KEG | June 3, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

You really know the worth of a good DJ when you experience a bad one. Crap tunes are one thing, but dead air or an awful segue into the next track definitely interrupt the fun if you're on the dance floor. That said, I don't follow the DJ scene, but reading about it isn't a total bore.

Posted by: polyester | June 3, 2005 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The DJ, there presence is immeasurable. Hell, I have gone to clubs once and thought it was the place to be because the DJ was good, only to return and find the place a figment of my imagination. The place still existed, but the tunes, vibe, (DJ), were gone. I'd like to know about DJ's.

Posted by: dirty backpacker | June 4, 2005 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Ever since seeing the documentary Scratch, and listening to my friend Sharkey, I've gained a massive appreciation for DJs and the skills they have. Any discussion on DJs is much appreciated. And thank you, Rhome, for introducing me to new DJs and venues I otherwise wouldn't have known about, its greatly heightened my love for this city. And PS - I saw you spin (and met you briefly) at the Nikki Lee opening at Numark, thank you for the CD.

Posted by: Deanie | June 5, 2005 11:58 AM | Report abuse

When I want to dance, I want to dance to music I know and can sing to, so all the talk of DJs sometimes makes me less likely to hit a particular club. I don't want trance or house or any of that. I want Britney and Madonna and Prince with a little Gloria Gaynor thrown in for kicks. If the DJ is super trendy and cool, will they play the top-40 dance and pop that I love?

Posted by: Katie | June 6, 2005 10:52 AM | Report abuse

So I guess the deciding factor is whether or not one is a fan of DJ culture? On one side are folks that want the DJ to lead them with selection and technique and are open to going to unexpected places. On the other side are what could be called "meat and potatoes" folk. I don't think they have to be mutually exclusive groups, although people are often eager to define themselves in one camp.

I also don't think "trendy and cool" means that one has to only play obscure tunes to maintain one's hipness. There's a time and a place for everything.

(Here's where I get personal and offer my own opinion)

A good DJ reads the room. A good DJ tunes into the energy of the room and builds on it. If there's a group of folks on the dancefloor who only know radio hits, a good dj does NOT force obscure records on them just because they're "cool".

Now a GREAT dj will butter this crowd up with the material they're familiar with, gain their trust, and slowly expand their comfort zone by leading them into tunes they wouldn't have been interested in otherwise.

That's where the skills come in.

Of course, if you're a patron who loves Jessica Simpson, you really shouldn't go to a techno club and make that inappropriate request and then be mad that the DJ won't be your personal iTunes playlist.

Posted by: Rhome | June 6, 2005 2:34 PM | Report abuse

the letters "DJ" open up old wounds that had just recently been mended. our wedding was in october and we had the world's worst DJ at our wedding. it was terrible.

i would have preferred doing it myself with my ipod.

Posted by: pissed off bride | June 6, 2005 3:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't go to clubs to "meet" people or hang out. I go to dance and be inspired. If there is one thing I hate is being forced to listen to radio crap all night long. You can hear Jessica Simpson 5 times a day on at least 4 stations in this area alone. Why would you want to go to a club to here her three more times?

The DJ in my opinion, is supposed to make me move to the old and the new. If I am standing still they aren't working hard enough. If you don't how to blend, stay home and if you think playing breaks all night is cool, then I'll just stay home. There is so much good music beyond the radio, a good DJ entertains as well as enlightens. I have been to parties where I am so moved by the music I have to go to the DJ and ask, "Who was that?" Sometimes it's a dope obscure remix of a mainstream artist and sometimes its a "well-known artist everywhere but in the States", kind of thing, but it's GOOD music.

The DJ used to be the messenger, but with all of the corporate wranglings of radio, the role has been reduced to underpaid intern, unless of course you are a "celebrity". At that point, regardless of how litle experience they do have, they can throw two letters in front of their name and people will pay thousands of dollars for them to do what I could easily do with itunes.

