It’s quite a difficult feat turning up to a club in a city/country that I maybe visit once a year. I don’t play here every week. I don’t know the crowd. Do they like the music more melodic, progressive, hard or uplifting? I have to continuously analyze these things as I go along.
The first half an hour of my set is the most important as I test the water or where I’m going to head musically and how I will unfold my musical story. I look around at the dancefloor testing people’s reactions, watching facial expressions, seeing how they are dancing. These are all signals, signs that tell me in what direction to head. Sometimes you nail it as you open your set, other times you need to work a little harder until you have them in your grasp.
That’s when I get my buzz and the Fleming smile appears. No drug on this planet can beat that feeling of that special moment when I know I have taken control of the dancefloor. It hits me like a flash of lightening, I really can’t put in words how it feels and why I work so hard to achieve that moment with each and every set.
I’ve just returned home from a 2-Week JOOF Editions club tour of Australia (4-hour sets at each club) and I made some notes from a DJ perspective of what was going through my mind as I was playing.
First stop was Melbourne. I’ve been playing here for well over 10 years, but that doesn’t mean to say I know the crowd well. As with any territory musical fads come and go, so I’ve seen many changes over this time and not all fit into what I’m doing musically.
I have the reassuring comfort knowing that I seem to have my strongest fan base here, but never take this for granted I still have to analyze where I’m going to take things. I play a combination of both huge events and clubs shows in Melbourne, both can be quite different. Usually on the big shows I’m surrounded by Euphoric DJ’s, so I have no choice but to bang things out, as the BPM’s and energy will already be high. This time however it was a club show with myself being the only guest. I ensured that all the opening DJ’s on this club show didn’t cause the aforementioned problems, otherwise it would be difficult for me to start my set deeper.
They all did a sterling job.
As this was my first gig on the tour I was so excited! The opening set was perfect, I got there a good 30 minutes before so I could absorb where he was taking things. As soon as I’m in the DJ booth, I go into DJ mode and I look around analyzing. I don’t mean to be unsociable if some try and say hi, my brain starts to get into this zone and I try and figure our how I’m going to open my set and where to take it with the first few tracks. Nothing is ever pre planned. I felt I could open with a medium energy deep progressive track, as that’s where the energy currently sat with the warm up DJ.
I wanted to keep this great feeling, then take them a little deeper to enable me to create my personal lightening bolt! A good 45 minutes in I changed gear and made that magic moment. I could see it in everyone’s faces, they where pretty vocal too as this moment happened then I felt in control. I had taken them on a really deep moment, it was now time to have fun. With each twist and turn I took they followed. So I was able to have fun with these guys and girls. I took them to many peaks and back down again, I love playing sets like this. I had a random sporadic moment wanting to play an old Push classic that I scrambled to find just in time.
I was really in my DJ zone throughout, having thoughts of tracks coming to me naturally. While playing, I also have to take into consideration that some people only get to see me perform once a year, they hear my play tracks on my radio show (Global Trance Grooves) and want to hear them in a club environment. This often means I have to play certain tracks almost every week. I desperately try not to get tired of them myself and have to remember this is the first time these people have heard it in a club.
There were no drama’s here at Melbourne, everyone allowed me to do the job in hand perfectly following me, in hindsight I wish I played a bit more hard turbo mix action and this stuck with me until the following week in Sydney (you’ll read about this). The club was packed all the way until my last track, what a great feeling for all of us.
The following night was Perth, so take in mind I had only 4 hours sleep then 5-hour flight plus time difference getting me in just in time for the gig. I was playing at Metro, a huge ass club. This instantly changed my frame of mind. Unlike Melbourne that was a small intermit club, I was playing to a wider audience. I know a majority would be there to see me, but the rest will either be either curious or weekly regulars.
I knew I had to roll my sleeves up for this one and try and keep all the dancefloor interested. From my experience it’s going to be impossible to keep the club busy until 5am, the regular crowd naturally go when the bar closes and they get tired. From then on, it will be my dedicated fans.
That’s exactly how things panned out. I worked my ass off for the first two hours making sure everyone was going to stay. They were very receptive to the deep Progressive vibe that I stayed with for a good 2-hours, this sound really seemed to work with everyone at the club. Me too! I sensed the moment when some would head home due to it being late. You can do two things at this stage.
Throw a load of cheesy anthems to try and make them stay…..you all know me by now, there’s no way I’ll short-change my fans. So I changed up a couple of gears and started throwing some seriously dark pounding tunes at them.
The energy levels where outstanding at this point, it’s what they wanted and needed to get them through until late. It really worked as their vocal response was fuelling me. Yes some of the regulars went home, but I knew from this point on I had my dedicated fans in front of me and I continued my JOOF journey upping the energy, BPM’s and intensity. They all stayed until the very last tune!
I finished playing Perth at 5am, I only just had enough time to grab some breakfast and have a shower in time for my 6am pick up to grab my 7:30am flight to Brisbane. The next show was an afternoon gig outdoors in a courtyard. 5-Hour flight and transportation got me there just in time.
