Behind the Decks at Melody ReFlux #3 - Bloggin notes from the DJ’s head

by Ed Wong

Well I get there at 4:40pm and the first full sound check ran at 6:45pm, so it gives you a pretty good idea that this gig is NOT a party gig – its WORK. Now if it were Bow Wow Wow’s W.O.R.K., that would be a different story.

Minor detail - I got up at 6am - loaded the car and drove up from Philly and did my 10am-2pm radio show on WRSU-FM, got lunch and then headed over to the Elks...

Thanks to Linda Osborne for keeping me company through the early hours.

Thanks to TV Mike for checking the transistors on the amps.
Last year the Crown PowerBase3 lasted for 20min of sound check and then went into a massive current draw. Pulled 15 amps and tripped the power strip breaker (not the building’s breaker). As TV Mike and I found out, the transistors were fine. It had loose nuts on the back side of the outpt binding posts. I suspect that the caps are tad flaky as the bass hits don’t slam so hard after the third hour. Oh well. The PB3 is an old skool class AB maps with a monster (and heavy) torroidal power supply. Now I wonder how well those modern switching power supply amps work after 4+ hours (aka Class D)?

The main goal of the night was to run a side by side test of the Bose 802 in a 4 stack "linear array" versus a Bose L1 Model II double bass configuration. The short answer - the Bose 802 stack won on sound but the L1 wins on load in/out.

It’s my gear so I get the honor of controlling access to the decks. Don’t like it? Then bring yer own PA. I thought so. Hey, Melody ReFlux is getting big enough that, just like the Melody, we could run a second DJ in the “upstairs” room.

The general house rules are that I control the DJ list, until Matt shows up. Then it’s his deal. The minor problem is that Matt is unfamiliar with the equipment (its mine) and doesn’t bring music. So he has to ask for the tracks anyway. With multiple DJs in the house is usually a competition to see who can find the track faster and who has the “better” version (CD beats MP3, Vinyl beats CD, 12” single beats Album ) Then he has one of the DJs (by standard convention – DJ who owns the track material can opt to cue it up) cue it for him. He hits the button and controls the board. Nothing like having handlers!

Pat Pierson was up first. He asked for an early set. Lisa Uber had first dibs but needed to get some food, so she requested an 8:30 start.

Now, most people might THINK that the cool DJ is the DJ that is on the decks at the peak of the party; the DJ that gets the crowd to MOVE on demand. If yer a DJ with a BIG ego, then yes – you only want the peak of the show. But there are also DJ’s DJs. You don’t want the peak of the party – you have VERY little creative room at the peak. You want the START. This is where you get to show the OTHER DJs what you can really do. You want to pull the tracks that sounds good and are recognizable, but are also songs that make other DJs go ooooh. You have A LOT more creative freedom.

There’s more to this than just playing GOOD music. Lord knows that with a 10 year span of Melody nights to pull tracks from, there is NOT a dearth of good music. But dropping a floor filling hit at the early slot is a double whammy. First, the floor isnt moving so the track sinks like a rock. Second, the crowd will be pissed that they missed the track later.

So the early DJs get to be creative. The audience doesn’t see it – but we do. The amount of crate envy going on behind the decks was astounding. Vinyl to die for.

Speaking of vinyl, the night only confirmed my suspicions. Us DJs *can* hear a difference in MP3s versus CDs versus Vinyl. Sure, you can play with the EQ to “compensate”, but that’s just a crutch. If the color is gone, you can’t put it back in.
While the preference is for vinyl, the practical reality is that full CD *.wav files from the original source material is the best balance between portability and sound. Even then the range of mastering over the years is astounding. Some commercial CDs are absolute sonic junk of over compression and stupid heavy bass loading. Sigh.


So the line up is

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Pat Pierson: 7pm to ~8pm

Current WRSU DJ, local NJ club DJ.

As I said earlier, Pat is a DJs DJ.
How so? Most people would have dropped Holly and the Italian’s song “Tell that Girl”. Nice pick Pat! See what I mean!

Brian Brain - Jive Jive
Psychdelic Furs - Danger
Primal Scream - Move on up
REM - Radio Free Europe (hibtone version)
Godfathers - This Damn Nation
Clash - Police on my back
Ride - Taste
Siouxsie & the Banshees - The Killing Jar
Curve - Coast is clear
Morrisey - National Front Disco
Mock Turtles - Can you dig it?
Milltown Brothers - Which way should I jump
Jesus and Mary Chain - Far gone and out
Ramones - Shena is a Punk Rocker
Buzzcocks - What do I get
Wonderstuff - Red Berry Joy Town
Holly & the Italians - I wanna go home

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Sean Carolyn: ~8pm to ~8:30pm

Sean is an old WRSU and WHTG DJ as well the mind behind AltRok.com

Sean’s set was peppered with his massive collection of classic and rare 12” extended dance mix remix white covers. The rest of us DJs were just plain jealous.

