A techno nerd reviews DJ Pauly D
Over the Australia Day long weekend, Jersey Shore star DJ Pauly D – he of the 9.1 million Facebook fans (that’s more than double Armin van Buuren – boom!) – set off on his mission to educate Australia in the true, expansive art of DJing. Or something. Sure, this wasn’t a tour for the purists, but it would be churlish to deny the dude has an audience.
As one such fan asked on his Facebook page ahead of the 16+ Sydney show: “What the heck is the dress code? Is it like festival clothes?” Here at inthemix, that wasn’t the only question we were pondering. What would DJ Pauly D play? Would his journey be comparable to Sasha’s five-hour marathon happening on the same night in Sydney?
In order to get some answers, we went to Andrew Wowk: inthemix contributor, chinstroker-approved DJ around town and dance music nerd with “uncompromisingly high standards, an unnecessarily obtuse vocabulary, and at times overly deep and wanky analysis” (his words). The perfect reviewer then, for DJ Pauly D In Concert (Andrew agreed, but had to back up that night for the farewell set from Sydney techno authority Defined By Rhythm, a gig itinerary for Saturday shared by exactly no one else in the city). Of course, this isn’t the definitive review. But it may be the most unapologetically wanky one.
Herein lies a recount of my experience at Pauly D’s ‘DJ set’ (naturally, I use that the term DJ set loosely).
7:45pm – A sense of dread comes over me. I agreed to attend and review this event as a joke, but I fear I may have bitten off more than even I can chew. I remark to my faithful companion that my previous trip to this particular venue was to see Nine Inch Nails. She laughs and retorts “Man, this place has fallen a long way.” I fear she is right.
8:13pm – I enter the venue and am immediately confronted by a sea of pre- and just-pubescent boys and girls. The girls are a strange shade of orange and are wearing clothes that can best be described as ill-fitting, while the boys wear strange flat-brimmed hats that feature slang typically reserved for gang youth. I assume this is some kind of uniform for this generation of revellers, who worship the unintelligible gibberish of Pauly D and his ilk and require clear demarcations so that they may not accidentally find themselves in the company of valuable members of society.
8:35pm – One of the support DJs and his MC play a terrible electro-house remix of the ghetto-tech anthem Face Down, Ass Up (That’s The Way We Like To Fuck). The young crowd chant along. There is something seriously wrong here.
8:53pm – The MC introduces ‘Big Jerry’. I can only assume he is one of Pauly’s entourage who basks in his reflected glory. The crowd cheers like Ben Sims has just pulled off an amazing three-deck mix as Jerry just stands there. The DJ (apparently his name is Steve Play) drops Avicii’s Levels mashed with Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know. This is the second time Levels has been played tonight.
9:03pm – A new act comes on stage. They are a DJ duo accompanied by an MC and vocalist. They open with Levels. The vocalist sings poorly over the top.
9:05pm – The DJs play a medley of songs that feature the word “jump” (e.g., House of Pain’s Jump Around, Jump by Kriss Kross etc.). The MC and his partner order the crowd to do as the songs say. The crowd predictably do so, presumably still used to unquestioningly following orders from their parents and school teachers.
9:15pm – The vocalist starts an “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” chant, presumably aware that today is Australia Day. Sadly, she chooses to do it during the breakdown of Swedish House Mafia’s Don’t You Worry Child and messes up her timing, only getting out two “Aussie, Aussie” refrains before an overly compressed kick drum and car alarm synth slam through the sound system, clearly distorted by the DJs’ redlining.
9:30pm – Pauly D saunters on stage. My faithful companion notes his headphones and laptop are encrusted with sequins that form an Italian flag. As a reality star who’s segued his career onto the decks, it’s no surprise that Pauly has critics who question both his talent and motive. Rather than prove them wrong by immediately getting down to business, Pauly begins his set by dropping catch-phrases from Jersey Shore.
9:35pm – Pauly gets on the microphone to remind us he is “in the mix”. A bold statement, given what he’s doing can less be described as “mixing” and more as fading between barely-beatmatched tracks for two bars. He then commands his followers, in some kind of grunt-led dialect, to “put your hands up!” They oblige.
9:37pm – Pauly attempts to scratch for the first (of many) times. Someplace, somewhere, DJ Shadow shudders and doesn’t know why.
9:38pm – Pauly drops a track that the support DJs just before him finished with. I do not profess to know its name, my knowledge of commercial ‘EDM’ admittedly (and proudly) limited. His status as some kind of idol for the frontally lobotomised is confirmed: the crowd explodes.
9:45pm – As the set carries on, Pauly raises what looks like a deformed limb (possibly an arm) and thrusts it upwards into the sky. He calls this a “fist pump” and demands the crowd perform it with him (they, of course, do). Its purpose is lost on me, but if I had to speculate, I would say it is some kind of movement designed to appeal to those who were not born with the ability to dance with their hips and legs.
9:53pm – I start to wonder if Pauly didn’t make a deal with some kind of demonic force, but is himself said demonic force. The high-pitched synths, badly auto-tuned pop vocals and disgustingly overdriven basslines are slowly starting to turn into an unending stream of sensory input that makes the space behind my eyes ache with every beat. Is this his secret? Does he wear you down until there is but a shell of a human being left, putty in his ridiculously tanned hands?
9:59pm – Levels. I burst into hysterical laughter. I think I’ve been here too long. My faithful companion requests that I hold her and placate her. I wonder – if this is her reaction but I am laughing, what is happening to me? Will I be orange by tomorrow?
10:05pm – Pauly plays Don’t You Worry Child. The Swedish House Mafia’s platitudes during the breakdown do nothing to ease my worry. With a smile, I realise I’m still me.
10:16pm – Pauly plays a medley of songs about single ladies (Faith Evans, Beyoncé et al), but the sound of their admittedly wonderful voices is mostly drowned out by Pauly’s incessant attempts at scratching and mixing. This is also the beginning of a depressing foray into commercial R&B, featuring the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Chris Brown and Rihanna.
10:24pm – My faithful companion astutely notes that for his entire set Pauly has only been using one turntable, suggesting that perhaps his set has been pre-recorded and the only live aspect of the show are his abysmal scratching and random uninterpretable utterances. I want to believe her, but part of me has to wonder: if your set is pre-recorded, couldn’t you at least have made the mixing sound half-decent?
10:32pm – Commercial R&B gives way to trap. I can only assume this is his attempt to convince naysayers that he is a legitimate DJ and not the product of a reality television show. Sadly, trap is probably not the music to choose if you want to prove you are not just a fad. To my left, a young girl rolls around in a circle. I give up even trying to work out why.
10:38pm – The EDM returns with Gangnam Style and We No Speak Americano and Pauly proudly proclaims he is, quote, “the best in the world”. If there was anything left inside me that could die, I would say that part of me dies inside.
10:47pm – I notice a mass exodus of the crowd. A glimmer of hope washes over me that maybe they’ve suddenly broken free of his spell and realised they want to continue their night somewhere with a different calibre of DJ. However, my faithful companion notes that the majority of the crowd are under 16 and their choice to leave more likely reflects the fact they must return home by their curfew time, less they be denied internet and TV privileges for a week.
10:55pm – Pauly ends his set with Champagne Showers and promptly sprays the remaining crowd members with cheap sparkling wine. He then apologises for getting them “wet”, utilising his brain (barely) for the first time all night to employ cheap innuendo. I decide I can’t do this anymore. Good night!