As you can see, I not only have to deal with getting into DJ mode for the gig, but be a trouper too. Remember I only flew in the day of my Melbourne gig from the UK, a huge 24-hour flight and only had around 4 hours proper sleep since then. So I’m pretty broken at this point. I’m playing 6 – 10pm. Things have been warmed up nicely, but haven’t really got going. I sensed this. It’s still daylight and this seems to set a different vibe, a more relaxed feeling that I felt as I started playing. Again in DJ mode, I kept things almost in more of a Progressive House mode that worked really well getting people from the main building, outdoors into the actual courtyard.
I worked really hard getting people into a groove, and not peaking too soon. Being daylight I can see the people clearly and watching how they are dancing, I then found my moment….. Bang I hit them. Yes that lightening bolt moment. Dam I love that feeling. Suddenly we became one and where united. A surprise roar came from the dancefloor and the energy level ignited. I thought the room was already full, but this moment created a rush of yet more people.
The place was packed!
I didn’t feel the need to play too hard at this show, the atmosphere and vibe were very special and people were dancing like crazy without the need for this. Maybe it’s a daylight thing that made me play slightly defiantly. It even had me playing some unexpected classics I hadn’t played for a very long time. I was working on the fly, as a DJ should, getting inspiration from the people on the dancefloor. My instincts where fuelling from them and telling me in what direction to go and when. This was an awesome finish to the first weekend of touring.
Historically for me Gold Coast has always been a city where I have to work hard. Gold coast is a tourist city, and generally attracts tourists that just want to get drunk and find a girl! This is a prime example where you shouldn’t stereotype places. I got it wrong on this night. Luckily for me, many people had such a great time at Brisbane, they decided take a road trip and experience round 2!
These people alongside the locals created an instant mini rave. As half the crowd where already familiar with me from the previous week, I got into my stride very easily because I knew they would follow me musically, and they did! I kept things deep at first to get everyone on to the dancefloor, but this time around was able to step things up pretty quickly as I could feel the energy building with people wanting to let lose.
This dancefloor was very receptive and where following my lead, so I went more into my own zone here as I felt they where with me. When doing this, I have to ensure that I keep a close eye on things otherwise you can lose them. It just takes a couple of tracks and you can lose their attention. Luckily for me for the next 3-hours they followed me all the way until the crescendo if some fun closing tracks.
This was a really important gig for me in a number of ways. I was playing this club for the first time. I knew this club hadn’t really had DJ’s of my style in there, they usually have Progressive acts. I try and ignore any knowledge so that I can just do my own thing. One major thing was bugging me that I needed to scratch. I hadn’t played a good solid moment of heads down dark pounding Turbo mix action on the tour so far. If I had an hour more in Melbourne, I would have. I wasn’t able to reach these moments on the tour so far, and I knew Adelaide (the next night) I wouldn’t be able to do this. So Sydney was my last chance. I needed to itch this scratch.
I had a little panic setting up, as I linked the Pioneer CDJ’s to my laptop so it was reading its harddrive via Pioneers software. This panic leads me to starting off with the wrong track due to me not reading the track correctly on the screen.
There are two mixes of this particular track, and I grabbed the wrong one (I’m only human!). This caught me off guard, because the energy was slightly higher that I wanted it to be. I wanted to follow the nice deep groove the warm up DJ had set.
So I felt there was a little disjointed jump when I started…I know most people didn’t even notice, that just me being a purist wanting to do my job properly. The next few tracks I took things down to where I originally wanted to be, then my journey began.
This dancefloor was outstanding, I could see everyone completely engrossed in the music with closed eyes dancing completely lost in their zone.
I knew I could let rip here with the dark pounding stuff, so I did. I myself got completely lost in this moment, I felt at one with the people in front of me and thoroughly enjoy this intensity. For me it was a relief being able to reach this point, we all know that wonderful feeling of scratching that itch, I was so engrossed that I lost complete track of time. I knew I had to create another ‘up’ moment because it was well over due, the moment I was thinking this the promoter told me I had 2 minutes left to play.
Dam, I had no idea time had run out. I was enjoying it so much, the whole 4-Hours had flown by. So I walk away satisfied I scratched that itch, but have created yet another one because I was building to a crescendo that should have ended on a high. Sydney will have to wait until round 2 next year.
I’ve been super lucky so far, 5 sold out awesome gigs all with different flavours that made me work as a DJ in five different ways. I’d be a happy man with this. Adelaide has always been a difficult city recently. I’ve played a few Trance events here both on large scales and small individual clubs.
We had a couple of things against us. Firstly, it was a Sunday (with no public holiday) and secondly there had been huge events over the weekend.
150 people bought tickets to my event, but 130 obviously got burned out and the other 20 turned up. Yes we all get gigs like this now and then, it sucks but all I care about is those 20 people that turned up. I still stepped up to the decks and played the 4-hours that I had promised them. We ended up having our own special private party. The other 130 missed out on this! It was intermit, fun and took me back years ago to when I used to play house parties.
So there’s my little insight to what goes on while playing behind the decks.