There are some phenomonal DJs in the area that are relegated to being "local" because listeners have allowed companies to take over the airwaves. Think about it? How many people have a song that they just hate, but can't stop singing because it's been played to death?

While I respect those that don't see the importance of having a human communicator amongst all of the technology and payola, I have to say that the DJ is an important aspect of good nightlife, good music and beyond.

Getting off the soapbox now.

Posted by: lovethedj | June 6, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I think a DJ's are the unsung heros of every great venue, party, wherever.

You have an amazing time dancing and say that club was great...but you were probably in a stinky smelley basement of a hole in the wall (and i like this place but....a la chief ike's).

I have a limited knowledge of DJ's but when I am aware (usually through gog's)of where someone I have heard before is spining I would be much more apt to go there as opposed to a random hot spot.

Much love for my favorite DJ Stylus...who get's me into trouble because I won't leave the dance floor...

Posted by: jess gib | June 6, 2005 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I guess it's weird to me that this is even a debate. Satire aside, it's been almost 30 years since Kool Herc and folks made the DJ more than a karoake machine. And 22 years since DST showed the world the turntable could be used as an instrument in its own right.

In some types of bars music is not a critical part of the vibe, sports bars, for instance. But in most bars/clubs/lounges, music is critical. Meaning the selection is critical. Meaning the DJ is critical.

much love for the educated peeps posting here.

Posted by: freshdipt | June 7, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

the worst is when you go somewhere regularly and there's the same DJ and he plays the same stuff every week. i hate that. no one wants to hear "Paradise City" and "I Touch Myself" every thursday. or even once a month for that matter.

Posted by: andrew | June 7, 2005 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Anyone remember the song, "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life"? A good DJ can make you feel like that in a club or on the radio.

Posted by: musiclover | June 7, 2005 3:43 PM | Report abuse

OF COURSE DJs are important! I don't know of anyone deserving of hero worship ... but to there is simply no replacing a person who has the skill to mix and play tunes and can feed off the energy of the crowd to mix and play the right tunes.

Posted by: Nzinga | June 7, 2005 5:17 PM | Report abuse

as a former area "club"dj i welcome any and all information on which dj plays where and what style of music they will be playing. I find myself selecting clubs/bars specifically to "check out a certain dj, even if i'm not there to dance.
i am always impressed by someone who can move a crowd and plays not just what is hip and trendy, but will occasionaly play something i had not heard in years.
Who wants to go out and listen to the same song 4 times an hour off of some crappy juke box

Posted by: angus2213 | June 7, 2005 5:40 PM | Report abuse

I just moved to DC, so I'd love any information on good DJs. Not into techno house trance, or whatever it's called these days. More into hip-hop, funk, afrobeat, and reggae.


Posted by: Nordy | June 8, 2005 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music they constantly play

On the Leeds side-streets that you slip down
Provincial towns you jog 'round
Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ
Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ

Posted by: morrissey | June 10, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Playlists are crucial. DJs are not.

Posted by: JC | June 10, 2005 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I value djs big-time. I go to Pulse @ Andalus specifically for that reason (best house in DC). A dj has to be able to not only play music that will get me on the dancefloor (which, let's be honest here... doesn't take all that much), they also have to be able to read the crowd to figure out the best tracks to play.

Posted by: val | June 10, 2005 6:02 PM | Report abuse

So I wanna be a DJ, not because I have any delusions of grandeur, but because I'd love to share music I like and hopefully have people dance along to it. Anyway, was wondering if there are any other events similar to Galaxy Hut's where you can spin your own tunes on Wed. nights. Anybody know?

Posted by: Ash | June 14, 2005 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Great DJs, as stated earlier, can read the crowd but also bring together complex sounds in an original fashion to the room. People will dance, and those who don't like the music should leave immediately - the DJ should never cater to the crowd if it is the wrong vibe, but instead create the vibe to which the crowd will elevate. of course getting this done (and still be profitable for the club) is what separates the typical from the professional (e.g., Sasha, PVD, ATB).

