Monday, October 31, 2011

How Do You Top Doctor Octopus?

I love Halloween. Whatever weird compulsion it is to want to dress up in a costume, I had it in a big way for a long time. It was a beast that awakened once a year and took over my consciousness for weeks leading up to the big night. Looking back on my twenties, I have to begrudgingly admit that if I had put the same energy into following a career that I put into assembling my Halloween costumes I would be at least a few points of latitude North of writing a blog with a weekly circulation of about 45. (Thank you, Google analytics?)

I had a lot of good costumes over the years. As an adult (if someone in their 20s can really be called that) I always tended toward funny costumes as opposed to scary costumes. (I suppose one might say that there are two kinds of people.)  The one that really made me feel like I accomplished something was the Krusty the Klown kostume I made in 1998. I really committed to that one: I got the voice down pat, and the laugh, which was a little harder; I got green pants (size 42, to accommodate the fake potbelly I made duct-taping a throw pillow to a t-shirt), a short-sleeved pink shirt, and a blue bowtie from some thrift stores; I created the blue wig with male pattern baldness with a swatch of blue fur from a crafts store and a bald cap; and I got a big red pair of clown shoes, a clown nose, and some white gloves, from a Halloween store. I even smoked a pack of cigarettes that night. At the time, I had just started dating my wife, who started out amused by this effort but ended up creeped out, and begging me to take it all off. (I didn't want to do that until we got home, because I felt the only thing creepier than Krusty would have been Krusty with the wig off.)

It's been a few years since I did a Halloween costume. I think I knew it was really over for me when I repeated my Magnum, P.I. costume from a few years before for a costume party at a bar a couple of years ago. Sure, I won the costume contest at that party -- tight white short-shorts are always a hit --  but the shame of repeating a Halloween costume drowned out the triumph.

The beast lay dormant for a couple of years, which (coincidentally?) were my first few years as a parent. Halloween means nothing to a kid the first couple of years, so we sat out Henry's first one entirely and almost sat out the second until our good friends lent us one of their kids' old costumes, so we went with them on our neighborhood trick-or-treat route.

In our Brooklyn neighborhood, they do Halloween a little different than we used to do it in the suburbs: NYPD closes four streets for three blocks in the historic district, creating a 12-block snaking route of brownstone rowhouses, probably 30 per side per block.  With no cars on the street, the kids -- and you can't believe how many kids there are, they come from other neighborhoods to get in on this -- can zigzag all over the place and make out like bandits on the candy. Probably 3 out of 5 houses on the route are participating, and they're all right next to each other, so the kids theoretically should be able to score and score big, but there are so many kids out there that they're all in each other's way so they slow each other down, like a soccer game with 800 kids on the field. Except the kids are in Halloween costumes! It is even more fun than it sounds.

The tight white short-shorts are
under the jeans
We pushed Henry around in his stroller in his borrowed furry lion costume, and got him a bunch of candy that we ate ourselves and marveled at this scene. The houses on this route that participate in Halloween participate in Halloween. Everybody does up their stoops and gardens with big fake webs and scarecrows and strobelights; everybody handing out the candy is in costume, whole families hanging out outside with "Monster Mash" playing and everybody smiling. It's great.

For Henry's third Halloween we bought him a Triceratops costume, because when we asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween, he said "Ceratops." He was in his dinosaur phase, and "Triceratops" was at the time the only dinosaur he could dependably name.  Two years later he appears to have no memory of that costume. It was cute, and his mom modified it slightly to make it fit better. As for his participation level, he was a little overwhelmed by the scene and shy about going up to the people to get the candy. He was a few months shy of his third birthday, so this is understandable. Once again, we got him a bunch of candy, and once again, we ate most of it ourselves.  

