Without the bitter, the sweet isn’t as sweet

Link to my live mix from The Groove included in this post!

WARNING This is a long post.

Here is the “too long; didn’t read” version:

tl;dr: Grad Bash is a once-a-year event for seniors going into college and they party at CityWalk. I have been scheduled for three events and at the time of this writing, I have performed at two of them. The first event at Rising Star was disappointing for a number of reasons, but my experience at The Groove more than made up for it! It’s important to fail because without the bitter, the sweet just isn’t as sweet. 

The bottom of the post includes pictures and the live mix. Video footage is still being edited and will be posted soon.

The last few weeks at CityWalk in general have been crazy because of Grad Bash. Grad Bash is an event for seniors graduating to college and there are thousands of party-goers. I am still coming down from the natural high of performing at Universal CityWalk’s The Groove nightclub. All of the nightclubs are open and the rush of people seems to come in waves. The DJs play Latin music at Antojitos, Reggae at Bob Marley’s, Top 40 at Rising Star, not-sure-what at Red Coconuts, and House music at The Groove. I am still coming down from the natural high of performing at The Groove, but before I get into that, I wanted to share my experience at Rising Star just a few weeks ago.

The Bitter

I was scheduled to play at Rising Star to kick off the first week of Grad Bash. Since I was new to the event, I really had no idea what to expect. My fellow DJs gave me sound (pun not intended haha) advice mentioning that I should prepare for both Hip Hop and Dance music. So…in the weeks prior, I did what  I always do…scour the interwebs for new music (this might was well be a full-time job in and of itself). The day arrives and I am ready to perform.

Hook up equipment…Check.
Sound check…Check.
Mic check…Check 1, 2.
Warm up on the controller…Check.
Bathroom break…Check.
Review the announcements to be made during the event…Check.

At this point, I am feeling as prepared as possible and ready for literally anything. Nothing can stop me, right?

Well…unmistakable truth about DJing, is you never know what to expect. here is how the night actually turned out. I was supposed to play Top 40’s, but within 20 minutes or so, I knew I had to go against the “event rules” and play to the crowd (which this rule supersedes all other rules in my book). I switched gears to Hip Hop and that seemed to hold on to the crowd more than anything else, so I kept it coming. So far so good… I throw out a few shout outs and people were cheering….well a few people at least. The only problem was that there still wasn’t much of a crowd.

Where were the thousands of party-goers? Was I doing something wrong?

Endless thoughts cross your mind causing you to second guess every decision you’ve made up until that point. A few more people enter the club and I hear someone shouting requests to play twerk. I already had that lined up so this was a welcomed request. This gets a few more people dancing but again, we are still only talking about a small fraction of people considering the club’s capacity.

Then…a DJ’s worst nightmare happens… The over $3,000 worth of gear locks up. I lose audio on the right deck and there is no option but to get on the mic, and kill time while resetting the software and hardware. Ironically, this disaster was just what I needed to amp up the crowd and I never saw that coming. I felt like Flava Flav hyping up the audience with shout outs just long enough to bring the system back online. Most importantly, I didn’t panic.

Once everything was up and running, I had people doing the line dances. When suddenly…someone made the decision to set up tables on my dance floor to give people a place to eat. Uhm…what?!? The event coordinator found about that and made sure that would not happen again going forward, but talk about an unpredictable series of events. And it gets even stranger. Picture this…about 100 people sitting at their dancefloor tables eating and bobbing their heads to the music, when suddenly, one of the security guards started break dancing off in a corner. Knowing him by name, I got on the mic and drew a little more attention to him and the crowd goes wild! They couldn’t dance or anything because of the tables, but it was as exciting as it was amusing.

To recap, the most exciting parts of the night (measured by the crowd’s level of excitement, not my own) happened when my gear froze up and when I had tables on the dance floor. I’m sorry, but at this point you can’t help but question your entire DJ career.  I left that night feeling like a failure. It happens…things don’t always work out as planned. At the end of the night, you replay everything in your head. I didn’t know what to think. I left confused, deflated, but more importantly, focused…focused on how to forget about the event and move forward.

The Sweet

I arrive at CityWalk about 2 hours early because I am nothing if not punctual. Really I just like to set up without feeling rushed and just take time to get my bearings straight. By that I mean, take a few pictures, warm up to the house sound, go to the bathroom, etc. A friend of mine was kind enough to let me bring his new HD camera to the event so the first order of business was to mount that thing somewhere. I wanted to get a little more footage from the upstairs looking down, but mounting in the front of the stage gave me more control so I went with that option. I shot a little footage facing back toward the booth but a majority was facing the crowd. But with the camera mounted, let’s run through the check list:

Install camera…Check.
Hook up equipment…Check.
Sound check…Check.
Mic check…Check 1, 2.
Warm up on the controller…Check.
Bathroom break…Check.
Review the announcements to be made during the event…Check.
Say a quick prayer…Check. (This actually happened)
Press record on the camera…Check.
Press record on the mixer…Check.

At this point, I am feeling as prepared as possible and ready for literally anything. I’m going to just leave this right here:

The Groove is absolutely insane in the best way imaginable! 

All of my time spend digging for music, thinking about the set, remembering my failure, etc…it all paid off with dividends! It was exactly like what I was hearing from the other DJ following my set at Rising Star. I distinctly recall him telling me that the stage was rocking from all the people dancing, and holy $#!^ it was rocking! Remix after remix, they just kept dancing and before long, that place was packed! These are the moments in a DJs career that keep them going. It’s a feeling that is highly sought after but rarely experienced. This time, everything lined up. The venue was as incredible as it sounds. The A/V tech took a great picture from the 2nd floor. I was happy with my mixing, the music, and performance. I didn’t even say anything I regret on the mic! So…the moral of this post is two-fold.

  1. Failure is an option and sometimes, it chooses you. But you only truly fail, if you fail to learn from that experience.
  2. Without the bitter (Rising Star), the sweet isn’t as sweet (The Groove).

Below you will find pictures and the audio recording of my set. The video footage is still being edited, but I hope to make that available soon!



The A/V tech took a pic from his booth!


Crowd singing “Livin’ on a Prayer”


Kris Cross making them “Jump.”


Crowd belting out the words from a Zedd remix


Guess I was feelin’ it HAHA!


Throwing up an ‘X’ for their favorite DJ!