Between the outdated house mix, and the basic void of silence, having me deejay while the crowd awaits is the lesser of two evils. Blame my unbearable modesty. The four cities I travelled on this fall’s UK tour, (opening for Jack Penate) needed some flavor outside of the bland sound of the audience’s own voices of, “Are They Starting Yet?” That said, I silenced the crowd about 10 minutes before showtime by warming up to a playlist of tracks to set the mood for the night of rousing performances.
It takes a really experienced DJ to be able to read his or her audience; to get a sense of what songs will get the crowd pumped. Then you have musical anomolies like DJ Kid Capri, who mastered this unwritten law of tour deejays in 1998 for Puff Daddy’s No Way Out tour. Kid dropped the needle on “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from the Annie soundtrack. Who knew Kid Capri’s penchant for spinning obscure records would be sampled by one of the concert’s first acts—a very green MC, Jay-Z. I’ll tell you this much, Theophilus London and I soundchecked a new song over one of the beats on my playlist. Until he actually records it, ‘mum’ is the word. Click below to listen to the ten songs that kicked off the show.
#10) BUSY SIGNAL “JUST WANNA FUCK”
The crowd wasn’t ready for such an intense banger, yet. I figured for our first show in Nottingham, I could do no wrong by bringing out the Caribbean vibes; think again. No one budged to Busy’s raw panty-pleasing anthem. Strike one.
#9) MORRISSEY “THE FATHER WHO MUST BE KILLED”
This is by far one of Morrissey’s most morbid tunes. The deadbeat stepfather gets knifed in his sleep; what a way to go. It’s really the drums though that foreshadow trouble. That’s essentially my warning to the crowd: someone might get hurt. Whether you’re victim of a face-full of Jack from a low-altitude stagedive, or Theophilus’ killer footwork, your fate is already sealed from this Morrissey declaration.
#8) THOM YORKE “CYMBAL RUSH” (THE FIELD LATE NIGHT ESSEN UND TRINKEN REMIX)
Given the headliner is more of an alternative rock, brit-pop sensation, Theophilus’ show could be considered a one-man rave. His fast-paced beats supplied by MachineDrum, Damon Albarn and Uproot Andy suggest the peer pressure that parents fear most—drugs. Not that we’re waving the glowstick in favor of intoxicants…just saying.
#7) STEVIE WONDER “NIGHT FLIGHT” (THE REVENGE COVER)
Disco might be dead, but there’s a whole new incarnation of it in Jiscomusic. The Scottish producer behind this re-tooled version of Stevie Wonder’s “Love Light In Flight” is responsible for one of the most progressive sounds overseas. His style reforms classic r&b/soul records into a mid-tempo funk. The thing is, jiscomusic is all about the climax, just like it’s disco predecessor. Instead, the Revenge keeps the instrumental on a low simmer until it’s time to uncover a steaming pot of vocals. Wait for it…wait for it.
#6) PORTISHEAD “WE CARRY ON”
The depth of a music collector’s library is likely to start with Portishead. Let’s face it, if you listened to rap in the ’90s, to show your musical range, the alternative would have been England’s trip-hop mavens. For our Brixton gig at the Fridge, it was fitting that I pair Theo’s blend of pop and electronica with one of Portishead’s hypnotic anthems. After all, we had a tradition to uphold at the Fridge, which has a long-standing history for some of Brixton’s most notorious techno, and trance parties.
#5) MORRISSEY “BLACK CLOUD”
Morrissey takes us on a chase of an abstract love. Well in the real world, where an elusive love could be, say (*cough*) groupies who can’t turn permanence out of being their obsession’s fling. It’s the predicament of trifey vs. wifey. I defer to Chris Rock‘s take on the situation.
#4) PALEFACE AND KYLA “DO YOU MIND” (CRAZY COUSINS REMIX)
This remix from the budding UK Funky scene became part of my repertoire this summer. The first record to introduce me to the new wave of British club music was Theophilus’ spin on the Crazy Cousins classic, “Bongo Jam”. Paleface, along with his Crazy Cousin beatsmiths tap singers like Calista and Kyla to coo their PG-rated flirtation, that sounds as cute as the ladies look.
#3) BJORK “NATTURA” (SWITCH REMIX)
Switch crafted one of the best remixes of 2009 with his complete makeover of Bjork’s “Nattura”. Known for genre-bending production credits on Santigold and M.I.A.’s albums, Switch turned Bjork’s promo single for Iceland’s environmental protection, into a dance music masterpiece.
#2) THE SMITHS “HOW SOON IS NOW?”
I played a lot of Smiths and Morrissey during my trip. “How Soon Is Now?” was Theophilus’ exit music after each set. Especially after a recent scare, where Moz collapsed on-stage, we feared that another music icon would fade away. Thankfully he isn’t checking out anytime soon.
#1) JOY DIVISION “SHADOW PLAY”
With the exception of the periodic strobe light, I’m pretty much in the dark on-stage. I still manage to see my way through each set, with some theme music for the main event—Jack Penate and Theophilus London. But when I started opening up shows to Joy Division’s “Shadow Play” at Bristol University, I found my footing. By the time the shimmering hi-hats fade, and the dirty guitar licks come in, the applause followed. I was just getting started.