One thing you learn pretty quickly in this job is a lesson your mother wouldn't approve of: Never, ever show up to anything on time. The music industry is full of people who decided, some morning long ago, that mornings suck, that desk jobs are for fools and that the nightlife and the high life (and the High Life) were for them. This is not a crowd that hangs its hat on punctuality.
So it wasn't too much of a surprise when more than half of the entries for our Ultra DJ Contest showed up on deadline day (which I, in my infinite wisdom, had set on a day the RFT offices were closed). The DJs were sending in demos to qualify for a spin-off that could send them to play at Ultra during the Winter Music Conference in Miami, which is really cool, but you simply cannot force most musicians to do anything early. (This column is being written past deadline, so I understand.)
I redecorated the office with black leather walls and mirrors, installed intelligent lighting and disco balls, strapped on my roller skates and immersed myself. Charging 50 bucks a head, making the cubbyhole underneath my desk a VIP room and blasting the demos nonstop, I became my own Steve Rubell and Peter Gatien rolled into one, made a few hundred thousand dollars, married Grace Jones, developed a crippling coke habit and am now writing this from rehab. But, more important, I found the five DJs who are going to duke it out Wednesday at the Vault (4915 Delmar Boulevard) for their chance at Miami:
If we were giving the award strictly based on name, then Bitch Ass Darius, whose demo was as twisted as his moniker, would have himself a ticket to Miami already. Coming in a close second in the Name category, but completely dominating the Being a Woman section, is Kid Delicious, who indeed drops tasty house beats. Mike Gow won the RFT's Best Club DJ award last year, so he's a man to watch. DJ Scott McMurray sent in a house mix with plenty of intriguing international voices. And Jim K will be representing the drum 'n' bass crowd.
Judging these five will be an RFT Supreme Court: Staff writer and old-school Music Editor Emeritus Randall Roberts, nightlife queen and Assistant Calendar Editor Alison Sieloff, Clubs Editor (and Robin to my Batman) Jess Minnen and, of course, yours truly. Hearings commence at 9 p.m. at the Vault. Each DJ will have their chance at aural arguments. Come out, have a few drinks (the judges will remain sober.... Ouch! Let go! OK, maybe not!) and cheer for your favorite. Justice will prevail.
Last year saw the closing of several venues, so it's good that the new year is starting off with some new halls opening up to take their place. There's Clayton's new Finale and its dubious membership package, for one. But the best, at least in theory, is the Roberts brothers' renovation of the old American Theatre. Known as the Orpheum Vaudeville Theatre when it opened in 1917, the American hosted great shows (both Elvis Costello and Morrissey played there in the theater's waning years in the late 1990s), a tradition Mike Roberts hopes to perpetuate. The Orpheum is going to have removable seating so the floor of the venue can be used for booty-shaking events and parties as well as sit-down shows.
"We're going to have traditional theater and concerts," Roberts promises. "It is also positioned to be able to deal with weddings, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs."
Located downtown on Ninth Street downtown, adjoining the Roberts Mayfair (Coolest Man on Earth Cary Grant stayed there in days of yore), the Orpheum is still undergoing renovations. Roberts holds out hope to open the theater this week, but he promises it'll be good to go "in plenty of time for the Final Four." Though the place looks like a construction zone now (cleaning up the exterior will be an ongoing process), the theater ought to spiff up nicely. You'd look pretty good, too, if someone dropped $1.5 mil to clean you up. The mix of theater and music makes the Orpheum a game competitor to the Fox, and that competition can't help but boost downtown.
Unless all it leads to are dueling productions of Mamma Mia!