Thursday, March 30, 2006

New Wave of Swing Reinvents Timeless Music

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The Brian Setzer Orchestra

The new rise of Swing and Martini Culture explodes into the mainstream.

Big Band music is as popular with today's 20 and 30 year olds as ever. Perhaps as a reaction to today's disposable Pop music and transitory yet ubiquitous fame, a new generation is reaching for cultural substance and heritage.

A few years ago, Rock & Roll's "Grunge" era stormed the world with its thrashing guitars and flannel covered angst. The Seattle sound seized the airwaves like an irritated Pitbull with lockjaw. Radio programmers were quick to jump on the bandwagon, piling up their playlists with one abrasive, Nirvana influenced band after another.

Curiously, during this onslaught of primal scream "Rawk", an unexpected resurgence of sophisticated, Big Band music began appearing under the radar. An explosion of young, new bands playing Swing music quickly turned into a widespread movement.

What used to be your father's music was reinvented by artists like Brian Setzer, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Royal Crown Revue, Cherry Poppin' Daddies and The Blue Hawaiians. They led the New Wave of Swing and quickly jumped to the head of the list of cool culture.

Many of these bands mixed a bit of rock with Swing and scored Top 40 hits. Songs such as "Zoot Suit Riot" and "Go Daddy-o", rocketed up the charts. MTV began playing videos by New Wave Swingers, while big budget movies incorporated the revamped sound into such box office hits as the aptly titled, "Swingers". Brian Setzer's updated cover of Louis Prima's "Jump Jive An' Wail", became a massive crossover anthem.

Traditional Swing music experienced a resurgence in the 90's as well. Natalie Cole's rerelease of "Unforgettable", as a duet with her late father Nat, became a smash hit. Tony Bennett's long dormant career took off again after his appearance on MTV's "Unplugged" series. Etta James' bluesy ode to romantic perseverance, "At Last", became one of the most requested love songs at weddings. 1993's surprise hit movie "Swing Kids," payed homage to the original 1940's Swing Era, featuring music from Benny Goodman, Louis Prima, Count Basie and others.

As a result of its reentry to the forefront of pop culture, Swing music has experienced a surge in popularity among 20 and 30 year olds. Trendy nightclubs have incorporated "Swing Night" into their weekly promotions. Generation X is learning to dance the Lindy, Jitterbug, West Coast and East Coast swing dance styles. Places like Hollywood's Derby, an original Swing hotspot, have experienced a rise in popularity not seen since their heyday in the 1940's.

The meteoric resurrection of Swing continues to have wide appeal. Many dance clubs offer Swing dance lessons and music to both eager newcomers and seasoned veterans as a weekly promotion.

In Orange County, Tia Juana's Restaurant and Club offers Swing night every Wednesday. The Atomic Ballroom in Irvine features Swing dancing each Friday. And on Friday and Saturday evenings, Newport Beach's Avant Garde Ballroom transforms into the "hottest Ballroom Night Club around!"

Swing and it's sophisticated martini culture has grown steadily since the 90's. It's an anachronistic irony that the once seemingly invincible Grunge movement has been reduced to a relic of a bygone era faster than you can say, "Yowza!". The younger generation is learning what their elders already knew. That the classic sound of Swing never goes out of style.

For more info. on So Cal Swing venues, check these sites:

Monday, March 20, 2006

8 Things Your DJ Doesn't Want You To Know Pt.1

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1. Aren't DJs all the same?

There are Club DJs, Radio DJs and Mobile DJs, each specializing in their chosen field. Many Mobile DJs can't beat mix while many Club DJs would be lost trying to coordinate and announce formalities at a wedding. Some DJs are quite experienced, others are just starting out. Generally, it takes about 2 years of training for a DJ to become competent enough to handle every possible occasion. For your event you may not want to risk having someone who's still on the learning curve.

Even among Mobile DJs there are specific categories. Some Disc Jockeys are "Hip Hop", others concentrate on Karaoke. Some do corporate events and others primarily do kids parties. Obviously you wouldn't want a DJ for your wedding who's training and experience is mostly limited to Bar Mitzvahs.

It's good to have experience in all DJ disciplines, types of events and styles of music. A DJ who can coordinate and work with staff and other event pros, expertly pick and mix songs and has a good personality has the versatility for any event.

2. Do you do special things to make my event fun?

Some DJs resort to corny games, group dances or wacky costumes during their "performance". It may seem fun at the moment but is likely that you and your guests will look back on these gimmicks as hackneyed and embarrassing.

