Last night was our MusicfestNW edition of Atlas with DJ Rekha guesting from New York. We met Rekha in 2002 when she was brought out to do a PSU Indian prom on the Portland Spirit. We then played a benefit with her at Fez Ballroom in January 2003. We’ve kept in touch ever since, visiting her when we are in NYC. We subbed for her at a very memorable Basement Bhangra and Anjali has played with her at that night as well. As much as we see her, Portland audiences haven’t had a chance to see her in over three and a half years. Last year we opted out of including our Atlas night in Musicfest but this year we thought we may as well take advantage of their budget and bring in an out-of-town artist. There were some major problems with how the show was promoted and I won’t go into that now except to say that it was “Rehka”(sp.) on all the promotional materials.
I had opening slot, which was just fine with me. I played a very different around-the-world hip-hop set from my usual with an emphasis on France and Spain. I will often feel more under the microscope when there are only a few people lounging in a large empty space then during the peak of the night with a packed dance floor. I really enjoyed my songs but I felt my transitions were perfunctory at best and somewhat of an embarrassment. Up next was E3 starting out with some Balkan beats and French hip-hop and then moving on to a wicked international D’nB set. By then we were experiencing a great turnout of wonderful friends and acquaintances including some truly wonderful surprises (Hi, Nimmi!). Anjali was up next. She started out with Balkan D’n’B and other Eatern Bloc beats, moving into Panjabi 2-Step and D’n’B. Her set was nearly two-thirds over before she even dropped a Bhangra beat. After playing Sangra Vibes’ awesome “Hai Rabba” she went into an Indian hip-hop set including “Punjabi Whisper.” Somewhere in there she played a D’n’B Raghav remix and the Rish Rich Project “Push It Up.”
Rekha started out with Missy’s “Lose Control” and then went into a top 40 hip-hop set, remixes, etc. It was quite a while before she played anything Indian. She finally went from some Middle Eastern house into a filmi remix set, DJ Aqueel’s “Disco 82” and a remix of “I Am a Disco Dancer.” When I was outside catching up with the door staff I heard a few reggaeton numbers. It was a long time in before any Bhangra emerged, several Lehmber songs coming to mind. I have to admit to holding court in the Green Room for awhile and not being 100% focused on the music although it was certainly doing a fair job of shaking the wall right behind me, coming in loud and clear. I made it back to the floor when she dropped “Dus Bahane” curious to see the response to relatively recent Bollywood hits including “Salaam Namaste.” I was scheduled to relieve her and after a long night and a lot of socializing I was actually up for having Rekha play out the rest of the night. Regardless at 2am she was done and it was my turn to go on.
Here comes the fun part.
Rekha’s last song was “Kaja Re.” We had two turntables, two CDJ-1000s and Rekha had a Serrato setup. For those of you who aren’t immersed in the DJ world I will explain that Serrato is a hardware/software setup with two specially coded records that allows a DJ to pick any mp3 from their laptop and the program treats the record as if it was the mp3 you picked, so that whatever happens to the record will affect the playing of the mp3 on the laptop. So, for instance if you were scratching the record the program will create sounds as if the mp3 were physically encoded on that record and it was being scratched. Basically you only need the two special records and you can play any song in the world on them if you have the mp3 for that song. Hope that was a little clearer than mud. Here’s the link if you haven’t yet been aware of this phenomenon.