But last year, the beast awakened. I asked Henry what he wanted to be for Halloween and, unlike last year, he actually knew what I was talking about, and he answered "Spider-Man." He was in the honeymoon part of his Spider-Man phase. I thought about that for a moment, and asked him what his best friend Zeke, with whom we planned to walk the route, was going as and Henry said, "Spider-Man." Zeke was also in his Spider-Man phase. (I would like to see some true scientific study on the Dinosaur phase (age 2-3) and the Spider-Man phase (age 3-4). What correlation do these phases have with the stages of brain development? Should parents try to prolong the Dinosaur phase if certain benchmarks aren't met? Is it safe to commence the Spider-Man phase before the child can speak in full sentences?)

Well, everybody knows you don't go to a Halloween party in the same costume as somebody else if you can help it, particularly not the person you're going with. It was not easy to explain this to Henry, but eventually he understood that he had to pick a different costume than Spider-Man. "What would be cool is if you could be one of the bad guys," I told him.

"Like the Vulture? Or the Green Goblin?"

As it happened, I had just finished tearing out and rebuilding the frame for my back door, as the old frame appeared to have been opened with a battering ram at some point before we bought the house. (As I mentioned, this story takes place in Brooklyn.) I solved the problem of how to insulate the gap between the wooden frame and the brick rough opening by stuffing in pipe insulation -- skinny, 6-foot-long foam tubes with a slit along one side, meant to be put around water and heat pipes. I had a lot left over, and had left it in the back yard, where Henry had played with it a little bit.

"How about Doctor Octopus?" I said, and before he even answered, I knew that he was going to be Doctor Octopus. The beast was up and out of its coffin, ready to feed. I Googled a few pictures of the villain, and Henry soon agreed, so I fashioned a set of arms with that pipe insulation, a belt made of cardboard, four wire hangers, and a roll of duct tape. I knew we had a pair of kiddie-sized 3d glasses that looked like old Wayfarers, so I figured all we needed was a green shirt and green pants and we were in business.

Here's a dimension that a lot of people miss on Halloween: you have to make concessions to the weather. The temperature on Halloween ranges from "not that cold for the first half hour" to "freezing," and there's no bigger bummer than having a great Halloween costume and having to put a coat on over it, especially if you're a kid. This, to me, is the primary problem with store-bought Halloween costumes: you freeze to death in them. So I'm thinking, I need warm green pants and a warm green shirt, preferably the exact same green. A quick trip to the kids' department at Old Navy scores fleece pants and matching sweatshirt, and my little Doctor Octopus is ready to wreak havoc on the city. We brought along his little fake-leather Fonzie jacket just in case, and even though it didn't match the all-green, comic-book Doctor Octopus I was going for, it evoked the trenchcoat the Alfred Molina wore in Spider-Man 2.

Without any coaching from me or his mom, Henry immediately embraced the role of villain, which even more than the costume itself was what made this such a memorable evening. As you could probably have guessed, in addition to Zeke, there were about 640 other Spider-Mans out trick-or-treating, and Henry attacked every one of them on sight, starting with Zeke. Actually, Henry attacked Zeke before and after attacking every other Spider-Man he saw. (Henry and Zeke's whole relationship is built on attacking each other.) The awesome quotient of a three-foot-tall Doc Ock taking on a horde of three-foot Spider-Mans, in front of a NYPD cruiser and a roadblock, no less, while bellowing in his best monster voice, "I'm Doctor Octopus!!" was lost on none of the parents. It was at this moment that all the getting puked on and the changing messy diapers and the lost sleep and my brutal treatment as a second-class parent by this kid in favor of his admittedly excellent mother melted away. This is what I was put here to do: to make this kid awesome Halloween costumes. Krusty the Klown and Magnum P.I. and Steve Martin and Reed Richards were all just warmups for fatherhood.

Which brings us to this year. I set the bar pretty high for myself with Doctor Octopus, and I have probably eight more Halloweens to go before Henry starts spending Halloween in search of beers and adventure. It's daunting.

