© 2012 Jennifer Ross. All rights reserved.

Modern Trends: From Hauling Crates to Virtual Deejays, Now It Comes to You

Friday night at Le Poisson Rouge

By Jennifer Ross

On a Friday night around 10:00 pm, Manhattan is up and running with live entertainment virtually on every corner. For people in the club business such as Promoter and DJ Mark Smooth, DJ Herbert Holler and Ed Cosi Levi a.k.a. DJ Cosi, their night is just beginning. Every Friday night, you can catch these three “shuttin’ it down,” as Holler would say in describing what it’s like to experience dancing all night at (Le) Poisson Rouge, a multimedia art cabaret founded by musicians. “This night is for everyone’s enjoyment,” Smooth says as all three begin to set up. Thanks to the modern technology, everyone around the world is able to attend (Le) Poisson Rouge, regardless of where they live. However, that’s not how it used to be.

Almost completely gone are the days of deejays hauling crate after crate of music records commonly referred to as “vinyls.” Only a select few deejay devotees are fighting to keep that style alive. DJ Holler was one of them, one of the many older style deejays, determined to keep spinning the vinyl alive instead of transforming over to the CD spinning and eventually the mp3 mixing, which is what he does today. Many great deejays, such as DJ Evil Dee of Brooklyn, NY or Louis Vega converted to digital mixing in the early 2000’s. Holler remained true to vinyls well into the 21st century until he couldn’t resist any longer. Now, he considers himself digital. “Yeah, I’m digital. I’m mean, everybody that uses a Serato box is digital. Even if they are using a turntable or CD DJs, you can use either one. The vinyl that comes with the CD DJs are digitally coded to work with the mp3s; so, everybody’s digital unless you’re using actual vinyl records.”

In decades past, deejays not only had to be mentally skilled in spinning music, but they also needed to be physically able to haul enough music records to play, a total of crates usually equal to the weight of an adult male. With the invention of digital music files, the weight of vinyl crates turn into a simple laptop storing thousands of songs and no back pain. In explaining one of the many conveniences in going digital, Holler says, “Imagine I get a gig in another town or state and I have to fly there. How do I go about packing my vinyls as luggage? What if my vinyls miss a connecting flight?” Sure the airline will eventually deliver my luggage, but the gig time will have passed by then. Now, I just show up with a backpack carrying a laptop.”

As convenient as this is for deejays, it is still not enough. The music listeners around the world want more. They want easy access to deejays and their skills, anywhere and at any time. Sitting on a large table, in the right hand corner of the stage, thousands of dollars of music equipment lay in a row, with so many wires crossing back and forth, entering here and exiting there. From the look of the deejay table, it would be easy to think of it as a plate of twisted-up electrical black-wiry pasta, without the sauce. As Holler and Cosi walks around the brightly lit stage, going over music and computer equipment, ensuring what will be another eventful night, Smooth is off to the side of him setting up a basic laptop and webcam. He connects a few cables, turns on the laptop and logs in the crowd. “It’s that simple,” he exclaims with a smile on his face, “Ustream.tv.”

This is what the music listeners want. Ustream.tv, one of the latest technology in live streaming, is a website providing a platform for the world to connect on virtually any topic. Now, club goers unable to party in New York City’s club scenes don’t have to miss out. Party all night long from anywhere in the United States or Europe or China – even from home. With just a few clicks on anyone’s computer containing internet access, (Le) Poisson Rouge goes viral. According to Smooth, this happens every Friday night. “Say you are having a house party and you can’t afford to hire a deejay to play. What do you do? Before, you would turn on the radio or play music from your computer. Now, you log on to us, either live or previously recorded, and party all night long. www.ustream.tv/channel/the-freedom-party-nyc-live. It’s that easy.”

Promotor and DJ Marc Smooth

And easy it is. No need to worry about when the deejay will arrive to set up before your party or will there be enough room for his equipment. No need to spend any hard earned cash on a deejay’s fee. It’s all there, the professional music skills for partygoers’ enjoyment at the incredibly low cost of zero dollars. “What else is there to think about? Free professional spinning in your home? It’s what I love to do,” Holler says. As he looks back at his life to reminisce of how he came to love music and spinning the vinyl, Holler stares up and to the side. Although he was always into mixing music and make tapes for friends, his passion to officially deejay began in college. Back then, he was in a fraternity that constantly hosted big dance parties. Once college was over and like so many graduates ready to start a career, he stopped mixing and became a writer and editor. He also occasionally performed comedy. Though professional life was good, something was missing and it wasn’t till 2002 that Holler finally realized what it was. “One day, I woke up and I was like, I want to do it again. So I bought all the equipment and started doing it. That was that.”

2 Comments

  1. Posted 28 Dec ’12 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    This story reminds me of the “Record shops find hope in a fading industry” piece that’s posted on our site. They’re about the response of old school musical practices to the digital age. It’s either you adapt or go the way of the dodo bird. You can only resist the tide for so long before you either go with it or are drowned by it.
    I have a nephew who DJs and he has that stripped down equipment of a Mac loaded with songs, a couple of speakers, etc. He can carry his gear in a mid-sized car. It’s unlikely he’ll ever have the shoulder size differential that DJ Holler speaks about!!
    It was interesting hearing him speak about his initial resistance to change as well as the differences between how old school DJs handle songs compared to younger ones (i.e. knowing when to allow a song to just play at length). I think that it was great that you were able to get an interview snuck in while he was on the job. Plenty of ambient sound there, huh?
    I’m glad that you finally got this posted because I knew you were working hard to get it done and that shows in the video.
    Concerning the article itself, my one stylistic criticism would be that you should allow outstanding quotes to stick out by making them separate paragraphs as opposed to embedding them in the text. It’s like the journalistic equivalent of using bold print to draw attention to important words.
    I like that you were able to give a brief history of DJing as context for the current state of the art.
    Hope you’re having an excellent (and restful) holiday!!

  2. Posted 17 Jan ’13 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    We stumbled over here by a different page and thought I
    may as well check things out. I like what I see so i
    am just following you. Look forward to going over your web page for a second time.

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