Intaferon - Get Out of London
Ocean Blue - Between something and nothing
Ministry - I want to tell her
Blue Zoo - Somewhere in the world there is a cowboy smiling
Tears for Fears - Pale Shelter
Screaming Blue Messiahs - I Want To Be A Flintstone

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Lisa Uber: ~8:30 to ~9pm

Lisa is a former Melody DJ as well as a current WRSU DJ.

Lisa did an ALL Vinyl set. Oh that smooth sound.
She did amazing job of bridging the gap between the more “radio” sound of Pat’ set and indie insider sound of Sean’s short set to prep the crowd for the massive floor fillers to come.

New Order - Hurt
The Cure - The Walk
Front 242 - Welcome to Paradise
Camouflage - The Great Commandment 12" mix
House of Love - Christine
Virgin Prunes - Baby Turns Blue
Wide Boy Awake - Slang Teacher
Bronski Beat - Small Town Boy

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Ed Wong: ~9pm to ~11pm

I never was a Melody DJ. How I got this gig I’ll never understand.
I think it has more to do with being enough of a sucker to bring a PA than it does with any musical talent.

I had the boring job. As Lisa noted “your new name is HitMan – because all you play are the hits”. Indeed. To a large extent, especially in a gig such as this, the peak hour DJs are constrained to the “hit list”. You can’t loose the floor. And for the ReFlux in particular – you don’t want to loose the floor. This crowd KNOWS their music and will NOT let you forget it.

Thats the HUGE difference between the Melody Bar and this Melody ReFlux gig. Back in the day, Matt was on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Now Friday was Amateur night. The regulars might go an a Friday, but often did not. The real nights were Sunday and Wednesday. So if you skipped a hit and replaced it with a odd ball drop track - thats OK - its only a few more days to Matt. But Melody ReFlux is ONCE A YEAR.

Given the overall time line of the night, my job was to try to stay to the early side (more 80s than 90s) and the “rock” side as a counter balance to the later DJs.

Ministry - Halloween
Book of Love - Boy
New Order - Temptation
Jesus and Mary Chain - Head On
Replacements - I will dare
English Beat - Ranking Full Stop
Tones on Tails - Go!
Nitzer Eb - Let Beauty Loose
Echo and the Bunnymen - Lips like Sugar
Time Zone - World Destruction
Blachmange - Living on the Ceiling
Public Image Limited - This is not a Love Song (original single version)
Gang of Four - I found that essence Rare

10pm

Dramarama - Anything Anything
Smiths - This Charming Man
Cure - Just like Heaven
Love and Rockets - Kundilini Express
Definition of Sound - Wear your love like Heaven
Buzzcocks - What do I get
Jamms - Doctor in the Tardis
Siouxsie - Kiss them for me
Romeo Void - Never say Never
Big Aduio Dynamite - Bottom Line
Clash - Train in Vain
Cult - Sanctuary
Godfathers - Birth School Work Death

Elks 11pm Minute of Silence

Ed’s comments on the tracks

Minstry: This was picked because it’s long and has a very recognizable loop track. It would let me build the mood.

Book of Love: Lisa and I were chatting about a desire to drop some of the older 80s era music tracks that we lovingly refer to as “gay” tracks. I had stuff cued up multiple times (“Johnny come home” comes to mind, and Viscious Pink’s “Cccant you see” was on TT2, but I never managed to get to it – Thanks Lisa for bringing the REAL 12” version since I apparently burned an odd ball white cover 12” version that bombed last year), but this is as close as I managed to get.

New Order: We have dropped Blue Monday at previous ReFlux events, so I wanted to avoid the cliché that Blue Monday has become. Instead I pricked the precursor. A massive Melody track, but just a tad off the main line.

JMC: “Head On” is not my fav JMC track. The problem is that the JMC tracks that I like are too slow for ReFlux. At the real Melody back in the day – sure – a slower JMC track would give the floor a chance to turn over a tad and reset the mood. But remember that in those days bar close was a 3am. That implied a FOUR HOUR peak slot (the nights ended with a bang not a whimper). So I gave the crowd what they wanted.

Replacements: 80s college dance rock. My shins still hurt thinking of the times this song was played at the Melody

English Beat: A request. We needed a smattering of ska anyway.

Tones on Tails: A request from last year by Bryan Bruden. See I TOLD you my job was cake.

Nitzer Eb: My apologies on this one. If I had to play a track I probably should had stuck to Murderous. But that track runs 5min plus, and I didn’t have time to pick a cut in and cut out point. This is a case where something like Serato would be a huge help. I was trying to offer a brief sample of the more industrial sound to come later in the night. At least the track is short so I could mercifully move on before I lost the floor.

Echo and the Bunnymen: I know I know, a massive Melody hit. I’m a huge fan of Echo and really this track doesn’t even make my top 20 Echo song list. But it works the floor. Never Stop is for the cognesceti. This was for the masses.

Time Zone: A request. It helps your cause if you know the DJ. Being the FB friend is necessary but not sufficient. Tip – cursing the DJ or saying they suck is NOT a way to get your track played.