Making matters worse, when I first asked Henry what he wants to be this year, he said "The Vulture." I wouldn't have any problem with re-enacting last year as a different Spider-Man villain, but The Vulture presents some challenges: he wears all green, which as we learned last year is no problem, but putting giant feathered wings on each of Henry's arms would be time-consuming, and making him bald doesn't seem feasible. Do they even make bald caps for 4-year-olds?

So I steered him away from The Vulture, but his next idea, a two-headed dragon, was even tougher. I toyed momentarily with the idea of papier-macheing a pair of heads with Henry's real face in its chest or something, but it seemed overwhelming. "How about a skull?"

Henry is really into skulls right now. Partly that's because people (read: his mom and I) keep buying him clothes with the skull-and-crossbones on them. (This is what happens when the metal generation starts reproducing.) He has a fleece hoodie with a skull-and-crossbones. He has four or five t-shirts with some version of it on them. And over the summer, on a canoe trip, I picked up a skull-and-crossbones flag at the gift shop to put below the orange safety flag on his trailer bike.

Riding him around on that trailer bike, I started to feel a little conscious of his bike helmet, which had crudely drawn dinosaurs in primary colors on it. It's very toddlerish, and Henry at this point can ride a bike without training wheels and is unfazed riding through traffic on Flatbush Avenue on the trailer bike. He needs a cooler helmet. So if I get him one, I can use this old one for something. A skull, perhaps?
Henry agreed to be a skull right away, and at first I promised to turn him into a skull-and-crossbones by putting a couple of crossed bones on his chest, just below his head. But then I started thinking about the weather, and realized he'll be cold if we send him out in just a black sweatshirt. I started thinking about his jackets and how they could work with a skull, and zeroed in on another fake-leather jacket he got a few months ago, that everyone keeps calling a motorcycle jacket.

A skull and a motorcycle jacket? Sounds like Ghost Rider!
Once I Googled a couple of Ghost Rider images, Henry was completely on board. I spent three nights turning his old bike helmet into a skull, and I have to say I am pretty excited about the results. Henry, for his part, has never been so excited about anything in his life. My only worry is whether he'll be able to see out of it well enough to ride his bike.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Sad, Totally Preventable Death Of Jane's Addiction

Don't buy this record

Jane's Addiction has a new album out! Had you heard? I'm guessing you hadn't.

It wasn't all that long ago that a new Jane's Addiction album would have been a big, big deal, like cover-of-every-magazine, appearances-on-every-talk-show big. But in 2011, 21 years after their last decent product (1990's Ritual de lo Habitual) the world greeted this week's release of The Great Escape Artist with a universal halfhearted shrug.

It didn't have to be this way. Jane's Addiction was a great band -- more than that, an important band. All through the '90s, the last emotion I'd ever expect them to inspire was indifference. Anybody who was hip to Jane's Addiction when they were Jane's Addiction was into them like a religious cult -- and I held on as a devoted disciple for as long as I could.

To begin with, they had probably the best band name anyone's ever thought of (with the possible exception of Kathleen Turner Overdrive). Their first two studio albums -- 1988's Nothing's Shocking and 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual -- synthesized rock, metal, and poetry and created a totally new, almost alien sound when they were released. They sounded like Art and Religion and Sex all rolled into one awesome thing that sounded best LOUD.

Frontman Perry Farrell has always been the face of Jane's (while guitarist Dave Navarro, who has not worn a shirt in public in about 15 years, serves as the body), thanks to his piercing, nasal singing style, coupled with genuinely interesting lyrics. A few samples:

Buy this one instead
T.V.'s got those images, T.V.'s got them all, it's not shocking;
Showed me everybody naked and disfigured, nothing's shocking


Wish I was ocean size
They cannot move you and no one tries
No one pulls you up from your hole
Like a tooth aching a jawbone


One must eat the other who runs free before him,
Put them right into his mouth
While fantasizing the beauty of his movements.
A sensation not unlike slapping yourself in the face...

