Gigs - the other side

Reading the other thread on if you have improved as a DJ led over the years me to remember a post on Instagram I made sometime ago about bad, awkward or just plain weird gigs. I posted it because I was so bored with all the hype posts, in which everything is just spectacular etc. I certainly subscribe to the opinion that you absolutely cannot evolve as a DJ if you do not embrace such experiences. So, let me recycle the post for this occasion (and of course I had many more worse, weirder or more awkward gigs, but I had to start somewhere):

1996 Tanzdiele, Kiel

My then weekly residency at Tanzdiele Club in my hometown. The Saturday before was rammed, the one before as well, and so on. I entered the club ready to top it all, and then there were about 20 people the whole night. At some point I was told that there was a huge private party in some flat by some people notorious for huge private parties. We closed the club at 2 am and went there too, but we couldn’t get in because it was so crowded that not even the police there to shut down the party could get in. Told my ego one or two valuable things, and also about taking things for granted.

2006 Aston Villa Stadium, Birmingham

Me and Lars Bulnheim were very excited about the invitation to play some Modern Soul tunes at an allnighter in the stadium. We took selfies on the terraces, admired the trophies and the main floor looked like a cruise ship ballroom. It was wonderful. But when we came to our floor there were some seasoned soul DJs playing mediocre Garage House from CDs, and nearly nobody danced. There was a sizeable bunch of old soulies at the bar, and they were cheering and applauding our records. But we waved them over to dance, and they just laughed.

2007 103 Club, Berlin

Booked to play one of our then quite cherished disco b2b sets with Hunee. Hunee had suddenly decided that digital DJing was the future and so I was playing vinyl and he was playing with Traktor, or whatever. The difference in sound quality was really awkward, as Hunee’s files sounded really bad on the club’s PA. So even the 15 people who showed up left quite soon. Now his files sound better on most PAs than my records, but hey.

2011 Cabaret, ZĂĽrich

I entered the club and I was delighted by the sleazy and plush interior. Unfortunately that floor was reserved for a Hessle Audio night with all three of them. I said hi and then was directed to my floor, which turned out to be very small, and also served as the smokers lounge. You could say the smoking and according interaction mattered more than my set, let alone dancing.

2011 Tape, Berlin

Traxx celebrated his 40th birthday party on several floors. It was a great party, apart from the floor Trevor Jackson and I played. Which was the separate room upstairs where people went to have a chat, snog or take drugs, or to just have a quiet moment at last. And I was playing a rather advanced set of post punk favourites.

2013 Gipsy, Moscow

The club by the river looked like as if a spaceship had clashed into an ancient vessel and was half open air. One separate floor had walls of empty bottles. The Russian government had just introduced harsh anti gay laws and the crowd consisted mainly of rich kids more interested in showing off their wealth than in any of the music played, and handsome boys on the edge of the floor pretending to be just friends. I still feel dirty and ashamed when I think of that weekend.

2013, Berghain, Berlin

Me and Anstam were the support DJs for the showing of Murnau’s Nosferatu, soundtracked live by Shed. Anstam was great with setting the mood before, the film itself and Shed’s score was impressive too. When that was over, everybody left very quickly and I played maybe half an hour to the almost empty main room. But I ended with „Bela Lugosi’s Dead“, and the staff packing up and me agreed that it was quite a moment.

2014, Komm, NĂĽrnberg

I had played the same club for the annual soul weekender many times, so I thought it would be a great idea ot play a garage house set. But none of the local soulies showed up, the few people on the floor were not that much into vocals, there was heavy bass feedback on the decks, and there was a huge sold out punk concert in the main room upstairs, and when that ended a bunch of charged up and quite aggressive punks entered the floor and if looks could kill. But I was stubborn, and ready to fight, and surprisingly enough they warmed up to the music very soon. I never had a floor with equally wasted and loved up punks pogoing to Ce Ce Rogers again, unfortunately.

2014 Plastic People, London

Mark Ernestus was telling me that the club had probably the best sound system he ever heard, the reputation of the place was astonishing anyway. What I did not know about the booking was that I was the only remaining member of a Hard Wax package, and that the gig was announced as such. It was also announced that I would be the only one playing of the former lineup, a day before. So I played a frenetic cut up disco set to a few dub techno fans. The club closed soon after.

2015 Humboldthain, Berlin

I played an amazing set, but it was a daytime open air party on the hottest day of the year, and the few people who came by were paralyzed. I also quickly realized that playing in a wooden shack without ventilation was even worse than lying around in front of it. And I played for four hours.

2015 Wax Treatment, Kiekebusch

A wonderful party actually, but all DJs got carried away and played way longer than scheduled. When Shed and me finally started it was already dawning and a lot people had already gone back to the city, and the remaining crowd was too wasted or tired to dance. It did not help that I brought a bag of my favourite Proto Jungle anthems.

2016 Acido, Salon zur Wilden Renate, Berlin

The new techno floor had just opened and I thought it was a great idea to play a set with my favourite acid house records. Unfortunately the other DJs had played a rather leftfield set that did not work, and by the time I arrived the floor was already dead. About five people were merciful enough to dance on, but they were gone pretty soon, and they did not leave to tell other people what was going on. They just left.

2018 Bewegungsfreiheit, About Blank, Berlin

When I arrived at the club I noticed that the lobby floor was sticky and drenched in sweat, but half empty. It was not brave Cinthie’s fault, who played before me, the reason was that the whole ventilation went bust right after the party started. In June. I played my set, but nearly everybody had escaped to the garden. And every drink I had to fight my frustration seemed to dissolve instantly in the heat.

2020 Colour, Melbourne

I had a marvellous time in Australia two years before, playing at the wonderful Inner Varnika festival and some accompanying gigs. When I returned in 2020, however, the pandemic had accelerated from being a distant rumour to undeniable realness very quickly, and while I was travelling down under Europe was locked down and upon arrival I had tons of messages and phone calls by panicking DJs, and I realized that the life I was happily living for over 30 years was basically falling apart in realtime. My first gig in Melbourne was a disaster, as people obviously decided to be reasonable and stay in, and apart from a few friends there hardly was anybody there. The gig in Sydney two days later was the total opposite, playing b2b in a sold out warehouse with DJ Sprinkles, but it had the vibe of the last night out possible, and it actually was. I managed to get one of the last flights back to Europe before most airports were shut down, and dear me I was confused.

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