A couple of weeks ago Channel 4 had a programme called House Party, which was quite remarkable for several reasons, not least because hardly anybody I know has remarked on it at all.
What they did was, they had a DJ booth in a studio and 6 DJs played one-hour sets, one after the other starting at midnight. I’ll admit two things:
- I did watch it all
- I didn’t stay up to watch it
I watched the show in several chunks while I was doing crosswords, reading and other stuff. It was a change from the radio. Obviously it wasn’t supposed to be watched alone, mid-morning. You were supposed to fill your house with friends and alcohol and party until dawn with them rather than tackle a killer sudoku.
Anyway, remarkable thing number one was that there were no ad breaks at all – all the more so when you remember that a few days later the same channel got so much flak for interrupting the flow of the Paralympics opening ceremony with ad breaks. Quite a bold move for a commercial channel to go 6 hours without a commercial.
Aside from that it was a rare chance to actually see what DJs get up to, because the other remarkable thing was the total lack of any studio audience. The only times you ever see DJs on TV there is an audience, often in a nightclub, so what you actually see are lots and lots of shots of people dancing with the odd glimpse of the DJ.
I think that club DJs attract the same sort of criticisms as abstract artists – that they are overpaid for doing something not very difficult. The counter-argument is, I guess, that they don’t just play records but blend and mix them up and know just which track to play to get a crowd going.
I’m on the fence a bit. I can see that there is more to it than just playing records. You have to know a lot of them and either know how they will mix together or have the technical know-how to manipulate them so they do mix together. I still think that some of them make a bit of a meal of it though.
I preferred the sets by Grandmaster Flash and Soul II Soul, mainly because they played some tunes I had actually heard of and mixed the styles up a lot. Also there was some actual proper vinyl and scratching going on, as there was with A-Trak as well. It actually felt live and there was a bit of an attempt to interact with the audience even if none of them were in the room.
After six hours of being able to watch big-name DJs do their stuff I am not convinced. The old school types with vinyl scratching and lots of talking over the music are entertaining, but the newer style of having everything on a laptop just makes me suspicious. How do I know the whole lot isn’t pre-sequenced? But what do I know? The last time I went clubbing all those old school acts were the latest thing.