Confessions of a student DJ

The lowdown on spinning music in two different places

The role of a DJ is sometimes not as glamorous and exciting as it seems.
The role of a DJ is sometimes not as glamorous and exciting as it seems.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Last September, I took a job at a local Kingston pub that isn’t associated with the usual beer-drinking, dart-throwing atmosphere of an Irish pub. Every Friday night you can find me tucked away in the corner of this smoky bar, spinning compact discs on their DJ equipment.

After a few weeks, the purpose of my job became clear: I am supposed to create an environment that facilitates the consumption of alcohol. At 10 o’clock, I must have my fingers poised to press play on the Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin I’ve got queued up—songs that conform to the atmosphere of a bar.

Although I am a fan of classic rock, playing music for the purposes of conformity has never been my bag. Compared to the DJing I do weekly at CFRC, the campus radio station, this job has strict limitations. Instead of using my post as a platform to share music, I’m meant to simply fade into the background and create a vibe that is comfortable for patrons.

To many, this job may seem glamorous or exciting, because it is generally meant for someone passionate about music, and someone young and hip. But it can get tedious from week to week.

Although I try to add new albums to my CD wallet on occasion, I’m usually playing the same playlist each Friday. I do try to deviate from this by slipping in the odd Talking Heads track, but it’s difficult to put a creative spin on the same, stagnant atmosphere. As the night progresses, so do the blood-alcohol levels of most people at the bar, and I can gradually switch up the genre of music I play—mostly classic rock—to a more indie-alternative vibe. I’ve been known to play dance-oriented music when friends come to visit me and join in on a dance party, much to the chagrin of my boss. The playlist on my show can take on the form of a dance party if I want—it can also consist of nothing but acoustic folk. It’s entirely my choice and usually reflects my mood at the time. If I’ve had a bad day before going into work, I can’t find refuge in a Leonard Cohen song. But on other days, Cohen might be just exactly what I need.

The drunken patrons at the pub can work to my disadvantage, when one considers the opportunities for inopportune moments of unwanted flirtation. And let me tell you, there’s nothing less desirable than having a 30-something guy compliment your choice of tunes, then ask you after last call if you’d like to join him and his buddies for a “soiree” at his place.

Much to my delight, this doesn’t happen in the secluded bowels of Carruthers Hall, where CFRC does most of its broadcasting. It’s at CFRC where my inner music geek blossoms—where creativity and freedom take top priority and I can play whatever I want. The closest I come to annoying old men is by telephone on the request line. Although I’ve been known to get some pretty strange requests on my show (namely, an adamant request for Jet), callers are usually eager to talk about music and share their geek-worthy knowledge.

DJing is a skill at either venue, but for different reasons. At the pub, my skill is measured by my ability to calculate what people want, whereas at the station, my skill is gauged by an open forum of listeners. And that is what makes me truly appreciate mixing and matching music the most.

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