RFT DJ Spin-Off: Setting the Scene

[Ed. note: We've already spilled the beans that DJ Karizma won the contest; now here's a post about the scene itself.]

Because I roll by the tenets of twentysomething economics, I haven’t been able to justify buying an ice scraper for my car’s windshield. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Basically, the psychology of the twentysomething underlies an economy rooted in a cycle of inner turmoil and reckless abandon. One minute you’re standing in the toilet-paper aisle at Schnucks, feverishly debating the advantages of extra quilting and bigger rolls, versus buying generic and putting some extra padding – something to the tune of a dollar -- in your pocket. You buy generic. You feel good. Your ass can take it; you are a responsible human being -- nay, a paragon of conscientiousness. But then a few hours later you’re signing a $50 bar tab at Atomic Cowboy after the RFT’s DJ Spin-Off. Similarly, forking over $4 for a windshield ice scraper seems so frivolous, when any plastic object you can find laying around in your car will do.

Upon arrival at the Atomic Cowboy for the Spin-Off yesterday night, I was disheartened by the cold, the semi-treacherous drive, and the fact that within the first five minutes I could see through the bar’s window that the tiny peephole I’d chiseled through the ice on my windshield using a (free!) broken CD case had already frozen back over. I consoled myself with several ice scrapers’ worth of vanilla cherry bourbon -- Thursday’s featured drink -- while the DJs -- Flex Boogie, Doctor Pong, Rob Gray and DJ Karizma -- set up.

When the vibrant and unassumingly adorable DJ Karizma started things off with the shimmering buzz of the Tom Kraft beat, “Loneliness,” Atomic Cowboy suddenly seemed a lot less cowboy and a lot more atomic. Mostly twentysomethings had been piling in since my 8:30 p.m. barstool occupation, and by the time this beat came on, the place was loosely packed with an indie-ish crowd. I wasn’t dancing yet, and it may have been the cherry bourbon, or my lone encampment on the barstool, but the lyrics seemed just right for a frozen February night: “Happiness seems to be loneliness, and loneliness chilled my world.” DJ Karizma is a physical consummation of her sound; her long, dark hair was down around her face, and her sparkly, sleeveless silver dress and lone strand of metallicized beads caught disco-balled beams as she made adjustments on the sound board. Like her, the sound she orchestrated was pretty and electric silver.

Next was Flex Boogie. If that segue seems abrupt, you should have been there for the segue between the spinners. I know less than jack about the technicalities of spinning, but it was tough on my dance-happy ass to have the music stop -- completely stop, mind you, sometimes for nearly ten minutes -- between the artists. This was my only complaint about the entire evening, and it’s nobly made on behalf of the drunk asses of dancers everywhere, who need something, anything but silence, once they, um, really get going. It’s like giving a starving baby a bottle and yanking it away at twenty minute intervals. You don’t take a bottle away from a starving baby, do you?

There was a marked atmospheric shift between each of the DJs, probably exacerbated by those long silences. And I think the location, which was not by any means a classic house venue, made the different flavors of sound more obvious somehow. It wasn’t a light show; sound dictated the experience. I liked it.

And Flex Boogie handled that first awkward interim well. His beats were warmer and bassier; he made the place feel like a summer evening in an urban basement somewhere. He slyly slipped in some DJ Khaled in the final beat, to the extreme pleasure of our happy dancing asses. We raised our hands up! We knew what he was talkin’ bout, or thought we did, which is the idea. And we didn’t know what to do with ourselves when his twenty minutes were over.

I went outside to smoke a cigarette in the shed out back where Atomic Cowboy banishes its smokers—so weird considering the demographic of that place -- and was just finishing up when Doctor Pong was introduced as a Mizzou grad who was headed to Chicago to open up a ping-pong bar. Score, and score! By the popularity barometer of sheer number of dancers, Doctor Pong was the crowd favorite. And on a personal note, the correspondence of his beats to what was playing in a tiny little dance house in Cambridge for the entire year of 2001, combined with his shaggy Harry Potter look were hot and bothersome in a good way. Thanks for letting me celebrate one more time, Pong.

Next was Rob Gray, hoss of house; his beats were unquestionably “housiest.” He was also the slickest in transitioning between songs, and the quietest, least ostentatious DJ. Admittedly, by the time Rob was up I was delirious, but of the four, his beats seemed the most polished and “informed.” He had a European edge that none of the other DJs possessed, and his beats seemed more like complex creations rather than assimilations.

-- Kristy Wendt