Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Feeding my inner DJ

Back in the dark ages (the late 1970s) when semi-creative types didn't have their own organizations and chamber-endorsed networking events, a merry band of misfits threw the Artists and Writers Ball -- an orgy of dancing, drinking and music that was conceived as a kind of anti-Gasparilla.* The early Daughters of Bizarro theme was all-inclusive and indicative of things to come: Hot Night in Havana, Welcome to the Depression, Cowboys in Space (or did I imagine that last one?).

One of the first party meetings was in that bastion of the counterculture -- The Tampa Tribune -- where 10 people including Bud Lee, Paul Wilborn, David Audet and Ben Brown -- agreed to put up the seed money for venue and sound equipment deposits: $50 in return for 10 tickets worth $5 each. Ten tickets for an event that could never happen.

Only somehow it worked. Conceived as a non-profit event, we were sold out days before and our biggest problem was in what to do with all the money. Since our party was in Ybor City, we did what came naturally: We provided free Cuban sandwiches to most of the attendees.

The live bands were great, but we needed some transitional music so I volunteered. Using my trusty cassette deck (how primitive), I mixed Tommy Tutone, The Beatles and Willie Nile along with dozens of other artists. One of my fondest memories of that night was feeling the floor vibrate as hundreds of folks danced to "Twist and Shout." Jeez, no wonder people want to be DJs. (That, and meeting women. See "Fidelity, High.") What a feeling of power and satisfaction. I ended up providing the recorded music for the first three or four balls.

Flash to 2006 and everybody can be a DJ. iTunes (unpaid product placement) has a feature that allows users to publish set lists on the Apple Music Store. It's very clever in many ways. It's user-generated content, which is very hot right now and builds traffic. And only songs that you can buy on iTunes are eligible for inclusion in your set -- although you didn't have to buy your copy of the song from Apple. So if people see your set and like what they hear, they can click-through to buy the songs from the Apple service. There's also a ratings application.

Since we've been thinking here about Club Jaeb, our 268-seat club at TBPAC, for my first mix I ended up grouping artists who are former Jaeb acts, upcoming Jaeb performers and some who basically are "you wish!" All are wonderful songwriters who make music that matters, no matter what the genre.

Because I did it on a rainy Sunday morning, the mood reflects that a bit. It's pretty quiet. And somehow e e cummings wrote the summary of the playlist.

So if you're an iTunes person, check it out and let me know what you think. You can find it here.
- Michael K.

* Disclaimer: That whole Artists and Writers Ball thing was a very long time ago, but this is how I remember it happening. Considering the nature of the beast, I can imagine a whole lot of people having completely different recollections. As they say, if you can remember those nights you probably weren't there.

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