I'm not saying this stuff is all Beaudelaire, but in the context of the late '80s, the era of "Cherry Pie" and "You Give Love A Bad Name," it stood out for at least making you think. This band made you (or at least, made me) feel like I could rock out and be intelligent at the same time.

They burned bright, but they burned out fast, and broke up in 1991, almost immediately after becoming a national act with its college-radio/latenight MTV hit "Been Caught Stealing," because of irreconcilable personal differences between Farrell and bassist Eric Avery.

For a long time, Avery resisted the band's entreaties to reunite, so Jane's Addiction soldiered on through three reunions without him: the 1997 "Relapse" tour, with Flea on bass, and the 2001 "Jubilee" tour and the 2003 "Strays" tour, both with session bass players covering for Avery. It took the band until 2003 to release a follow-up to Ritual de lo Habitual, and with no songwriting contribution from Eric Avery, Strays fell completely flat, and ultimately served the same purpose as a new Rolling Stones album -- it provided the band with an excuse to hit the road and play their classics.

You don't have to listen to a lot of those classics to realize why Jane's Addiction hasn't been able to do anything cool since it lost its bass player. In fact, you don't have to listen to them at all, if you're like me and waged a sustained campaign in the early-to-mid '90s to permanently imprint them on your cortex through sheer repetition.

This one is also pretty great
Think about how the following songs start: "Summertime Rolls." "Mountain Song." "Three Days." "Up The Beach." "Ted, Just Admit It." "Been Caught Stealing." These are all great, great songs, some of the best rock of the late '80s and early '90s. (Nirvana and Nevermind get a lot of credit for slaying the demon of '80s lite-metal, but Jane's Addiction did quite a bit of damage in its short career.) And all of them begin the same way, with Avery's bass setting the tone and the rest of the band falling in behind him.

None of those parts are Beethoven, obviously; Avery isn't blowing any minds with them, and they don't require any particular virtuosity to play. But they were the obvious genesis of the songs, they had a vibe and a drive that inspired Farrell, guitarist Dave Navarro, and drummer Stephen Perkins, touched them somewhere that brought out each of their unique contributions that ended up being a whole called "Jane's Addiction." Put another way: Farrell, Navarro, and Perkins are a pretty flashy sportscar, but Avery was the key in the ignition. Without the key, that car's not going anywhere.

Supporting evidence of this theory can be found in Navarro's short tenure with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the mid-'90s. When guitar prodigy John Frusciante became the second Chili Peppers guitarist to leave the band behind a heroin problem (a problem that, unlike his predecessor Hillel Slovak, he survived), the Chili Peppers apparently asked themselves if they knew any other junkie guitarists, and called Navarro. The record they made, 1995's One Hot Minute, had none of the funk the Chili Peppers were (at that time) famous for; it was almost all super-simple heavy rock tunes. Why? Because Frusciante's guitar parts (and Slovak's before him) had been the key in the Chili Peppers' ignition, as you can plainly hear all over the band's best album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. Without any key in their ignition, the Chili Peppers with Navarro just reverted to what came easiest. (The album is so short on material that it includes "Pea," a song that features Flea, solo,  singing incredibly stupid lyrics and accompanying himself on unamplified bass.)

To some extent, anything with Perry Farrell's voice on it is going to sound like Jane's Addiction, because his voice (and, as importantly, the way he records it) is as distinctive an instrument as Coltrane's sax: the moment you hear it, there's no question who it is.

But when the "reunited" Jane's put out its first record in 13 years, nobody noticed, because it didn't sound like Jane's Addiction. Quick story: when the TV show Entourage premiered on HBO, I liked the show right away and watched all of its first two seasons. (I soon grew to hate the show, but I will resist that 2,500-word digression.) Even when I liked it, though, I muted the TV during the theme song, which sounded to me like the worst kind of Pro Tools-assembled, super-compressed, obviously edited, generic "rock." It was years later, after I stopped watching the show, that I learned that that theme song was called "Superhero," and it was written and performed by Jane's Addiction.

