*This review was co-authored by Jess Dilday and Mike D’Errico
The IASPM-US conference’s DJ night this year was definitely one to remember. We had a diverse group of DJ/scholars dropping a variety of beats, and enthusiastic crowd participation created the perfect storm on the dance floor, which didn’t let up until the bar closed at 2 AM. We even had an MC.
The event was held at the Station—the bar section of Southern Rail, a restaurant, bar, and music venue built to pay homage to the historical train station in Carrboro, North Carolina. The vintage feel of the creaky wooden dance floor lent an eclectic air to the night’s festivities, with broken records sitting alongside a stuffed deer head lining the wall behind the DJ booth. Early in the night, the IASPM crowd filled the floor, only to be later flooded with a diverse mix of UNC students and Carrboro townies strolling in to celebrate both St. Patrick’s Day and the start of Spring Break in the research triangle.
The event was hosted by resident DJ PlayPlay—North Carolina native, key player in the Durham club scene, and assistant web editor for IASPM-US. As she was setting up, a man following the moniker “Chocolate Drop” approached her and requested she play some “old school.” As a sound check, she dropped The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache,” and the party popped from there. The IASPM crowd, already eager for the music to begin, began to dance, while PlayPlay handed the mic to Chocolate Drop, who proceeded to rock it with a brilliant freestyle to successfully hype the crowd early on.
With the energy created by Chocolate Drop, IASPM-US graduate student representative Benjamin Court—a.k.a. Supreme Court—started out the night with his first foray into DJing, dropping the Talking Heads, ESG, and numerous gems from the New Wave, to win over the crowd’s mix of intellectuals and weekenders alike. It was a solid entrée into the DJ booth for Court—a child of the Rochester punk scene, most often seen performing shock and awe noise sets in LA art galleries and dive bars with shirtless compatriot John Horner.
Next up was Bit Faker, the alias of UCLA PhD student and film producer Tiffany Naiman. Rocking a Native Instruments S2 digital setup, she rolled out an immaculate selection of late 80s/early 90s industrial and EBM, including “The Most Wonderful Girl” by Lords of Acid, among other 303 house favorites. Her set was certainly a highlight for the organization’s president, Robert Fink, who was drenched in sweat and grinning in delight at this point. Meanwhile, other conference attendees captured the moment on their phones, snapping picks, tweeting, and shooting Vines of the event.
When Mike D’Errico—a.k.a. The Attic Bat a.k.a. The Los Angeles Grime Sniper a.k.a. Bat God—hopped behind the booth and dropped back-to-back trap music via Beyonce and Miley, everyone who wasn’t already dancing rushed the floor. Trap music is the genre most of the Station regulars are familiar with, as most of the resident DJs play at least some half-time instrumentals during their four-hour sets.
Luis-Manuel Garcia (LMGM) transitioned with an all-vinyl, classic turntable setup, packing the floor with a disco and house set that did not disappoint. Having carried a crate of records from Berlin while rocking a faulty house mixer at the Station, LMGM’s set represented the “vinyl is final” aesthetic well, with every blend hyping the Station even further.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the night was the 90-minute dub-for-dub vinyl battle by former DJ trio in the research triangle—DJ PlayPlay, Doctor Dakar (Ali Colleen Neff) and Fifi Hi-fi (Sarah Honer). Especially impressive were the smooth and consistent blends between tracks reflecting widely disparate tempos and stylistic feels, as well as the sense of play and experimentation imbued in the crate digging sensibilities of all three DJs. With each mix, the self-proclaimed “Red Wine Society” challenged each other further, lending an interactive and spontaneous feel to the already exciting night.
To close out the night, PlayPlay transitioned to a vinyl Serato set up for a juke, footwork, and jungle set. As was the case during the vinyl battle, it was the improvisatory character combined with a penchant for taking risks that defined (and continues to define) PlayPlay’s style. Earlier on that day, The Attic Bat asked her what she was planning on spinning that night, and she told him that she hadn’t even worked on it yet, and that she would probably just spend some time scouring Soundcloud for some “surprises” before the gig. The result was a jittery apex of mashed up classics combined with lo-fi Soundcloud demos and remixes, constantly pushing the intensity upwards of 180 BPM. An expert crowd-reader with a solid skillset in both “analog” and “digital” techniques, PlayPlay was the perfect host for the second installment of what proves to be an exciting and enduring tradition for the IASPM-US annual conference.