It happens – a car breaks down, someone runs late, or someone forgets a power cord. For whatever reason, the scheduled DJ doesn’t show up. Tonight, at Hotjam, it was a bit of miscommunication: both DJs assumed they were doing the second set. As such, neither had shown up by 8:45, well into what was supposed to be the beginner’s lesson. The lesson had started late, so I didn’t think anything of it…but as more and more people showed up, I realized we had a problem.
See, the deal is this: tonight, due to rare circumstances, neither Michelle nor Nima could run Hot Jam tonight. Michelle called me at about 4pm and asked me if I would be able to step in – since I attend every week, and I’d offered to assist if they ever needed help, I was ready to jump in and keep things going smoothly. Seeing as HJ is well-established, I didn’t really plan for any problems. My mistake.
Problem #1: I did not plan for there to be no DJ.
As luck would have it, I was planning on getting some work done while tending the desk at HJ, and had brought my computer. But here, we run into a few more issues.
#2: I have never DJ’d, and was wary to try.
#3: I recently lost all the music on my computer, and own a grand total of 185 songs, of which I have only listened to about 20. The rest, as far as I can determine, is a mish-mash of danceable jazz, neo-swing, and rock-a-billy swing. And I had no way to tell what was what.
So I politely excused myself from the beginner’s lesson, pulled out my computer, and hit play on the Cab Calloway CD – the only thing I knew for sure would be danceable. I figured out the volume controls, turned up the music enough for people to hear but low enough that the beginner’s lesson could wrap up, and went outside to call Nima.
A few phone calls later: it would be at least fifteen minutes before the DJ relief rolled in. Even with my limited song collection, I knew we would manage – I was reasonable enough to understand that it would be (nearly) impossible to kill Hot Jam in the first twenty minutes. I also understood, however, that I needed to pull together a few songs which weren’t by Cab Calloway.
I started pulling everything which was labeled “jazz” with a bpm of 170 or less (thankfully, the friend who gave me this mish-mash of music had bpm’d it all!), and looked for titles and artists that I vaguely recognized. And this is what happened:
“Are You All Reet?” by Cab Calloway – 79 bpm
“Hey Now, Hey Now” by Cab Calloway – 162 bpm
“Everybody Eats When They Come to My House” by Cab Calloway – 76 bpm
“Are You Hep to the Jive” by Cab Calloway – 77 bpm (I finally sat down and started pulling some different songs)
“Lullaby of Birdland” by Count Basie – 168 bpm
“I’ve Got the World on a String” by Louis Prima – 138 bpm (Note: while the song starts at 138 bpm, it has an awkward part which speeds up significantly…sorry! I didn’t know, haha…)
“Opus One” by Glen Gray – 169 bpm (At this point, I was incredibly excited to see Jim walk in the door!)
“Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens” by Louis Jordan – 152 bpm (Sort of in honor of my mother…)
“Banana Split for my Baby” by Louis Prima – 92 bpm
So, while I really only had to DJ five songs, it was still nerve-wracking considering my limited selection, limited knowledge of the selection I had, and limited experience as a DJ. Thankfully, I will be quick to point out, the beginner-intermediate scene in Atlanta is happy to dance to almost anything, as long as it doesn’t have a funky intro and the beat is relatively easy to find. And luckily, all the songs I pulled (mostly) fell into that category.
I’m not sure I’ll ever pursue DJ’ing. But I won’t lie – when people finally stopped talking after the lesson was over and I turned the music up on “Are You Hep to the Jive,” I got a little rush – every single person was dancing. (Except for the one guy who couldn’t find a dance partner, since the lead-follow ratio was off.) And though I was pretty focused on trying to find the names of songs I recognized, I still looked up to make sure they kept dancing. And it made me happy to find that they did.
And yes, Tonia. I posted this list for you.