It’s my friend’s 30th birthday party this weekend, and – recklessly – he’s asked me to DJ. What should I play?
It’s a fairly mixed crowd, I don’t wanna risk alienating people by busting out some dissonant free jazz, or rollocking folk-metal, enjoyable as that might be.
Neither am I keen to “educate” them by playing nothing but Lonelady album tracks for three hours. It’s a celebration – people demand a good time.
Contrary to what most London DJs seem to think, no-one goes to a bar/club and stands reverentially in front of the decks, solemnly taking notes on which Zef remixes have been played.
So what’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser? Now, despite having no professional experience as a DJ whatsoever, I nonetheless arrogantly have a pet theory on what gets people dancing. There’s a particular emotive reflex that jolts people on to the dancefloor, and it’s triggered by a fusion of recognition and surprise.
Play something too familiar – ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, say – and it feels humdrum. Play an obscure track and people will remain anchored to the bar. What moves people is the thrill of recognition: not so much a case of “I love this song!” as it is “I’d forgotten how much I loved this song!”
So bearing all that in mind, what’s the ultimate floorfiller? I asked around the office and got the following suggestions.
Emily Mackay: The Breeders, ‘Cannonball’. Too-school-for-school indier-than-thous, casual music fans, people who’ve literally never heard it before: doesn’t matter how much of a cliché it is, no one can resist jumping up and down like a 14-year-old when this is playing.
Paul Stokes: The Strokes, ‘Last Nite’. With this you can make a room full of drunken people do anything.
Tim Chester: Toto, ‘Africa’. While ‘Hold The Line’ has the riffs and Rosanna the funk, it’s the tales of the serengeti and the air drums everyone can join in on that makes this the 3am choice.
James McMahon: Staples of my DJ sets include ‘Born To Run’, ‘Back In Black’ and ‘Fuck Tha Police’ – I’m all about big hitters, I’m the indie Steve Wright essentially – but my trump card has long been The Gourds alt.country version of Snoop Doggs ‘Gin & Juice’.