I got momentarily excited when Eric Avery finally rejoined the band and they started touring in 2008 and 2009, but I didn't have an opportunity to go see them play. Avery quit again in 2010, after trying to rally the band into creating some new material; they managed only new studio versions of their circa-'87 tunes "Whores" and "Chip Away." Avery apparently decided his good-faith effort to resurrect Jane's Addiction was futile when, on the day of the band's performance at Lollapalooza 2009 -- a symbolic gig, as the band had broken up immediately following the inaugural Lollapalooza tour in 1991 -- Farrell released a video for a song he'd recorded as a solo artist:

...Words fail to express how awful and creatively bankrupt this is. Suffice to say, the creative death of Perry Farrell is the other reason Jane's Addiction hasn't done anything cool in 20 years. After Avery's second departure, former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan was brought out of cold storage for six months of sessions and shows, and then quit; then Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio was recruited to assist in the recording, and this week the result, The Great Escape Artist, was finally released. My initial reaction to this news was total indifference, but then I decided to give it a listen, so here are the real-time reactions of a hardcore classic Jane's fan to their new record, one song at a time: "Underground" A little bit of (surely synthesized) quivering strings starts things off promisingly, as Perry sings a couple of lines and then the band kicks in. It sounds like Jane's Addiction, although the amount of distinctly computer-generated sound effects is already a little distressing -- it seems meant to distract me from the fact that this song is built around a two-note riff, but it has the opposite effect. Navarro's solo comes exactly when it feels like it should, and sounds exactly like you'd expect it to sound, which is not really a plus for a band that built its name on zigging when you thought they'd zag. "End To The Lies" Where his non-rhyming lyrics used to conjure interesting ideas, now he just seems to be using them to present his side of his beef with Avery, kind of like John Lennon's petty and musically pathetic song-attacks on Paul McCartney in the '70s. "Curiosity Kills" We're only on the second song and everything already feels very formulaic: the quiet verse/loud chorus dynamic, Farrell's multitracked vocals. This song has a totally obvious G-C-D chord progression and no real riff to speak of (because the riffs always came from Avery). The session bassist they brought in plays steady 16ths, exactly on the chord changes -- a bass line Eric Avery wouldn't be caught dead signing off on. "Irresistible Force" This sounds like the Jane's version of a Red Hot Chili Peppers ballad. Perry even states "God is not dead," refuting the lyrical thrust of "Standing In The Shower... Thinking," which I thought of as filler on Nothing's Shocking but is head and shoulders better than anything on this record.
"I'll Hit You Back" Perry Farrell's publishing company is called I'll Hit You Back Music, so did he write this song after sitting on the title concept for the last 20+ years? Or has he been sitting on a written song that had yet to find a Jane's album weak enough to get itself onto? "Twisted Tales" This song makes almost no impression on me, other than to confuse me. What is it for? You can't rock out to it, it's not relaxing, you wouldn't want it on in the bedroom... what is it for? "Ultimate Reason" This one starts with a swell of some kind of synthey bit of atmosphere, just like the previous track did. It feels like Farrell is self-consciously trying to evoke the epic nature of classic Jane's, like "Three Days,"  but where old Jane's felt epic in the true sense of the word -- it took you on a journey -- this is just a bunch of parts stuck together.
"Splash A Little Water On It" seems to be about washing one's manhood in the sink after a late night out. Lyrically, not quite "Ted, Just Admit It..." territory here. Is this the first Navarro solo on this thing in since the first or second track, or are his solos just super forgettable? Maybe it was cold enough in the studio that he had to put on a shirt, and that sapped some of his powers. The solo goes nowhere, kind of peters out into a synth break that feels like a placeholder for a cooler part that never got added. "Broken People" seems to be trying to live in "Jane Says"/"Classic Girl" territory, but it sounds more like the Goo Goo Dolls. "Words Right Out Of My Mouth" Might be a decent  -- No, "decent" is too strong. How about "serviceable"? -- rocker if it didn't have these insipid lyrics about birds swooping down and taking his words. I listened to this album twice, and I do not plan on doing it a third time. Tellingly, it's being sold with a second disc's worth of material: live versions of Jane's classic songs, played by the current version of the band. Because even Perry Farrell knows that this record is terrible, so he hopes to leave you with the memory of the band in better times. Unfortunately, that was the only memory I had of the band until this crappy record came out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sympathy For The DJ, The Lowest Form Of Life

