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Notes from a Santiago Dance Floor

Venue: La Feria, an intimate (200 person capacity?) space with Barcelona-inspired UFO lamps hanging at irregular heights, generous sound, and a tidy balcony. Oh, and the walls are padded, though despite the enthusiastic crowd, no one seemed to be bouncing off of them. This is no madhouse – though they're definitely mad for techno here.

Kelis's "Milkshake" – in this case, in the form of the St. Plomb bootleg mix, "There's Lead in My Shake" – still kills it, even here. Shouts, whistles, screams erupted with the first ripples of recognition. (Note to the producers: why oh why did you leave this record with only eight or so bars of intro before Kelis' voice comes in? It's almost impossible to play this track and preserve the surprise factor!)

What they call "minimal" elicits a strong response: Mike Shannon, U-Freq, the new John Tejada track on Frankie. (Don't know anything about the label, but this cut is one of the year's best.) And local pride is strong: Sieg άber Die Sonne goes over like gangbusters, and the day after, people are still singing the refrain from Luciano's Tim Wright remix. Really!

Chilean clubbers are a sibilant bunch, quick to hook two fingers in their mouth and blow. A skilled selector knows how to determine whether this is a good or a bad thing – a few nights ago I saw a DJ (we'll charitably assume he was stoned) attempting to cue up a record with the crossfader centered and the volume on both channels all the way up. Amazingly, he didn't notice his gaffe, and the crowd made a noise like a windstorm in a whistle factory. He grinned a confused little grin, assuming the jeers were cheers.

I had my fair share of whistles last night, and for the most part I think they were the good kind. (I'm not the tightest mixer in the world, but I've got good records on my side, and I'll take quality over quantization any day.) The only episode I'm uncertain about was after mixing out of Sieg άber Die Sonne's "Hot" into the Freeform Reform version of Markus Nikolai's "Bushes," a big sassy Latin track that I picked up in NYC and hadn't played out yet. Bad move. My friend swears that the crowd was into it, but to me it sounded like the soundtrack to a movie called Lost Plot, and it took me forever to get my flow back.

Flow, by the way, is overrated. I don't mean that the DJ should play willy-nilly all over the spectrum, but listening to 30 minutes of impeccably mixed minimal techno is dull as a fluff-covered needle. Give me right angles – or at least 45-degree tangents – any day. And while the opening DJ, who later came back to tag-team the last hour with me at the behest of the promoter (was I that erratic?), played solid tech-house in a neat arc, I'm convinced that my punk-ass approach – crashing loud into loud, Sender-style – worked just fine. Why else were they screaming for "Rocker," "Rocket Kontrol," and that take-no-prisoners remake of "Take Me Out?" Fists were pumping, and not just mine.

How to turn a climax into its antithesis, through no fault of your own: play Le Dust Sucker's "Mandate My Ass" at 3:56. Begin mixing in Kiki's "The End of the World" at 3:59. Let the clock tick 4am, and watch the soundman come up and swiftly slide the fader down to silence. Flip the power on the deck and raise the fader so that the restless crowd, wondering what the fuck is up, at least gets to hear the decelerating "woob woob woob" as the beats slow to a dead crawl; gaze in wonder at the uniformed cops – complete in weird, military-style caps – stake out positions around the dance floor and not so subtly suggest that the crowd beat a hasty retreat. Exeunt. Curtain.


I enjoy reading these little tales from the road. Occasional bits of DJ wisdom and the invaluable tips for what's hot right now. It's impossible to keep up you know.

Completely agree about the 45 degree angles thing. Unless the genre of music is by itself filled with climaxes, crazy breakdowns and a wide range of grooves and sounds (for example old uk hardcore) I find it extremely boring to listen to a genre-wise homogenous mix.

a DJ friend, Jeff Samuel, has been talking Frankie (both label and producer) up to me a lot since near the beginning of the year. still wanna hear that stuff.

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