Tuesday, April 07, 2015

COLUMN: Work Party

I'm a little worried, all. It appears that I've painted myself into a corner. By the time you read this, I may very well have made a complete and total donkey out of myself while in the presence of some people whose opinions matter to me a great deal. This is highly troubling.

As you probably know, I wear a variety of hats in life. Chief among them is my day job hat here in newspaper-land. I've sat in the comfy confines of Castle Argpatch for over 20 years now, selling ads and writing columns all the live-long day with a team of co-workers I respect, admire, and am privileged to call my friends.

But when the sun sets and the weekend comes out to play, I put on a slightly different hat. For almost 30 years now, nearly every weekend of my life has involved a dancefloor, turntables, CD players, a laptop computer, and the heartbeat of my life thumped out in bass beats for hours on end. I am DJ, hear me roar.

It's the yin and yang of my life, and I can't pretend to know how to survive without one or the other. The day job allows me to be intelligent, creative, and a contributing member of society. The DJ gigs let me cut loose, be artistic, and make enough money to support my music collecting habit. One job makes me feel like a mature adult. The other makes me feel forever young. It truly is the best of both worlds.

There's just one problem: my worlds are about to meet for the first time ever.

In the microcosm of media advertising, we're hustling all year long -- but the holidays are far and away our busiest season. We can't ever fuss with throwing an office Christmas party when we're knee-deep in special sections, last-minute gift guides, and getting everyone's pre- and post-holiday ad campaigns taken care of. That's why we're just now getting around to throwing our annual department-wide shindig.

We reserved a banquet room at a local hotel and, as I type, we're mere hours away from showing downtown Moline how we party it up print media style. I'm not saying we're a wild bunch, but who knows -- we could be sitting around waiting for bail money to come through by the time you read this. Honestly, I don't know if I work with a bunch of party animals or not, because any time my co-workers go out, I'm usually a guaranteed no-show because I'm racing to whatever DJ gig I've booked for that evening.

But this year, I just happen to have the night off. Well, I DID have the night off. I'm not sure how it all came about, really. I recall people talking about the employee party and someone asked what we were doing for entertainment, and that's when I chuckled and said, "You should totally have me DJ the thing ha ha ha." Except I don't think anyone else heard the sarcasm in my voice or the pointed "ha ha ha" at the end. One thing led to another, a sound system was procured, and apparently I'm DJing my own work party. Weird.

This could be very fun... or VERY bad. After thirty years of sacrificing my weekends to the dancefloor gods, it's not like I get butterflies in my stomach as I walk into a DJ gig. I'm fairly confident in my ability to rock a party with relative ease. But when that party's full of daytime co-workers who I respect and admire? I've got to admit, I'm sweating it out a little bit here.

Let's look at the facts: I'm perhaps the most awkward person I know. I'm inept at small talk. I'm bereft of gossip at the water cooler. I don't make eye contact with people. I look down when I walk. I bump into people in hallways. I can and frequently do trip over nothing. Sometimes I recall jokes at the absolute worst times and start laughing like a lunatic while walking by myself. I do a pretty mean job at coming across weird all on my own; the last thing I need to do is bomb a DJ gig in front of these people who accept my eccentricities and strangely still consent to be my colleagues and friends.

Most of you are probably reading this and thinking, "What's the big deal? All he's got to do is stand there and push a button or two, right?" Bringing a real dance set is a little more complicated. When you're behind the controls, you're running the entire vibe of the party. You've got to be able to read the crowd, know what they want to hear, know what songs work well together, know how to alter tempos in order to make seamless transitions, etc. There's nothing like mixing the perfect song at the perfect moment and seeing a dancefloor spring to life. It's why I can't retire from my hobby; that high's just too good not to chase. But to get that divine moment, you need the right demographic -- and my co-workers are NOT it.

We're a fun group, but we're also a real-life Benetton ad. It's an even mix of guys and girls, young and old, rockers and rappers, and I'm even pretty sure they might be some (shudder) country fans in the mix. I'm never going to bring them together with music unless Lady Gaga releases a new song tomorrow called "Advertising Reps Are Awesome (Say Hey)." I do not work with a pack of club kids. No one is going to care about the awesome trap bass mix of the new Drake single I scored. None of them know who Drake is. There will be no twerking.

The way I see it, I've got three solid strategies: (1) I up the ante and take my reputation from weird to potentially dangerous. I'm thinking a night of German industrial techno mixed with some light death metal and well-timed snarls should do the trick. (2) I play my usual mix of contemporary hip-hop and edgy club tracks, make everyone miserable, and act bored like I'm above this entire scene whenever somebody complains. Or (3) I just throw on "Brickhouse" and see what happens.

I'm going with the latter. With any luck, it just might be fun. Maybe an epic party will develop. Perhaps it'll be an event unrivalled in the pantheon of employee shindigs, culminating in my co-workers hoisting me onto their shoulders, parading me around the room, and declaring me the King of Awesome. Or maybe it'll be kinda boring. Either way, no worries -- my friends will stay my friends either way. Plus, I just got booked for a wicked late-night gig afterwards. The minute our work party ends, I'm driving across town and hitting the decks at a club fifteen minutes later.    

They might not be the easiest hats to get on and off, but I couldn't imagine wearing anything else.

1 comment:

Misfire said...

So, how did it go? Inquiring minds want to know.

I could never DJ because all of my favorite songs are soft rock. That or 80's cheeseball synth with all the hardness and substance of a kitten sneezing into a pile of marshmallows.