By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”
This past July I was spinning tunes at a city parade, on a street corner where the City Hall is located. I had my sound gear all up under a tent, and had several microphones available for a co-announcer from the city’s Parks & Rec department as well as several bigwigs who were slated to pop in. The only things that weren’t up under the tent were my speakers. So naturally, there was an epic downpour!
My speakers are a venerable set of EV cabinets that have been with me since the 1990s. Passive, with plastic cabinets, the local Metroparks system built an event hall at the beach, not far from my home, and mounted the same cabinets around the outdoor perimeter of the structure, where they survived about a decade of direct sun, rain and our fairly severe winters. Because of this, I wasn’t all that concerned when the rain rolled-in. I was busy making sure the rest of my gear didn’t get wet.
The deluge was heavy, but brief, and the parade happened as planned. My sound was unaffected at the time, and when I packed up, I left the padded covers off to allow both them and the speakers to dry. Disaster averted!
Not so fast…
The following event was a wedding reception at an oft-frequented banquet hall. Set-up went smoothly, the ceremony was flawless and I got a lot of compliments on my sound during the cocktail hour/dinner portion of the night. Then it was time to ramp-up the energy level and my floor quickly filled up! We had gotten through the formalities and dancing was well underway, when my assistant said, “Are you hearing that”? Taking a listen, I could hear a popping noise coming from one of the speakers on every downbeat. “Uh, oh,” I replied, “Looks like I didn’t get away with getting caught in the rain after all”. With only about an hour left in the night, we ignored the anomaly, and none of the guests seemed to care as we powered-through until the end. The Bride and Groom soon came up to thank us and were extremely pleased. When I apologized for the terrible sound, they said, “It sounded just fine to us! Everyone had a great time”!
Chalking it up to the alcohol, I dropped my cabinets off at the repair facility the next Monday morning. On Tuesday they called, telling me that one speaker was “just fine”, and the other had been repaired. Then came the next wedding…
Once again, I’m spinning a wedding. Once again, it’s at a great venue where I’ve entertained at dozens of events over the years. Once again the sound was amazing during dinner and cocktail hour. And once again, the sound was terrible at dance volume! This time, it was the speaker that the tech has said was “just fine.” Turns out it wasn’t; for some reason, it sounded good at lower volume, but it, too, began popping at higher volume, a classic sign of either a blown speaker or rust in the voice coil, which would also explain why it was okay at lower volume.
Mortified, I again put every ounce of my effort into my performance, and the dance floor was totally packed from beginning to end. Once again the happy couple walked up at the end of the night singing my praises, and once again I had to apologize for the bad sound. (Something I’ve never done in over 30 years, as I have always prided myself on my system.) Their reply: “We thought it sounded great! Everyone has been complimenting me on finding you as our DJ”. I was happily stunned.
The final analysis
These two events, back-to-back, illustrate to me the importance of putting my performance first. Yes, I want crystal clear sound (and once again, said speakers are headed for a repair bench), but a good performance, and the fun that it can generate, can cover a lot of sins! This demonstrates how misguided our priorities as DJs can be, when we will spend $6,000.00 or more on a new set of speakers and other gear, yet not budget anything to attend a DJ trade show or educational classes offered by leading lights in the DJ Industry. Speakers don’t get referrals. A great performance does!