The ‘Adult Entertainer’ Ron Jermey has a very interesting tool. In his secondary career as a stand up comedian he refers to a battered Filofax type notebook which links everybody he has ever met in his primary career as a porn star. This notebooks topology is a biro scrawled spiders web that allows him to introduce himself to say, the owner of Bobs beer bar in Iowa as the friend of Italian Tony from Newark ,whom he did a gig for years previously. The significance of this cartography occurred to me as I watched Paul Webb at work one night in the Trinity Rooms.
There, another battered book was illuminated by the array of lights in the DJ booth. Webb was mapping the dance floor. A book of linked written songs interacted with a bulging book of cds that held dance tracks of all tempos. When these tracks were interspersed with other genres it allowed him to gauge the rooms heat. For example, if he thought there was too many guys doing their thing to the detriment of a cohesive nights groove, a written thread allowed him to lead these guys into the magical forest of Goldfrapp, which in turn flowed into the percussion of big tony and the Go Go unisex passion of Trouble Funk.
Where as there is a thesis to be written on the correlation of Jeremys decades long scrawl and the development of the internet, Webbs mapping merits a simpler reading.
In this ipod age of ‘that’s enough I want to hear something else’ the pressure is on for DJs to microwave their selections instead of letting the music properly marinate. Think about in 1995 when evil Vince,the head of WWF announced after decades of pantomime wrestling ‘its all staged, the matches are fixed. What happened there was the preformers lost the comfort zone the spectacle offered within a venue and now they work dangerously twice as hard. People began to expect a full on intense experience each time.
The response from the music industry to what may have once been called the Zeitgeist has been to offer some product for outside listening such as the modulated ‘intensity’ of the likes of Led soundsystem and some bespoke ‘indie music’. Then Djs ‘mash’ it up and the bedding in the stable rotates its way to the compost heap. Before long 30 year olds are missing 'Fatboy Slims depth’ or ignoring the spectacle altogether and lamenting the lack of real music in venues. The future ain't what it used to be and to postulate on a hypothetical template of parallel musical universe(s) as a guide to make sense of all this may involve relearning old languages.
Acid House was the Guttenberg bible here in a good (liberation) and bad (‘wicked’!!!) way. I heard Webb play for the first time in 1986. Before that I never heard a night of all night dance music until I came to Dublin and that night in Sides, I listened to Eurodisco,Electro,Funk,Rock and of course the germs of Acid house. The sourcing of this playlist was the real work and the weeks work for this man was to chat about import records to Billy at Abbey discs and then get the bus out to Dun Laoghaire to check out some funky record dealer.This framework was more or less in place a decade later when bars started putting on Djs and establishing the ‘Scene’ which is now entering a confused dark age.
For the Download generation its not the same as the days when I walked into a bar in Dublin or Galway and spotted a DJ in the corner, perhaps playing Boogie Down Productions. My response of 'Cool!', now seems to be ‘whatever’. The Djs are not seen as any form of instigators but as barmen without beermats. One bar Dj recently told me that a young woman in all seriousness elbowed him off his laptop as she took ‘her turn for the music’. The host of the Elbow Rooms the urbane and musically‘with it’ DJ Jeff mentioned that when he dropped Bowie's ‘Lets Dance’ at a disco environment lately he encountered the static cats eyes of a glowering gang of young people.
flickering candles of Mickeys tonight picked out the smiles of a mixed
age group bobbing their heads to Grandmaster Webbs archive. 60 year olds
chatted at the bar and beside the dj booth a returned visitor (whom I
know as a man who once checked Eazy E's stash of saleable weed in
LA) casually swopped pictures of his dog drinking a pint via bluetooth
with the man called Fish. My camera allowed him to demonstrate his ability to twist his leg over his head
while standing ‘I never saw myself doing it before digital cameras’ he
says!. All the while Webb delivered pulses of sound. Wilco floated
beautifully into the alley following a minimal house track which was
EQed through the equipment he installed for the night. The seminal
eighties album ‘Infected’ rotated on the third record deck as the two
cd players flexed with gangster rap and more uptempo Ibiza soundscapes.
Outside the dapper novelist, jazz fan and backpacking hiphopper,Floody
said ‘I should hate his music, but he's just so good’. The sound was
everything as the chapters of his book were memorised tonight. Paul uses these gigs to pull
out all sorts, I recognised a David Linley track I hadn't heard since
Pat Kenny had ‘The Outside Track’ on Rte Radio 2 and I will never know
the best of this years big room anthems that scaffolded the rest of his
set. "It’s a bit too early for classical music" he then says at
Decades pass and technologies change but the Zen like delivery of an archive can never be downloaded. The writer Joe Allen,in an issue of Waxpoetics once said ‘A catalogue will in one way guarantee the survival of the collection as ensemble, as organism and as personality’.
Webb is to music obsessives like myself a treasured first edition of Joyce.
Postcript. I was going to text my pal Tom about the great night he missed until my phone bleeped and he informed me that in the process of selling his serious collection of vinyl he had just sold a Miles Davis album to Louis Walsh on Ebay.