Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It isn't easy being green 

So this chap Kid Koala wasn't the most technically proficient, deepest, or even funnest dj i've ever heard, but for so many reasons he was the best.
There are a few scratch djs, turntablists, who can throw down on four decks, and some of them even do it without headphones. There are even more djs who can't do either of those things, but slay dancefloors week in, week out. The number of djs i've seen who can do both i can count on one finger of one hand.
Happy to take it up with you, but you can make a general rule about turntablists not being able to rock a party. They might leave you bedazzled as they juggle the shit out of battle records for 20 minutes, but it doesn't make you want to go crazy and act the fool on the dancefloor.
Folks like Cash Money, MM Mike and particularly Jazzy Jeff do, and are mind-bendingly precise while still playing a set chock full of party rocking hip hop, and maybe DJ Krush is still the only person i'd cross borders to catch.
But Eric Koala mounts the most convincing case for turntablist as master musician, and he did it with so much class, wizardry and fun it left you dazed.
As Tamas commented later, he makes you ashamed to call yourself a dj.
No headphones, four decks for an hour, playing the perfect balance between the goofy, wonky jazz of tracks like Drunk Trumpet - which i'd always assumed he'd built in the studio, but which he re-created live, and more soundscapey abstractions, beat-juggling Bjork and just going about the business of being poster boy for post-mondernism in the best possible way.
The Wire probably has more to say, the rest of us just thought he rocked it.

The crowd reaction was universally delerious but i can't help thinking about how easily hip hop djs can throw a crowd off-side by reminding people what hip hop is.
Watching Madlib wrongfoot a crowd last month by just being a hip hop dj (ie. playing disco, and funk, and dancehall made before Sean Paul was born), but not just wrong foot them, have them grow restless and turn off ... you can't help but wonder why they were there. Having had a rave about Madlib's set with Dexter a few days on, i bumped into a girl later who said he was shit because he "just wasn't hip hop."
I'm learning to hold my tongue, which is admittedly getting easier - i mean, if you hate on Peanut Butter Wolf for having the bottle to open his set with Stereolab, i don't know if we're giong to have anything to talk about anyway - but it does give you cause to ponder why these kids go to such shows, and what they expect to get from them.
What hip hop are they listening to?

post-script on Hammy and De's comments ...
Because this blog is mine *mwaaaa ha ha ha* i've got more than 1000 characters to comment on your comments.
Replying to Dewi:

It's not the crowd's fault, it's not the DJ's fault. There's no fault and I wasn't inferring there was one. The devil is in the assumption. As a punter/crowd member, you go to a club, you want the dj to help you get your groove on, as it were. You want them to play stuff that makes it a nice place to have a dance, or chat with your mates.
You pay $40 to see a dj in a venue like the Prince on the other hand, and you're paying for a performance. You're entitled to expect the DJ to respond to the crowd, but a band wouldn't (they have setlists), and if a dj you've paid to see perform doesn't, then that's okay too. International DJs have a hard time reading crowds. Even if they're there early and are listening to the support dj and watching the crowd before they play, they have no idea what people in Melbourne will react to. If the support dj is inappropriate, they may have very little to build on. I see good djs having two options here. They can try to guess what the crowd will be into, or they can trust that people have paid money to hear them do their own thing, and just do that. This is what Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf did. I don't think they were paying homage to anyone, they were just trying to present good music in a way that was faithful to their own beliefs about what that should be, and unfortunately it didn't work out for most of the people there. It was no-one's fault, it was just a thing that happened, and I found it interesting.

To Hammy: word. On any given night there are lots of djs capable of being the best you've ever seen. IMHO (and with my memory probably not serving me as best as could be reasonably hoped for) KK was better than the other DJs i've said were the best i've ever seen, because he was the most well rounded. Equal parts depth, funk, technical wizardy and fun.

Thanks to both of you though. See you at DJ Marky?

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