I have never gone on after a DJ was using a Serrato setup. I was straightening out the 4 channels on the mixer in my head and trying to determine what channel to cue up my song in. While doing this I was removing the music that Rekha had left in the players before I went on. I became focused on the song playing on the display in the laptop. I have played after DJs who were just DJing straight from a laptop. After watching the screen display of the mp3 I totally forgot about the specially-coded vinyl record that was playing. I just thought it was a song she had been playing before switching to the song on the laptop. I picked up the needle only to hear complete silence and realize that the song was only playing on the laptop because the vinyl was playing. I immediately set the needle right down all too aware of what a bonehead manuever I had just pulled. As it was I set the needle down earlier in the record so the mp3 backtracked to early in the song. So an already eight minute song became an eleven minute song. Fine, plenty of time before my first song to reflect on my boneheadedness. If it was our Andaz night I would’ve gone into a classic Hindi set. There were certainly a handful of Desis getting down to “Kaja Re.” However, I felt like there might still be a group of people hanging out in the club who would be up for switching up the sound. I honestly wasn’t sure entirely where to go but I settled on Rachid Taha’s “Rock the Casbah.” I thought the familiarity of the song combined with the sick Middle Eastern cover version would be a great way to refresh the dance floor. Instead everyone cleared the dance floor immediately. Great, white guy goes on after Rekha and clears the floor. Sweet.
Because I played the first set of the evening people were coming up to me all night saying that they had missed my set, asked how it went, told me how much they liked me, asked when I was going on again, etc. I have no idea how many of them lasted until after 2am when I went on. Needless to say it was a real kick in the face to go on and instantly clear the floor. Granted “Kaja Re” is a really hard song to follow and I made the call not to go into a filmi favorites set, so what do I expect? Such was my consternation and over-all flustered state that as I transitioned to the next track I pulled the Rachid Taha track a moment too soon so that the last thing the crowd hears is “Rock the Casb- . . .” There are few mixing mistakes worse than pulling a vocal early. I went into the “Sohni Munda (Remix)” from the new “Dil Apna Punjabi” soundtrack strictly for myself. If the floor is going to be empty I may as well play something totally leftfield that I adore. After that I decided to at least try to regain a dance floor playing Outlandish “Guantanamo (Maximum Risk Remix)” but as pull the crossfader over there is now no bass of any kind, no monitor, and half of the house speakers are off. All the subwoofers have stopped responding and I was instantly left with the most tinny sound ever. What the fuck happened? Tim, the Holocene sound guy said that even with the “ghosts” in the soundsystem he’s witnessed over the years that was the worst soundsystem fuck-up he had ever experienced. I think the soundsystem was so traumatized by my supreme suckitude that it commited suicide rather than to have to play party to my ineptitude.
I then try to line up a track on the other turntable and I get no signal at all. Nothing in the headphones and nothing coming through the system. I’m left with dead air as the song on the right turntable comes to a close. Rekha comes back on stage to try to figure what the fuck happened along with Tim. At Rekha’s suggestion I quick swap the record to the other turntable and start playing it over the sound system that now sounds like a tiny boombox in a large club. After some cable jostling at least the bass comes back on but half the system is still down. While they are trying to determine why the other channel is completely dead I am left to pick out another track. With all this commotion around the mixer I am winding around people with my headphone cord trying to get a CD cued up. Literally reaching round Rekha as she stands directly in front of the mixer trying to determine if the Serrato channels are still working I very abruptly crash from Sean Paul’s “Temperature” into “Deedar De” ensuring that everything I do after getting back on stage is a complete and utter fuck-up. While all this is happening Tim informs me that several people from Musicfest have shown up to reclaim all the rental equipment that was on Rekha’s tech rider. Since she was only scheduled to play until 2am and it is now 2:39am they want to remove the equipment pronto, thereby shutting down the party in the process. Dogpile of bullshit. We will often go until 3am at Atlas and despite the frigid welcome my first song received there were a group of people who made it back to the dance floor relatively undeterred by all the sound issues and the floundering DJ. I decided to not fight it any more and call it a wrap. Rekha then played the last song, a new DJ Sanj track from “America’s Most Wanted IV.”
Sometimes you just don’t feel like going on and when you do nothing good comes of it. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an extreme collection of personal and situational fuck-ups cluster-fucking me into abject humiliation. Actually, I probably have.
In five days we hit San Francisco for some gigs so I can only hope that I will rise to the occasion and perform my best. I’m sure you’ll be able to read about it either way. Thanks to everyone who came out. Great to see so many familiar faces.