Tuesday, July 05, 2016

COLUMN: Glow Party

Uh oh. It's another "Waaah! Poor me! I'm old!" column.

I'm well aware of how ridiculous I sound. I'm only 45, it's not as if I'm being put out to pasture. But maybe this is my last column to whine, because I think I've figured out the problem. I might be a 45 rpm record, but I'm built to be played at 33-1/3. Actually, more like 23-1/3. I have the hobbies and interests of someone half my age. At some point, I think I was supposed to grow up. Whoops.

The best and most obvious example of this is my weekend side gig. Ever since high school, I've spent my weekends DJing at parties and clubs. There's a photo I keep on my phone and my wall at work. It's a picture of my friends and I DJing at a particularly raucous sorority mixer back in college. People might not think anything of it when they see it. It's just an image of me looking stone-faced, bent over a mixer like any other gig. But I look at that picture and see myself at my very happiest. Your paradise might be on a beach with a mai-tai in your hand. My paradise is behind that mixer with a crossfader in my hand.

When I step into a gig, I still feel like the Shane from that picture, even though I haven't been that Shane for some time. I might still be stone-faced and bent over a mixer, but I've got about 100 lbs. and 100 grey hairs on that Shane. That stone face has wrinkles and bags and a double chin. When I wore my trusty Greek fisherman's cap back then, it was quirky. When I put that thing on today, I look like George R.R. Martin.

The other night, I was at the club when a REALLY cute girl came up to request a song. Obviously, one of the prime perks of a career in the turntable arts is the cavalcade of cute girls who line up to flirt their requests in. But hey, maybe this was the one girl turned on by chubby nerds with an encyclopediac knowledge of song tempos. Hey, a guy a dream.

"Excuse me," she said, and then added the one word I never wanted to hear in my life: "Sir?"

SIR. It's official, I'm old. I have graduated beyond the flirt zone. Now, girls think the best way to get their songs heard is via politeness and respect for their elders. I am DJ Grandpa, and those cute girls could be my daughters. The other day I was chatting about music with an up-and-coming DJ who's showing great potential. Then I saw his list of friends on Facebook and noticed a familiar face: his mom. I went to high school with her.

It gets worse. When I'm deep into a gig, I often zone out and stare into oblivion. What I'm really doing is building the next music set in my head, timing beats, cueing mix points, and figuring out the best way to win the crowd over. There's just one problem. At my usual club, if I zone out and stare straight ahead into oblivion, I'm looking directly at the door to the ladies' room. On more than one occasion, I've snapped out of a trance to catch some girl giving me the stink-eye because I'm the deviant old man leering at the restroom door. I promise you, I'm so wrapped up in mixing that I wouldn't notice if a girl came out of that bathroom naked and on fire, but that's not exactly something you can explain away to the girl with the stink-eye. As far as she's concerned, I'm DJ Pervy Grandpa.

Last weekend, though, I couldn't even pretend to be that young guy in the photo. Last weekend, I felt my age. The bar I DJ at decided to try a new event -- their first ever "GLOW PARTY," a new trend in modern nightclubbing. That's when you cover up all the lights and replace them with ultraviolet black lights. Then a guy shows up with glow-in-the-dark body paint and folks line up to get themselves covered in the goo.

And it's entirely ridiculous, I say, fully aware of the fact that I sound like a curmudgeon. But I've hated this kind of stuff since I was a kid. I remember being appalled by fingerpaints, let alone neon body paint. They told everyone to wear white. Instead, I showed up in a black t-shirt, black pants, and my trusty black George R.R. Martin cap. I assumed this would allow me to safely blend into the darkness. And I was right - for a while. Then I discovered that when folks dance around in neon body paint, little flecks of said paint start flying off in any number of directions. One step under a black light proved that I was covered in wee little dots of paint. Worse yet, so was my laptop computer, my DJ controller, and my entire weekend livelihood.

I tried to be the stone-faced professional, but the 45-year-old inside of me was raging. "Stop it!" my inner voice screamed at them. "Control yourselves! You're getting paint EVERYWHERE! WHAT WOULD YOUR PARENTS SAY, YOUNG LADY?!"

Oddly, though, it worked in my favor. As a result of me worrying about paint splooshing willy-nilly on my gear, I was laser-focused on the task at hand and my attention never wavered from that mixer. As a result, I had one of the best nights in recent memory. I don't like to brag -- there are WAY more talented DJs out there -- but on THAT night, in THAT moment, I tore the roof off the place. I might be older than the average tunesmith, but this old DJ has some beats in him yet.

Who knows, perhaps one day it'll be a fun novelty to book the grey-haired DJ who shuffles around the club with a cane. Maybe I'm not that young guy in the photo any more. Maybe I wear a hat that makes me look like the guy who wrote Game of Thrones. But I'll guarantee you that George R.R. Martin's cap doesn't look HALF as cool as mine next time we stand together under a black light. In the meantime, I'll see you (or your kids) on the dancefloor.

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