FRESH TIPS TO MAKE MOBILE LIFE EASIER
Before the publication of my book, The Complete Disc Jockey, you might recall my old column called “Sweating the Small Stuff.” In it, I shared all of those little ideas that won’t change the face of your show or the DJ universe, but are none the less cool, make life easier, and can make a good DJ show even better. Since this issue is taking a look in the rear view mirror at where MB and our profession have been, and since I never stop accumulating these great little ideas, tips, gadgets, etc., I’ll carry on this tradition here with some new things I’ve run across.
Years ago, my local cable TV station had a “closet sale.” One of the items offered was a genuine Anvil™ case. Actually it was an old video camera that they were selling for a hundred bucks, but my eye was on the case it was in. I eventually sold the camera, getting my C-note back, leaving me with a great cable trunk in broadcast blue. It served me from the early ‘80s until just last year. It was old when I got it, took a beating and served me well. But, with broken casters, a cracked top panel and foam that was completely deteriorated, it was time to retire the old beast.
Fortunately, I found a great replacement, one that I can recommend to you as well, since getting it doesn’t depend on a radio or TV station fire sale. I found it at my local hardware store: the Stanley Fat Max® 4-in-1 Mobile Work Station. In actuality it is a glorified toolbox, but stands nearly 30 inches tall. It has three compartments, the largest one at the bottom being a bin, perfect for electrical cord reels and extension cords. In the middle is a segmented compartment suitable for storing mics, XLR, DMX, RCA and other cables, and then the top compartment is more like a traditional toolbox, with a smaller bin (perfect for speaker cables) and a removable top tray, which I used for adapters, couplers and other small-but-vital goodies. On the job, it expands like a three-tiered file cabinet, providing easy access. When you’re done setting up, just fold it back up, lock it closed, pull out the airline luggage style handle and wheel it away! Check it out at www.stanleytools.com.
MAKIN’ LIKE A BOY SCOUT
Things can always go wrong, but most often in predictable ways. But, like a scout at the ready, a good DJ will always be prepared. One embarrassing thing that seems to happen at weddings a few times each year is that the bride will forget her garter in the excitement of the day. Not only do I carry a few spares, but I carry the best: hand-made custom garters by Victoria. For about the same cost as a plain old wedding shop garter, Victoria from HCC Garters will create a one-of-a-kind wearable masterpiece. Not only can you save the day by having a few of these in your stash, but make a few dollars selling them. See Victoria’s work at her website: www.Hand-CraftedCreations.com.
Another detail that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is the cake serving set. I always check to make sure that it is in place before announcing the cake cutting, and on several occasions have found that nobody remembered to bring it. Again you can be the hero of the day by thinking ahead and bringing one. These can be had at any bridal shop or even the housewares department at your local superstore.
GETTING OUTFITTED FOR BATTLE
Every DJ has to plan on two outfits when dressing for a formal event: the clothes he/she will be setting up in and the attire worn during the performance. For most of us, the latter is easy, since a tuxedo is the standard uniform for all formal events. But what about setting up? Do you frequent country clubs that prohibit blue jeans at any time? Are your set-up clothes functional? Will they stand up to the abuse of the road?
As frequent readers know, I’m a big fan of stealing techniques used in other professions and adapting them for mobile DJ use. In this case I’m ripping off the professional movers I met from Two Men and a Truck in Roseville, Michigan. The first thing they recommend is good steel-toed work boots. Road cases are great protection for our gear, but can be pretty painful if dropped on one’s foot! My favorite work boots are made by Caterpillar® (yes, the earth-moving people); they have all of the advantages of work boots, along with the comfort of an athletic shoe. Another great brand is Red Wing®. With boots, not only are my feet better protected, but it saves a lot of wear and tear on my formal shoes, which I carry in my suit bag along with my tuxedo.
Pants are another issue; they must be rugged, yet denim is out in some venues. They must be lightweight, and extra pockets for tools, wire ties and other set-up gear is a plus. This time both the movers and I have both stolen from yet a third type of profession: first-responders like EMTs and SWAT officers. These professionals wear what are known as BDUs, a military-style pant that is made with performance in mind, yet looks good to boot. Better brands have a cotton-poly blend that doesn’t hold sweat, reinforced knees, seat and stress points and plenty of cargo pockets. Best of all, they’re usually inexpensive. One of my favorite sources, LAPoliceGear.com, has what they call “RipStop Mil-Spec BDU pants” for as little as $15. There are a wide variety of colors, but I highly recommend avoiding the olive green and camouflage for our purposes.
Shirts are less critical, but again, due to the quirks of some venues, I find it best to stick with polo shirts. Having your company logo embroidered on them is a cool touch, making a good impression with the hall staff and even being useable as performance wear for some very informal events such as backyard parties. If you must wear a T-shirt underneath, look for the kind with wicking action; they make a huge difference on warmer days.
PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ
When it comes to tuxedos, we have a lot of options. My tip here is to try to keep your tuxedo looking good for as long as possible while, at the same time, giving you that “something extra” that other DJs might overlook. I’m talking about a boutonnière. A relative of mine did a stint at a florist shop for a while and made me about a half-dozen very convincing silk boutonnières. These make it easy to coordinate with a wedding couple’s color scheme.
But there’s one major problem with regular boutonnière use: the need to pin them on my lapel. If done week after week, my poor tux jacket might start looking worse for wear. What to do? Rip off an idea (of course!) from television news anchors and use a lavaliere microphone clip. Instead of a lapel mic, use the clip to hold your boutonnières. Look good, with no lapel damage!
Earlier this year I got a call to do a sock hop. Believe it or not, when I first started my DJ business, my partner and I used to do more of these than any other kind of event! These days, sock hops have become a bit more rare, so I like to do something special when one comes along. A tuxedo is far too formal, and rooting around in a thrift shop isn’t my favorite pastime. Instead, I head to Daddyos.com! There they have a wide variety of retro-style shirts and attire perfect for such occasions. Need a clone of the shirt James Dean wore in Rebel Without a Cause? No problem! Great attire for car cruises, too.
My last tip is safety oriented: Pack a good first aid kit and know how to use everything in it. With any luck you’ll never need it, but if you do, it could make a huge difference to your clients and their family. It can also be handy if you or any of your assistants or dancers have a mishap before, during or after your show. In conjunction with the kit, it’s also a great idea to take a good CPR and first aid class. You can sometimes find them offered for free at your local police, fire department or city hall. Your local Red Cross should be able to point you in the right direction. Any decent DJ can save a party. A truly exceptional one can save a life!
Hopefully you’ll find some of these ideas useful; maybe one can solve a problem you’ve been wrestling with from a different angle. The basic concept is this: Always be as prepared as possible for the unexpected—it WILL occur!
Until next time, safe spinnin’!
Filed Under: Exclusive Online News and Content, Issues from 2011
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