By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”
As any mobile DJ knows, some gigs are different from others, and last weekend one gig in particular could not have been a better example: Penguicon. In particular, a dance they call the “Geek Prom.” First, let me tell you what Penguicon itself is. Think “Comicon meets computer nerds.” Linux OS fans adopted the Penguin as the official Linux mascot, hence the name, and the merger of sci-fi fandom was almost organic. Today, Penguicon engulfs all things nerdy, geeky and offbeat, from hackers, makers and cosplay fans (few attendees aren’t in some form of non-traditional attire), to gamers, writers/authors, and even a contingent of BDSM mavens! Being geeky doesn’t mean being inhibited anymore.
A PROM… SORT OF
All day long there are seminars, presentations, activities of all sorts, running games and contests, video viewing (movies and other odd fare), room parties and dances. That’s where I come in. One dance in particular that has become a Penguicon staple is called “The Geek Prom.” The idea is that, quite often, those of us from the more nerdy persuasion get left out of things, especially our school prom. So Geek Prom brings the prom experience to everyone! Naturally, it’s got a Penguicon spin, and this year the theme of the prom was Dr. Who. This was the event that yours truly was tapped for this year.
First off, I’ve got an admission to make: I’m only a very casual fan of the good doctor. It’s one of those programs that has run so long, I couldn’t help but have caught it on occasion, but I don’t live, eat and breathe Dr. Who like a good many who would be gathering. In short, some research would be in order.
I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS (ADOBE, GOOGLE & WIKIPEDIA)
There were some things that were obvious, so no research was needed. For instance, one of the most memorable movie prom scenes was seen in the 1976 movie, “Carrie.” As the title character and her date enter the school gym, a high-energy, driving rock song with funny lyrics is heard. Fans of that movie have groused for years about that song not being included on any official soundtrack. Called “Education Blues” by the duo Vance or Towers, I ran across it on a limited release vinyl album some years ago. I ripped it to an MP3, but the version on the LP was slightly slower and lacked some of the dynamics of the bit shown in the movie. But I wanted this track – the MOVIE track – as my opening song. With a little help from Adobe Audition, I was able to piece together both versions, bringing the slower parts up to speed, adding dynamic “sparkle” and echo to match the movie and “Frankenstein” together a complete track. Unavailable anywhere else, it became the hook that drew people into Geek Prom 2015.
During the prep phase, spending a bit of time with Google and Wikipedia helped me dig up a whole bunch of popular songs that had been used in the Dr. Who series. These included “I Can’t Decide” by the Scissor Sisters, heard during a memorable scene in the episode, “Last Of The Timelords,” “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” by Ian Dury & The Blockheads, an oldie called “It’ll Never Be Me” by Electric Banana (a.k.a. The Pretty Things), “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele, “Don’t Bring Me Down” by ELO, and “Toxic” by Britney Spears. Each of these songs has a story and specific connection to Dr. Who, which gave me plenty of nice little details to drop in the mix. There were also two very danceable tracks from the Dr Who soundtracks (yes, there are a few of them): “Love Don’t Roam” by Neil Hannon/Murray Gold, and “My Angel Put The Devil In Me” by Tallulah/Murray Gold.
Fans of Dr. Who know that he’s a huge fan of the Beatles, many of their songs having been prominently featured on the show. This allowed me to drop a couple Voicedude gems: “I Just Need To Hold Your Hand” (a mashup of The Beatles and The Cars) and “Come Together Uptown” (a mashup of “Uptown funk” with the Beatles unlikely fit, “Come Together”) to great affect.
GEEK STAPLES & CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT
There are a handful of songs that work at just about any dance with an audience of sci-fi fans, and those, too, made their way onto my playlist: “The Galaxy Song” by Monty Python, “Mesopotamia” by the B-52’s, “Still Alive” (Techno Version) by Morgani from the Portal video game closing credits and just about anything by Devo. Fans also enjoy all of the fun staples we always play, too, such as the Cupid Shuffle, Wobble, etc.
The “crowning achievement” songs of the prom, though, had to have been “Doctorin’ The Tardis” by the Timelords (a.k.a. The KLF). Long-in-the-tooth DJs will remember this novelty song from 1988 that took the rhythm track from Gary Glitter’s “Rock & Roll Part II” and overlaid the Theme From Dr. Who, making it a “must play.” Secondly, another song from “Carrie” was the romantic ballad called “I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me,” sung by Katie Irving. I found the original version used in the movie on an imported, special edition disc, and this generated more email inquiries than anything else I played.
There was only one rough spot, and only two people saw it: the end of the dance. The original time slot for “Geek Prom” showed the dance running for two hours, capped-off with the announcement of the costume contest winners, but since there was no end time listed, our event being the last for that day, I asked the production team when I should stop. I was told, “As long as you play ‘Time Warp’ at midnight [a Penguicon tradition], you can leave anytime after that.” But 20 minutes later, the room was empty and I was packing up. Why? Because there was a cash bar in the Geek Prom, while upstairs there was a big party that also had a DJ and an open bar. As I was wrapping the last speaker cable at midnight, a lone couple appeared in the doorway, saying, “Isn’t it midnight? Where’s the Time Warp”?
Reviews since have been positive overall, and I’ve already been contacted about next year. If you enjoy a departure from the wedding grind, then don’t overlook events like this; those niche parties that might be outside of your comfort zone, but push you to be your best and explore strange new music. To boldly go where no DJ has gone before!