Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMN: Kelly Wedding Pt. 1

Taking a second job can be rough. But the way I see it, if you've got to moonlight, you couldn't do much better than my chosen weekend profession. I've been a part-time DJ for almost as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure I came out of the womb clutching a crossfader and counting bpm's. I started DJing parties at the ripe old age of 14 and took my first steady club gig at 16. Since then, I've soundtracked frat parties, raves, class reunions, sweet 16's, not-so-sweet 16's, and beyond. I even once DJ'ed a funeral (true story.)

But for the past 20 years, I've worked pretty much exclusively at bars and nightclubs around the Quad Cities. In fact, I've spun the club circuit in town for SO long now that I ALMOST forgot how much I hate DJing weddings. Thanks, then, to last weekend for reminding me.

Okay, I suppose I don't HATE working wedding receptions. It's just a lot of work. For one thing, speakers are heavy, and lugging big ol' PA rigs in and out of venues can be back-breaking. I much prefer walking lazily into a club where everything's all set up and waiting for me to plug in and press play. Weddings can have anything from finicky brides to weird crowds to people wanting to hear (shudder) country music. It's a big ball of pastel-colored stress.

I'm pretty sure I've told this story before, but it's worth another go-around. Several years back, I got hired to DJ a wedding that was held at the tippy-top ballroom of the uber-posh Allerton Hotel in downtown Chicago. The bride's family were rather well-to-do stuffed shirt types who wanted a playlist of jazz and standards and polite ultra-conservative wedding fare. The groom and his friends, on the other hand, were seasoned club kids who came at me all night a stream of requests for hardcore German industrial techno. Now, I like to consider myself fairly good with a crossfader, but no amount of DJ skill on Earth can make Harry Connick Jr. mix into Einsturzende Neubaten. I spent four solid hours that night making half the crowd happy while the other 50% wanted my head on a spike. I don't need that kind of stress in my life.

But for some reason, this year I somehow allowed myself to get conned, suckered, and/or guilt-tripped into DJing THREE weddings. The first of which was last month, and much to my chagrin, it went swimmingly well. Some friends of mine were getting married and begged me to mix the reception. What followed was a DJ's wet dream: a packed dancefloor full of goofy, awesome, appreciative people having the time of their lives, myself included. I don't like to toot my own horn, but people left that reception LIMPING from over-dancing. On my list of all-time favorite gigs, it was a Top 5 kind of night. I walked out of that wedding exhausted yet envigorated and drove home giving considerable thought to taking on more wedding gigs when offered.

I should have known better.

A couple years after graduating college, I met a girl named Kelly. We went out a few times, and it wasn't long before I was envisioning a happily-ever-after life of white picket fences, 2.3 children, and fairy tales aplenty. We had SO many common interests. We laughed at each other's jokes. We watched the same shows and listened to the same music. We both abhorred the outdoors. Neither one of us could turn on an oven without nearly burning the house down. I was a smitten kitten.

Sadly, though, we had one other thing in common: As it turned out, we both liked girls.

Thankfully, I've been reassured time and again that her rather sudden and dramatic self-awakening was NOT due to me being such a lousy boyfriend that I caused her to scratch my entire gender from her scorecard. All I knew was that one day, I had a girlfriend. The next day, I didn't. The day after that, SHE had a girlfriend. A bummer, yes, but better to find this out BEFORE the white picket fences were raised.

It was all good, though, because Kelly's remained one of my closest friends to this day. Even though she packed up and moved to Des Moines a few years ago, we can still get on the phone and happily start gabbing as though no time has ever passed. And when she called to tell me that her girlfriend had gotten down on one knee and popped the question, I couldn't have been happier for her. Until, that is, I realized what her next request would be.

"There's no one else that I would want DJing my reception except you," she said. "You just HAVE to do it!"

I stuck to my guns and politely said no. I was retired from the wedding game and equipment lugging and neurotic brides and from hopefully ever hearing the Hokey Pokey ever again ever. No dice. No way.

I stuck to those guns when she asked a second time. And when she sent an e-mail. And when the save-the-date showed up in my mailbox. But when I called her to RSVP, I opened my big mouth.

"So, who did you find to DJ?"

"No one," she said. "I told you there's no one else I'd want DJing my wedding except you. So I'm just bringing my iPod and hooking it up to a stereo."

Dang it. I can resist peer pressure and I can resist begging -- but I couldn't resist a compliment paired with the threat of leaving the biggest day of her life in the hands of a button marked "random shuffle." She knew exactly what she was doing and I played right into her hands.

"FINE," I said. "I'll do it. Rent me some equipment and get me a hotel room. I'll be there. When is it?"

'THERE' was downtown Des Moines. 'WHEN' was last weekend. And I had NO clue what was in store for me. The rest of the story... next week.

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