Its the summer, and not only that, loads of clubs are closed indefinitely. So, an awful lot of DJs are having to DJ out in the open air. This can be amazing fun, and lead to some magic moments, but it also presents certain logistical challenges, for all sorts of reasons!
Here’s some practical tips to avoid coming a cropper!
Get some shade
If you can set the decks up in a way that you get some shade, that is a GREAT idea – and if there is no natural shade, a large parasol can be a huge help. There’s a few things at play here.
1 – Protecting yourself – you do NOT want to be getting sunburnt, you don’t want sunstroke – and this goes especially if you are DJing a long set, drinking a few drinks, and then risking get messy because of the heady mixture of sunshine and alcohol.
2 – Laptops and CDJs can have real problems in the bright sunshine. I did the main stage at GlobalGathering a few years ago, DJing in the changeovers between the acts. One of the earlier acts was relying on a laptop which was in direct sunlight for their set – towards the end of the set, it started to crash, as it was overheating! I have known this to happen with CDJs too – a total vibe killer!
3 – Even on their brightest setting, many CDJ displays and lights are almost impossible to see properly in direct, bright sunlight. Laptop screens can be tricky, but these LCD screens are a NIGHTMARE out in the sun. A bit of shade at least gives you a chance of reading your track library!
Stay hydrated – but keep those drinks away from the decks!
I mean – this one stands for pretty much any gig ever. But there’s obviously a practical point about staying well hydrated out in the sun, and then an observational point that drunk party people out in the open, be it by a pool or a beach or whatever, seem to be even more clumsy and unpredictable than people in clubs. A high bar to beat, sure, but in my experience it holds true.
Try to make sure that you keep your drinks on a table/surface away from all the electronics, and don’t let randoms try to put their drinks round your decks etc!
If you are going to be out in the sun, get yourself lotioned up – but make sure you wash your hands before you get to the decks! Nobody wants skin cancer, and nobody wants weirdly sticky decks.
Sunglasses in the club are basically a great way of signalling to people that you are either an idiot, or high on drugs (and want to conceal your massive pupils). In the club, sunglasses are a big fat “NO”.
Out in the open? Yes! Get those stunners on. Rock your favourite shades. For a start, people just look cooler in sunglasses. That is a scientific fact. Also, you then have the advantage of people not seeing where your eyes have wandered – an occupational hazard at pool parties. The sun’s UV rays can damage your eyes as well as your skin, and it can sometimes get windy as well, so shades are a very practical addition to your set-up.
Be warned though! The problem of screens and displays being difficult to read can be exarcebated by dark-lensed sunglasses. Pick wisely!
Check your set-up for stability and safety!
One thing that holds true for most outdoor gigs – you tend to be DJing on a temporary stage/deckstand. A good venue should have something stable and secure, with any power points safely away from water, using safe electrical connections. But there WILL be times when this isn’t the case – when you are on a wobbly table, with all the equipment running through a multi-connector into a single electrical socket somewhere. Get there, check this stuff out, and do what you can to make sure your DJ booth is stable and safe!
This is where a little bit of judgement and responsibility comes in – if it looks genuinely looks unsafe, you need to raise this NOW. Its pretty unlikely that it actually be truly dangerous, but water + electrics = a bad time. You have a responsibility to yourself and the party-goers to make sure that this is all OK!
At smaller scale events it might be that you and the party organisers need to make sure that anyone who comes near the decks knows the score – if the table is wobbly or unstable, if there’s an electrical cable trailing across the floor etc, anyone coming close can be asked to be careful. Ideally, tape down loose cables so that people can’t trip on them. Because if they can, then people WILL trip on them! And don’t forget that there will be a big legal liability bill to go around if you accidentally electrocute 250 people in a swimming pool…
Watch out for rain!
I always recommend having a plastic keyboard cover, and personally I use a specific Serato one for my laptop (handily colour coded for shortcuts etc). In the club, this is mainly for if drinks get spilled or knocked around the booth, and has saved my laptop many, many times. The Serato-specific ones can be a little pricey, whereas the plain ones are very cheap.
But out in the open – rain is an ever-present threat. And lord knows, I have had some bad luck with this. I DJ’d in Doha, Qatar, at an open-air beach club run by Hilton Hotels. I turned up, and about 15 minutes before my set, it started raining – the only rain they had encountered in months! So, I had to do most of the set with a tarpaulin pulled over the Pioneer Nexus set up, and a plastic bag over my laptop! Unsurprisingly, I DJ’d to a very, very small crowd.
But if it can rain on me in a country that is largely desert, it can rain on you wherever you are – make sure that you are ready to act fast if that happens! Always have a contingency plan, and if you can, practice how it will work ahead of time – no point thinking you have a plan, then realising that it doesn’t work in the heat of the moment!
Think about the time you are on
One of the great things about DJing out in the open are the transitional moments – the obvious one being sunset. There’s something magical about when the sky turns into a blaze of reds, pinks and purples, and this brief, passing time can be a defining moment in an open-air set, when you take people from day-time into night-time, and switch the mood up. If you have got a sundown set (or indeed a sunrise one!), think about songs that might be able to capture the beauty of the visuals, give people a transcendent experience that will be their abiding memory of the party! Often it is something that you can only prepare for to a certain point – this is where reading a crowd, reading a vibe, come in, where knowing your music collection pays off!
Get this right, and you will be the DJ everyone is talking about the next day!
I’m sure there are things that I have left out here, but I hope this has given you some practical tips and ideas for these open-air sets! Go and build up that music collection at a different kind of pool, and follow me over on Instagram!