DJing in a bar seems like a great gig. To get to play your favorite music to a roomful of supportive friends and lubricated strangers, and get free drinks in the process -- what's not to like? But it's not all jams and Jameson's. There is some downside. Namely, the lubricated strangers.

Invariably, at some point during the evening the DJ will be approached by someone who needs to hear one specific song -- what they really wish was that you had cued it up the second they came through the door like it was their personal "Hail To The Chief."  But the DJ will almost never be able to accommodate them.

Some (most) people seem to have a hard time understanding how it's possible that someone who is playing music in public would not have their favorite song at the ready, but think about it:  There are somewhere around nine hundred quadzillion songs in roughly eight hundred quadzillion genres in the history of recorded music, of which even the best DJ is likely to be missing at least six hundred fifty quadzillion. When you ask a DJ for one of them, the odds are really not in your favor.

But no matter how patiently a DJ explains that she does not have the song a bar patron is requesting, the bar patron will ask at least five more times. All of which is to say that as a species, a bar DJ must be possessed of infinite forbearance.

It is also not easy to be confined behind a set of turntables while working through a whole night of free beers. You must be pure of heart and iron of bladder.

But mostly, you have to deal with requests, and it gets old fast. I remember one time, about 10 years ago, I was playing records at a nightclub that had its turntables in a closet behind a curtain. As I recall, I had a Sly and the Family Stone record playing, and I was taking off a Marvin Gaye record and replacing it with Stevie Wonder. (60s and 70s funk and soul is where I live.)

As I'm doing this, a young lady comes through the curtain like it was in her living room and asks if I have any Tupac (2Pac?). I did not have any Tupac. She asked if I had any Missy Elliott. I did not have any Missy Elliott. I told her that I pretty much had 70's funk records and not much else (this was the truth). She asked if I had any 50 Cent. I did not have any 50 Cent.

I will never forget her reply: "Don't you like any black music at all?"

The ten-minute argument that followed was not, incredibly, the weirdest or dumbest that I ever got into while trapped behind turntables.

I remember another time I was playing funk records in the lounge at a very busy bar. I had everybody dancing. I even had myself dancing. This dude stepped up to me and said in my ear in a cadence that reminded me of Dennis Miller on Weekend Update: "Little tip for the deejay."

He paused, withdrew from my ear, almost made eye contact with me but didn't.

"Don't get so excited about the records you're playing."  
"Be cool. Don't dance around so much."
"Why not?"
"Cause it looks like you love the records you're playing."
"I do love the records I'm playing."
"You shouldn't act like it though."

I thanked him and got rid of him somehow, and even though I was (indeed, am still) astonished by the total stupidity of what he was saying, I think I know where he was coming from. And where the girl who doesn't consider Stevie Wonder to be "black music" was coming from. They wanted to be the DJ -- everybody wants to be the DJ -- but since they weren't they wanted the DJ to do what they would do if they were.

A person's taste in music is sacred to them; in many cases it's the thing a person holds most sacred in their whole personality.  Turning people on to music is like letting them in on your taste, and by extension who you are. When a DJ plays something you like, you feel affirmed in your taste, and like it could be you up there grooving everybody. When a DJ plays something you love that you never would have thought of yourself, it's like she is somewhere in your head that you can't even get to, and you will love her for it. On the other hand, When a DJ gives you a puzzled look when you ask for your favorite song, it's like she's rejecting your taste. Like she's rejecting you.  