Blachmange: A request. A hit. Actually Im bored of this song as I am sooo tired of it. Every time I hear it I think of Brian Cichon (WRSU and Melody DJ). But the track is just sooo much fun to dance to! (yes – it’s a yin yang relationship).

PiL: There is a running (friendly) feud between Lisa and I over this track. I prefer the slightly faster tempo “single” version. Lisa prefers the moodier “album” version. Given that I was wearing the “album” T-shirt that night one would think I would give in and play Lisa’s version. But she got to drop that track last year.

Gang of Four: A somewhat rare Go4 track. Frank forgets, but back in the day every time this track dropped, Frank would ask me – what is this?

10pm

Dramarama: A request. A Melody hit. A floor filler. The crowd went wild.

Smiths: Well there are lots of choices here. I went with an early track. Besides, Johnny Marr’s riff makes for a signature opening note.

Cure: It’s the ReFlux and there are obligations. I keep thinking I’ll get tired of this. I don’t.

Love and Rockets: The request was for a different track. I considered Ball of Confusion because the opening drum track set the tone immediately. I decided that the slower grind up with the train would build anticipation better.

Definition of Sound: Delibertly set with a slight pause. The floor stopped and then heard the (very sampled Hombre’s song “Let it all hang out” – probably why this track is so hard to find) intro spoken preacher’s incantation. If I thought I could fool the floor I was wrong. The cheer erupted before the “thee”.

Buzz: Obviously I didn’t read Pat’s set list. Doh. There was a request for the Buzzcocks, and that clouding my thoughts. I should have picked a different “punk” track to drop instead.

Jamms: Not sure if this worked as well as I would have liked. I really wanted to drop the “Queen and I” but that could be a make or break track due to the heavy sampling of Abba (heavy – try outright copy!). I was hoping that the Tardis riff would be recognizable enough.

Siouxsie: A request. A hit. See a pattern here?

Romeo Void: A request. A hit. And old skool Melody track. This one doesn’t get old. It must be the sax.

Big Audio Dynamite: A request for BAD. So pick a monster smash. Actually there are several. I picked this one in particular because of the opening riff. The guitar hits and then there is a looong pause as the guitar fades and the drum doesn’t come it quite yet. So the idea was to let Romeo Void fade to a low level and crank the volume on the riff so that it played over the fade out. Cut the Romeo Void and let the silence linger while the people who had a clue cheered (they recognized the riff) and the others stand for a second going wha? This crowd – they cheered.

Clash: Yes, over played. But a hit and a request and it worked well. I suppose you would normally hear it on the “radio” these days. I guess the ability to mosh in a huge a sweaty crowd to this track was a reason for the floor response.

Cult: Definitely a Melody monster smash.

Godfathers: Another monster smash. See, my job was easy.

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Pete Santiago: ~11pm to ~ midnite

Pete was a former Melody DJ.

Pete brings a later era sound to the Melody ReFlux; a much more “techo / industrial” ambience. That being said, this wasn’t the “Roxy ReFlux” and he didn't do full bore industrial set (and also note – I haven’t heard of anyone hosting a “Roxy Reunion” either).

After the 11pm Elks Club minute of silence, Pete grabbed back the floor with a vengeance. I dunno if anyone knew what hit them.

Even though Pete was constantly yelling “hey that’s MY track” and “what am I supposed to play” during my set, you can see that he had plenty of hits to pick from. First time I heard him yell that I nearly spit my coffee all over the decks. One of the funnier moments behind the decks.

Wonderstuff - Wish Away
Nirvana - Smells like Teen Spirit
PWEI - Wise Up
Smiths - Big Mouth
Dead or Alive - Brand New Lover
Depeche Mode - Strange Love
ISH - SomeDay
Madness - One Step Beyond
Sisters of Mercy - Lucnetia
Janes Addiction - Been Caught Stealing
Dominatrix - Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight
Erasure - Little Respect
Stone Roses - Fools Gold
Front 242 - Head Hunter (I assume its v1.0)
NIN - Head Like a Hole


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Andrew Prescott: ~midnite to Close (12:45pm)

Andrew brings his signature sound to Melody ReFlux. How signature? Sean Carolyn said it best when he quipped, “Well folks, there it is…. Take Five”. Andrew was prepared enough to travel LIGHT. He brought a single CD with about 40 tracks it that was mirrored on a second CD. What some DJs refer to as “doubles”. He loaded each CD into a deck and then consulted his set list sheet. The rest of us with our massive crates of 12” and CDs were thinking “oh my aching back!”.

Topping off the night Andrew managed to bring the Melody ReFlux to a new level.

The Doves - I wouldn’t know you from the rest
The Shamen - Ebensezer Good
Love U more
Apothesis - O Fortuna
Divinyls - I touch myself
Happy Mondays - Step On
Electronic - Get the Message
Northside - Take Five
James - Laid
PWEI - Karmadrome
Times 2 - Sweet Jane’s Revenge