DJ Russian Roulette

Ever feel like you’ve heard the same thousand songs over and over again at every city you dance in? I have these deja-vu moments, no matter which city I’m dancing in, that I *just* listened to this set the previous dance. Maybe I’m getting a little bit jaded because I listen to too much jass, blooz, and non-vocal NY mambo songs with the neat little piano solo hooks. Maybe I need to listen to more Kimbra?

What really stands out for me in regards to DJs who play lindy hop, blues, and salsa events are those who consistently drop hot new tracks for the dancers. It’s easy to “borrow” a couple of songs from other established DJs and mix and match songs to make your own set but it’s a lot harder to constantly be on the look out for songs and artists nobody in the scene has ever heard before. That’s why I have such great appreciation for DJs like Tall Jim from Vancouver because even though Vancouver is a very finicky dance scene in terms of musical tastes, he always seem to play a couple of songs that I secretly “borrow” for dances in Toronto (and hopefully in Montreal). He gets it and I like that.

I think the next time I DJ, I’m going to try out only playing songs I haven’t played ever before at a dance. I apologize in advance if you are attending ;)



Let’s Pay Our Dance DJs

Arthur and Erin dancing at Dovercourt

After conducting an informal survey around our dance scene, it seems to me that our awesome DJs in Toronto are not actually being paid to provide music for “for-profit” events (the only exception is the Toronto Swing Dance Society). That’s crazy.

As a dance DJ myself, I have probably poured more time and money into this passion than I will ever make back actually dj’ing so I know how much any type of remuneration helps us continue truckin’ on. Then I thought about the DJs that I actually invite out to play for our Yonge & Bloor Blues dance and realized that we don’t actually pay them either. This will change starting July 2nd for our next blues dance. While we do not make a boat-load of profit from the actual dance itself, it’s only fair to pay DJs for their time and expertise.

My friend Kevin Sue keeps saying that the best ideas are the ones that pass the common-sense test. I truly believe that this is one of them. For things to change in the scene that I am a part of, I have to actually start doing it myself first. This will keep me grounded and honest. Hopefully it will also keep me motivated to push for ideas that I believe in and at the end of the day, also keep me excited about dancing. :-)

So let’s get on and start paying our hard working DJs. Everybody wins when the music for dancing gets better.

Jasper’s DJ Seminar 2010 (Re-Blog)

Check out Jasper’s UT-Swing blog post about DJ’ing and training up newbies. This is something that is recently on my mind a lot so I’m glad to be throwing this re-blog up.

This weekend UT-Swing hosted a DJ seminar to give some aspiring DJs a little head start and share some tips of the trade. I was very happy with the outcome. The newbies left with a better sense of what swing DJing is all about… or at least, that’s what I hope.


For a previous blog post about DJing, check out DJing with an Agenda

Personal Thought: End With a Bang, Not A Whimper

Last night, at the end of Yonge and Bloor Blues, after our last blues song we turned back on all the lights and I played a couple soul/motown songs  to wrap up the night. The people who were still around and still wanted to dance got a chance to bust out the moves one more time and we got an upbeat end to the night.

I did it without thinking much about it, but when discussing it with Randy later, I realized that I did it because I don’t like anti-climactic ends to the evening. Read More…

DJ’ing with an Agenda

Dj'ing Swing and Blues

As I get more and more DJ’ing gigs slash opportunities, one of the things that I am working on this year is trying not to DJ with an agenda. I have embarrassingly caught myself sometimes in the mindset that I am some sort of music missionary trying to lead the heathens on a path to Harlem heaven. From the top of my head, some prior agendas that I have come to gigs with included playing faster than expected songs, songs from the savoy ballroom era, jazz blooz, new orleans, and my personal favourite, playing really bad songs and seeing if anyone notices (JK… or am I?). Bad news brown I know.

Read More…