But that's really not the way to look at it. Someone once said "You wouldn't worry so much about what people think of you if you knew how little they did it." That's a good thing to remember when you encounter a DJ who's not quite doing it for you. Don't take it personally. She's not playing music you hate -- she's playing music she likes. Save yourself a little stress and keep your requests to yourself. If you absolutely must make a request, have the good grace to take no for an answer because remember: the odds are not on your side.

All of this is not to say that the DJ is a saint -- there are far more bad DJs than good ones, and oddly enough this is seldom measured by what music they play. A good DJ is a great and rare thing. The best way to be a good DJ, and to get a regular gig and to get a little more leeway on your free drinks, is to make the bartender happy, and as luck would have it I have a few tips to offer in that regard.

A good DJ understands that while he can drink for free all night, that does not mean that he should invite nine of his friends to huddle around the turntables and order free drinks for them. In the event that the bartender does give you and your gang some freebies, leave a tip! Some DJs tip and some don't, and that's not really a big deal either way, but the DJ's friends enjoy no such exception.

A good DJ reads the room: if there are seven people including the bartender in the room, that is perhaps not the right time for the superloud uptempo party jams. That is the time for the semi-quiet background-to-conversation jams. Inversely, when you have a packed room on their feet, it might be better to leave the free jazz record, or the novelty disco record, in the bag.

A good DJ knows that he cannot take the crowd by force. If you are playing dance music and the people aren't dancing, there are a number of reasons why that might be, and "it's just not loud enough" is somewhere near the bottom of the list.

A good DJ promotes the gig. When you are hired to DJ in a bar, what you're really being hired to do is bring people in to spend money on booze. The music you play while those people are spending that money is at best a secondary concern. If 40 people bring their wallets to see you spin records, you can play Klezmer music for all the bartender cares. Inversely, you can have the sweetest, flowingest set ever and if nobody comes to hear it, you probably won't have that gig for very long.

A good DJ changes it up. This one is important enough to say twice.

A good DJ changes it up! You are being paid to drink beers and play records. You owe it to yourself and the to bar staff (mostly to the bar staff) to keep it fresh. Don't play the same stuff in the same order every time you DJ. The bartenders, no matter how much they may like you personally, will turn on you if you get on their nerves, and playing the exact same stuff every single time gets on their nerves. This habit is slightly more understandable if you play vinyl records, which have to be purchased with money (bar DJs don't get paid a lot) and transported around (usually with multiple folding handcarts), but in the age of MP3s and Serato and iPods, when it is possible to bring upwards of two hundred fifty quadzillion songs anywhere that has a pair of speakers at a weight of six pounds and a cost of zero, I can think of no logical reason a DJ would decide on a set list and then fix it in amber and play it exactly the same way every week for months, nay, years in a row, and yet in the course of my long (long) bartending career I have lost count of how many DJs I have seen do exactly this. It does not matter if I like the music or I do not like the music; if you play the same music every time, I will tire of you quickly. Inversely, if you play different music every time, I will like you as a DJ, even if I don't like the music you're playing.

A good DJ changes it up. (Once more for good measure.)

A good DJ knows when to stop. At last call, when the lights go on, the bar staff wants one thing and one thing only: for the customers to leave so they can count up and close out in peace. There are two things that slow that process: keeping the lights low, and keeping the music on. Turning the lights on makes drunk people scatter like cockroaches, and cutting off the music has the same effect. So when the lights go on, STOP THE MUSIC. Nobody cares how awesome the song you've chosen is; we just want it quiet so they'll leave. Some DJs think they can clear the room even faster if they play annoying music; this gives drunk people too much credit. They linger when they should be leaving, while the bar staff is subjected to annoying music at the very moment they want quiet the most. As long as there is music on, the people will think the party is still happening and they will not leave.

Ah! I see the lights are on, and the music is off. I'll take that as the clear cue that it is.