Monday, December 13, 2010

Good weekend. Jailbreak and the VHS victories!

This weekend it felt like I broke out of Jail. Thursday was hardly rock and roll, sitting up till crazy late, animating. On Friday I head straight from work to Kitcheners. Check up on the set up of the screens for VHS. Everything's looking cool. Head across the road to join Bradley for a glass of Lemonade at 70 Juta. This is my second weekend in a row enjoying the cafe's beverages, atmosphere and vinyl collection. Chatting to Colin about this little corner of the city gets me really excited for the little creative region that's blossoming around Kitcheners.

I quickly head home. Anja helps with the guestlist while I rush through the last elements for the visuals. Then we dash back to the venue. Que a very unpleasant hour and a half stressing about both sound and video issues. The extra sound we ordered still hasn't arrived by 9 when Hayley and Marc are supposed to start. Maybe I'm just being stupid, but I can't get the video switcher to work.

We battle through everything and Hayley and Marc start their set a half hour after they should have. I head outside to catch my breath. When I head inside things are looking pretty bleak. It's ten and nobody is dancing yet. "Tough crowd" Marc tells me. To be honest there's not much crowd at all. It's almost ten and I'm now really worried this party just isn't going to happen. I head into the kitchen to do some last minute tweaking to my set.

By the time I head back out and onto the dance floor any fears I had are incinerated. The place is packed with a room of bodies bouncing around under the flashing light of Chinxxx's visuals. Mark just beams over at me across the decks as he drops some TV on the Radio. I shuffle into the booth behind Hayley and Mark. There's barely space for me to stand, never mind set up my laptop, keytar and nano controller. This means my set-up becomes a part of my performance; I bounce back and forth between mixing songs, switching visuals and setting up my instruments. I realise while doing this that there must be something seriously wrong with me. It's like I'm addicted to this. Situations where I'm in front of a bunch of people, trying to pull off something I've never done before. Hell right right now I'm pretty sure no-one has done this before. Playing songs off CDs while playing animations off a keytar, I don't understand why I always make things so difficult for myself.

Over the past 5 years I must have played more than 400 DJ sets. I've had far fewer opportunities to VJ, but by the time Jo Fo and I started our tour of The States I could confidently say I'd got my keytar VJing well and truly down. And yet, not content to just stick to doing either of these things well, here I am trying to do both at once. Plus for the first time I'm also running audio out of my VJ software and adding Cam's Nano controller to the mix for good measure.

The result of debuting this new kind of D/V-Jing is pretty damn chaotic. Before the event some of my friends joked "Who's going to win?" When they saw the "Sassquatch vs. Sassquatch" on the poster for tonight. As it's turned out, both the Sassquatch with the headphones and the one with the keytar loose. I play a set that's neither a very good DJ set, and hardly the best VJ set ever. But I honestly can't complain- I am having the time of my life dashing between mixing tracks, rocking out on the keytar, recording live video loops and then popping my headphones back over my ears for the next mix. One thing I learnt while touring the States was that I should always have a backup of everything. This is why I've got a second laptop lying next to me. I've got a backup wireless transmitter in my back pack, extra VGA cables, batteries and a spare video converter. However, something that didn't occur to me to get a spare of is a strap for my keytar. And while Seafox is working just fine after her brush with watery death, as soon as I'm into this DJing/ VJing, thing her strap breaks.

Rocking out with the crowd to the sound of The Friendly Fires, I suddenly feel a weight lifted from my shoulders. I've felt this before; it happens at least once a show. This is how it feels when my keytar and strap come undone from one another. I catch Seafox before she hits the floor, but when I try re-attach her to the strap I realise it hasn't just come undone- the strap is in two separate pieces.

I devise various ways of playing the keytar without being able to strap it on. Mostly I land up propping the bottom end on the table and playing it like a kind of video-triggering double-bass keyboard. Loosing my strap turns out to be just another loop in this anarchic roller coaster of a set. As much as I'm barely holding everything together, the dancefloor doesn't seem to care at all. Almost every track I drop is welcomed by screams from the floor between kids wildly throwing themselves around. Well, this is the case for a good hour anyway. At some point after this Andrew comes up to me. "Is something on fire?" I'd generally assume he's joking about the dancefloor burning up, but his dead serious delivery suggests otherwise. I look around at all the electronics in a panic. "No, why?" Andrew just waves a hand through the air, showing me how hazy the place has become. A few moments later it's discovered that the haze isn't coming from a fire; it's coming from a fire extinguisher! Some genius has set the thing off and as the dancefloor flee to get breathable air, I become the lone survivor in the sour smelling room. Luckily I'm able to lure people back in with some Gloria Jones and as the air starts to clear the dancefloor fulls up again. The rest of my set is just too much fun. I honestly can't believe I'm finally fulfilling this dream of DJing and Vjing at the same time. What's more my animations are blazing out of 4 plasmas, burning their way into the brains of one of the most receptive crowds I've played to all year. I tag out and Plaat Japie and Pixel Surgeon start their set. I miss the start of it, catching my own breath outside. When I head back in I get a huge smile smashed across my face by a sledgehammer of pure awesome. Ri's playing some deliciously sweet disco and Brendon's visuals are just perfect. Chopping up footage of Janelle Monea rocking out with some friends in a parking lot. It's like he's giving the dancefloor a high five through their eyeholes! Brendon's approach to VJing is very different from what Hayley and I were doing. He favours long clips, rarely cutting between them. Instead of creating a sense of energy through fast edits, The Pixel Surgeon is all about taking the dancefloor on a journey. And it's an fantastic one at that. Brendon's visuals keep me smiling till he finishes at 3AM. And Ri's soundtrack just makes it that much sweeter. He covers a mad amount of sonic territory, bouncing between funk, rock and roll, pop, classic RnB and punk funk. Every mix is a long, bouncey slice of perfection. At some point he leans over the decks and tells me "I'm going into my 9th hour!". I drop to my knees and start a Wayne's World style "we're not worthy" bow. Having already played a 6 hour corporate today, Ri's now breaking his personal best going into his 3rd hour VJing VHS.

I head home with his beats bouncing around my head. Anja, Jarred P and I rock an episode of the Simpsons. They pass out, I bust a shower. Find myself climbing into bed at 5:30AM. On Saturday, now that VHS is over, this sense of having broken out of jail hits me hard. Since I got home from the States there's always been something I need to work on. From my two shows at Halloween, to "Dance me In" to the Popobe exhibition to VHS there's always been something I need to work towards. Until now...

Anja and I celebrate my freedom by going to watch the new Harry Potter and spending the rest of the day not doing much at all. On Sunday we head through to PTA. Help Christian move into his new place.

Head to Menlyn to watch Scott Pilgrim. Having thrown the launch party for the film on Tuesday, this is the 2nd time I'm seeing it. Honestly I love it so much I'll be depressed if I don't get to see the movie another two times before it goes off circuit. After the film we hang a little more with Christian. Then we meet up with my family for dinner. Tess and I are celebrating our mutual birthday 2 weeks early considering Anja'll be away in Cape Town on the actual day. We eat delicious food, drink wine and laugh a bunch. It's the most perfectly relaxing way to end a weekend that started out with the insanely choatic night of fun that was VHS.

Theeeee end.

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