ANY DJ THAT SPINS POP, 80s, and HIP HOP IN ONE SET IS A POSER and should be pegged w/a dunce hat in public while "spinning" his silly playlists. That requires no talent, and that kind of DJ can easily be replaced by an iPod.

Posted by: House Lover | June 14, 2005 9:28 PM | Report abuse

What I find most interesting and creative is when the DJ mixes two songs together that you wouldn't have ever expected. Was in Las Vegas this past weekend, and the DJ mixed "Another One Bites the Dust" with "Hollaback Girl" and blew us away. At the end of the night we found out he was from WPGC - loved that. There was also an excellent DJ in the back room at Bossa one night, playing with an acid-jazzy-funky sort of band - I think they're there on Fridays - the DJ fans may dig it

Posted by: Deanie | June 15, 2005 10:00 AM | Report abuse

There is a need for a DJ. Anyone can get 10000 songs and put them on or go to billboard and get the top hits and play them.Many people think they can be a Dj becuase they think they know what they like everyone else will like. But a good DJ reads the room and tunes into the energy of the room and builds on it and doesn't force the obscure or hot hits. A dj will play the familiar and gain their trust, and expand on other dance songs. Remember the Dj their is there for 2 reasons one to play some good music and the other is for the club to make money. If the club and its owners is catering to the 27-40 group( your money makers and good tippers) A Dj shouldnt be playing gansta rap or heavy techno or house. Unless the club is a rap club or TECHNO club. Also what a Dj plays early should be differnt then what he plays late -The crowd demographics will chance throughout the night. Also the loudness, tempo,should change throughout the night- who wants to hear blairing music with the same beat all night long. I have seen too many times a Dj start playing what that (other club) is playing or a young Dj start playing what a few of his friends want or the younger 18-22 crowd wants. Remember people are at your club and not the (other club) for a reason- they pcked your club not to hear that, and as far as the dj's friends or younger group how about the rest of the nightclub?? I have watched many patrons leave a club which was a crowd of 24-40s and set for top 40, dance, diva, and 80's becuase young DJ desided to play what he wants to, or play rap for his friends, sure one song maybe two but thats enough.

I have been a club DJ and in Club management for ovr 15 years in New Orleans, Las Vegas, and in Baltimore. I work at 3 clubs now.I do a themed 80's night at one club now, an alt,goth,industrial, metal at another, and the last is a country/rock bar. While keeping in the 80's theme I do not take request for rap or play country. I will mix in some current dance music especially artist that were from the 80's putting out new songs. I will take many request as long as it fits the theme, and if I get a chance on a long song go out and talk with the patrons. I read the crowd and becuase of it have a great following of patrons and will always pack in a crowd that will stay late and drink all night. I also make sure the songs mix well- sound good and have no dead sound, and do not make too many announcements.
So as you see there are many things that make a club and the Dj is a major part of it. DJs have to remeber that he works for the partons and the venue. He gets payed from the Venue so he has to stay in the selected style the club wants and then be creative to captivate a crowd. Though other things that makes a good club is events, is there enough bathrooms, specials, is there food? other things to do besides dance, is there a place where the music is not as loud to talk.

Posted by: anon | July 18, 2005 1:15 PM | Report abuse

For the devotees of house, trance, etc. the DJ apparently makes a lot more difference.

But if you want a good mix of danceable stuff, more people notice when the music is bad. Of course, people should know what the format is before going into a club and then bitching about it if they don't like the selection.

I personally like an energetic mix of old school, hip hop, r&b/top 40, reggae - sometimes some latin. For me, finding a non-pretentious place that does that mix well is tough. There are so many Eurotrash wannabe places, it's not funny. And the ones that encourage the predatory nature of men by letting in 18 year old girls but not 18 year old guys seriously turn me off (Fur, Home, etc.); they won't get my money.

That said, there is only one place that I frequent on a specific night for a specific DJ, because he plays a decent mix of most of the stuff I like. Much love to Stylus Chris on Fridays at Modern.

Posted by: anon | July 26, 2005 8:10 PM | Report abuse

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