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515 Alive [Jul. 25th, 2004|08:37 pm]
Okrzyki, przyjaciel!
So yesterday m3ani3 and I drove 2 hours to Des Moines for 515 Alive, at which we'd volunteered to DJ. I'd have to say on the upside, it was more people than I'd ever seen in downtown Des Moines, which reminds me a lot of Detroit in an odd way -- seemingly underpopulated, loads of shabby old buildings, and a few city blocks of gleaming downtown that people don't really hang out in.

On the downside, the festival itself was over-ambitious -- there was something like 14(!) stages, including 2 stages sharing the same flatbed truck. There were places downtown where you could hear 5 different sound systems at once.

And I don't know about Des Moines dance music scene. Lord knows they try, and Lord knows Iowa City's dance music scene is moribund by comparison. But Des Moines seems in the thrall of all the sorts of dance music I really hate -- trance of all flavors, hard house, and unfunky, annoying techno.

The crowd was weird. On a positive note, a lot of older people -- as in older than me -- were down and seemed to be having a good time. But the majority of the crowd was frat boys, punks, goths, and goth-punks. Nothing wrong with those people so long as they don't throw up on my shoes, but they don't mix to make a good vibe.

The best stage I was at was in a tiny beer garden, where they had drum & bass with a decent MC. Even if there were only 30 people there, there were 30 people there who were having fun, and the DJ and MC were having fun too.

The place we played in -- 'Java Joe's Game Room' was kind of depressing. It was a room that could hold 150 people, with a high ceiling and a lively echo. The sound system wasn't really sufficient for the space, and no one seemed to know we were there.

Schematic played downtempo IDM-ish stuff which I enjoyed. Of course I was nearly his entire audience most of the time. Mikey (m3ani3) played Mo Wax and G-Stone records type of downtempo stuff mostly which I liked. DJ 3-Face and his crew did a scratch hip hop band performance that would have been cool on a better system, and if it was more of a focused set rather than a jam.

My set -- after 3 Face, was marked by everyone who'd came for the scratch DJs leaving. I was playing most of my set for an empty room, on a system that I had trouble making sound good, on too-slick slipmats that screwed up my cuing. At best, it was a good rehearsal for doing a set somewhere not so hostile to what I was playing.

I liked what I played, and I really think that the best of 70's and 80's disco tracks still work, especially mixed with compatible house music. "Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward got over-exposed on the radio back in the day, but the 12" is as perfect a dance track as you're likely to find. The central part where the vocalists riff on "ring my bell" is full-on soul to me. "I Need Your Love" by Chic is a purely brilliant and romantic pop song that is also a great dance track.

The biggest problem with that stuff is that they used real drummers, and did sloppy tape edits, so you can't really hold a mix more than a few bars. Oh well. I can either A) re-sync it in Ableton live or B) use more quick mixes.

And I have a version of "Chain Of Fools" -- made famouse by Aretha Franklin -- that Steve "Silk" Hurley did as a house track that's wicked. I really want to get as much Steve Hurley tracks as I can lay hands on.

Anyway, I felt pretty crap after playing for an empty room, but I guess I need to get beyond that. It is, after all, just choosing and playing records.

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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2004-07-26 07:31 am (UTC)
I don't think having contempt for an audience is a helpful attitude in a DJ. A good DJ sells whatever he's playing to the audience. It's the only way I can explain how much people like Dan Efx, who people LOVE, and I hate most of what he plays. I want to see him play just to see what it's all about.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2004-07-26 07:29 am (UTC)
If you're going to use Traktor, consider using Ableton live to reclock the tracks with crazy tempo fluxuations. It really works -- you just have to set warp markers at the start of each bar, and the drift goes away, usually without bad audio artifacts.
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[User Picture]From: m3ani3
2004-07-26 07:59 am (UTC)
I don't think it was the fact that people didn't like the music you were playing. There were like 13 other stages going on...including DJ Swamp. It was general madness...and I don't think I'll participate again. too much chaotic crap to deal with.

thanks for riding with me. i had fun. =)
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[User Picture]From: houseproud
2004-07-26 09:52 am (UTC)
yeah, i see your point on some of it, but at the same time you have to consider that those des moines cats put on this show for free, and wanted to give everyone a chance. Flash is a stand up guy, and I'm sorry that there wasn't a crowd, but there weren't big crowds anywhere. I think it's great that there could be a free event of this size, not to mention that if nothing else perhaps you touched one person with your music. At one time, I thought that's what it was about, not the size of the crowd. I remember when you played the upstairs of the great mid and there were like 3 people there. For what it's worth, I thought it was a good idea at least.
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[User Picture]From: chaircrusher
2004-07-26 10:02 am (UTC)
I don't want to seem like I'm criticizing Flash or Richie. I think that if they want my constructive advice, it would be to limit the # of stages at 515 alive to a more manageable 4 or 5. I think a lot of people played to almost no one.

Of course if there were 4 or 5 stages, they wouldn't probably have a slot for me or mike to play, since we're certainly not dj superstars.

You have to understand, as well, that I went to Movement in Detroit, and 515 Alive has a ways to go before hitting that kind of quality and vibe.
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[User Picture]From: houseproud
2004-07-26 01:47 pm (UTC)
oh for sure, I agree that there was a lot that could have been better. Fewer stages would have meant a more cohesive crowd, less aimless wandering around by unfocused dirtball ravers, and overall better sound. Last year's was much better. They only had 5 stages, and everyone was put into a closer environment and there was IDM represented, and in a much better venue. i do agree that the fest was overambitious in a lot of ways, but I do have to at least give them kudos for having the guts to try. Let's hope that they learn from their mistakes and put something better together for next time. I hope I didn't sound negative, it's just that richie and crew put a shit ton of work into this, and I totally see where you're coming from.
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