Don't simply retire from something; have something to retire to. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick
I have given this a lot of thought over the past few months (starting sometime in October, and not making the final decision until just a day or so ago) but from the moment of this post, I think it is time to hang up my headphones and pull away from DJing the dance scene.
When I started, I was approached because they thought I might bring a new and interesting take on dance music, for the original Waltz Macabre for Friday Night Waltz. I tend to have a very unique and interesting style of music to bring to the table. I definitely tended towards the heavier genres, not only music wise, but also because back then, I was not as good of a dancer as I believe I have become, so the heavier it was, the easier it was for me to dance to.
That first time I spent months working on it, arranged listening parties to figure out the songs to play, editing songs for length and non-danceable content. I was damn nervous the first time, and have been every time I have taken the stage since. The music was eh, OK that first time, in terms of the dancing aspect, but it was things, a lot of things, that nobody had heard before and I was applauded for that.
The next time I was offered a DJ slot, I tried again to replicate that effect, new, unheard music, to spice things up. The second, and third, and fourth times were much better musically, as well as in the dance aspect, but I started developing a habit of focusing too much on music I personally enjoyed, as well as those of the vocal minority, becoming the expected playlist. Even if the songs were not the same, the genre was.
So I stopped for a while and listened, I started to to hear mutterings of discontent with what I played, and it made me a bit ashamed that I had not noticed it earlier.
So I spent some time delving into other musical types to find non-typical music to entertain with. And I think I succeeded. The next time I stepped onto the stage, I got great response from both crowds. I had found the ability to focus and understand what the dancers/audience wanted from the music, and anticipate it, and then play it.
Now I am not saying I made everyone happy, because I know I didn't. But I was still learning and adapting. Keep in mind they took a novice Waltzer and tossed him into it DJ-ing music to dances he didn't even know how to do, let alone recognize. At this point I am still not totally sure, other than by comparison, on a few dance types.
Once again though, eventually there hit a point when, despite trying my hardest to make the music work, I lost the Zen of doing it right. Combined with personal issues in my own life, I stepped away and did not think I would return.
My time away I had also stopped dancing, which is not what I plan to do this time, so new crowds and people had started filtering into events, I was not aware of their likes, dislikes or musical taste.
In my time away though, I couldn't break the habit that I had started though. Every new album or song I found or purchased, I kept hearing the dance, not the song. Waltz, Polka, Tango... I realized that I still enjoyed finding new music, and kept wanting to share it. Some of it I forwarded to new DJ's, some I forwarded among friends who enjoyed it. But I didn't plan to use it for any major dance event again.
Over time, the requests to start up again became slightly insistent, so I gave it a shot for my friends
I started this on a whim and a chance, I continued it for my friends. I did my best to bring all the new music I had collected over the year year inactivity period to the fore and make it a damn fun night, and wow did I ever succeed. I think that was my record breaking night of 210 to 220 people there.
But over the past few months from that point, my numbers have dwindled, despite the constant music reforms, and additions of new tunes.
So around October, I started to wonder if I had lost my Zen for it? Or had I never really gotten it back? It's true that I haven't really been able to feel the crowd out like I used to, despite spending weeks and months of prep work for each set, finding the music, taking requests.
Not only that, I have become more and more stressed each time I step up there. Because I care too much? Perhaps... I spend so much time worrying about whether or not the music will be just perfect that I probably over think it, and push myself past a point I should not be crossing for a volunteer event.
I was never a DJ for myself. I was always a DJ for all of you. If my friends had not appreciated what I had done, I never would have gotten up there, stressed for many sleepless nights on whether you would enjoy what I had to offer musically, or spent months crafting what I hoped to be the perfect set. Unfortunately, one thing about friendship, is that when someone does something for you, it's nice to be appreciated for the effort, and lately, I have not been feeling that. Being requested, and then having many of those who make the request, not be there to support you in your endeavors on their behalf stings a bit, and when it happens a few times in a row, it is a bit disheartening.
That, plus many of the reasons listed, and some not (If you ask me, I might tell you the rest) is what has led to this decision. It was not an easy one to make, nor do I think it will be a popular decision, but it is made.
I have requested one final Friday Night Waltz night to DJ, and after that point, I will be stepping away, maybe temporarily, maybe for good. I will be continuing my music collaboration project for any and all who want to continue to continue to bring new music and exciting dances. Maybe you will have more luck than I. Who knows, but there it is. To all those who will miss it, I'm sorry. To those that won't... if you gloat, I'm going to punch you in the face.
What? I never pretended to be a nice guy. I sometimes am, but I never pretended to be.