My Three Most Memorable Experiences as a DJ in NYC

Unpaid Christmas Party with Person Telling Me to “Turn It Down”

This was in 2009, at a Christmas party I had been asked to DJ at the last minute and for no pay as a favor to a friend, and because the event was being cosponsored by the literary magazine I helped start.

Before the party I spent a few hours online, illegally downloading all the “not shitty” Christmas music I could think of or find. The Original Soul Christmas. James Brown’s Funky Christmas. Jackson 5’s Christmas Album. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. Halfway through the set though, I abandoned the seasonal theme because I did not like the music at all.

Around this time a guy around my age came up to me, looking flustered and kind of anxious. The guy’s shirt seemed too dressy for the occasion and his blond hair was combed in a way that looked windswept, dashing, and uptight.

“I hate to sound like the old guy here, but I’ve been talking to a lot of people at the party,” he began. “And they agree with me: the music is too loud. People can’t hear each other talk. I was wondering, if it wouldn’t be too much to ask, if you could turn it down.”

“OK…” I said, although the music wasn’t very loud at all. I turned some knobs on the mixer and continued playing. At some point I must have raised it back to the original volume because I saw the guy walking quickly toward me.

“I hate to be the old guy here again…I don’t want sound like the old guy. I’ve talked to a lot of people at the party and they said they can’t hear each other talk because the music is too loud. If it isn’t too much to ask, could you turn it down? If it isn’t too much to ask. People can’t hear each other talk.”

“Hold on,” I said, feeling suddenly angry. “Who are you? Because I don’t know if you know I am. This is my party too, you know. I’m not someone somebody hired; I’m one of the people who organized this.”

“Oh, sorry,” said the guy, although I did not believe he was. He backed away from the DJ booth with his hands held slightly up and open-palmed and I wondered if he had understood what I said, or if he had only heard the tone of it and wanted to avoid a public confrontation.

The rest of the night, while I was DJing, and afterward, while I was hanging around talking to guests at the party, I could not help feeling like he was near me, watching me. I’d turn around and see him in line at the bar, or standing there talking to someone.

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