The best way to get people involved and create positive memories is simply to PLAY GREAT MUSIC! A dynamic music mix that includes variety, requests, old favorites and hot new songs is key. A good DJ will monitor his dance floor constantly and respond accordingly. He does not need the crutch of lame gags or bad Elvis impersonations. Your guests will enjoy themselves more without "forced spontaneity".

The right music and lighting can make your party look and sound like no other.

3. Are large entertainment companies a good resource to find a DJ?

They can be but you do not always have the opportunity to personally meet DJ candidates at a large DJ Farm or third party Entertainment Broker. You may see a few minutes of video but it is difficult to measure the DJ's temperament, personality, spontaneity and ability to communicate based on that. We always offer a live audition for our clients.

Usually you do not speak directly to your DJ at one of these companies. Your information or question is transfered via a third party and can be distorted, miscommunicated or lost.

4. I saw a really low price for a DJ, should I hire them?

It depends on what they supply and what your needs are. If you are having a backyard party that doesn't necessitate coordination, announcements or even a personality, you may be fine. Keep in mind that low budget DJs are less likely to use top quality equipment, have adequate back up equipment, reliable transportation or liability insurance. This puts the ultimate success of your party at risk.

DJ Craig has experience as a Club DJ, On Air Jock and Mobile DJ. He has coordinated and played music for thousands of private events in Southern California over the past 15 years.

8 Things Your DJ Doesn't Want You To Know Pt. 2

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5. What if people don't dance?

This is extremely rare. Keep in mind that, as the hosts or guest of honor, your guests will often take their cue from you. If you are on the dance floor they are more likely to be as well.

There are some events where promoting dancing is more difficult than others. For example, events that are early in the day, outdoor, sunlit, do not serve liquor and have less than 40 people attending can be a challenge. But I've even had those parties often turn out fantastic.

It sometimes takes a while for the dancing to get going. A good DJ will not panic. He will just keep on playing a great mix, as if his dance floor is already packed. If people aren't dancing, it just means they are not yet ready. Usually, even the most hesitant partygoers eventually come around.

6. My friend (or Uncle or Cousin) is a DJ, maybe I should use them.

It's true there are lots of DJs around, everybody seems to know one. Since there is no official, universally accepted Disc Jockey certification, anybody can buy some sound equipment and proclaim that they too are a DJ. It's kind of like buying a sports car and claiming you are now a race driver. You still need good training, experience, a reliable track record and a good reputation. I've heard too many horror stories about "DJs" who either didn't show up, were late, sent a replacement, dressed badly, played the wrong music or otherwise didn't act professionally.

Part time DJs may not have the same devotion to their craft as a full timer. If it is his livelihood and primary source of income, he HAS to be good at it to generate referrals and repeat business.

7. What if I don't want any (fill in the blank) _________ Music?

Beware of absolute generalizations. It's completely understandable if you have specific songs you just do not like. But to exclude an entire category of music may be shortsighted. For instance, I've had some clients tell me they don't want any Rap. That would then exclude Usher, Will Smith, Nelly and much of the hottest current dance music. Music their guests may really want.

The power of music is that it's an inclusive thing that brings people together. Being open to any musical possibility the situation may call for, frees up your DJ to be creative and let your party flow naturally. You may not like a certain type of music but you may want to consider allowing it (assuming it's non- offensive) if that's what makes your guests happy. By the same token, plenty of attention should also be given to the music you do really like.

8. Why are some DJs so expensive?

It comes down to exclusivity and what the market will bear. There are only 52 weekends a year. A DJ can only do one gig at a time. If there is a preponderance of clients vying for the same DJ on the same date, he can charge more than others.

On the other hand, if your date is on an "off night" or unpopular time, you may be able to negotiate a better deal. And if your event is coming up very shortly and the DJ has an opening, he may be willing to substantially discount his normal fees.

DJ Craig has experience as a Club DJ, On Air Jock and Mobile DJ. He has coordinated and played music for thousands of private events in Southern California over the past 15 years.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Nu Muzik

Morrissey Still Puts Out

DJ Craig's Latest Recommended Downloads:

Everything Wrong Is Imaginary- Lilys

A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody- The Lashes

You Have Killed Me- Morrissey

Lust- Black Tie Dynasty

Suffer Well- Depeche Mode

DOA- Foo Fighters

King Without a Crown- Matisyahu

Talk- Coldplay

In the Sun (With Coldplay)- Michael Stipe

Drop the Pressure- Mylo

Synthesizer- Electric Six

This Is Such a Pity- Weezer

Future Beat- The Spectacular Fantastic

Munich- Editors

Fly- Pinmonkey

The Wonder- Figurines

It Ain't Supposed to Be- Exene Cervenka & The Original Sinners