Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hungary Stays Up All Night (Update: Now with Photos!)

Well, at least the 20 (?) thousand or so people who attended the VOLT festival here in Sopron. I guess I should have expected the late late nights, but it's understandable that I would be lulled into an old-dude-friendly "lights out at midnight" festival schedule by Coachella, which famously must pay a $1,000 fine, I think, for every minute they create retiree-disturbing sound after the clock strikes twelve. VOLT, being kind of out at a campground at the edge of this small city, is I guess more like Bonnaroo, which a) features mostly on-site camping and b) goes til the wee hours. Last night, Saturday, the final night of the festival, was no exception, and fittingly capped off a progressively-more-bonkers week with a couple super crazy sets. First off, back in our T-Mobile branded terrace room thing, I'm to get things going at midnight, but unfortunately the 10-12 guy is possibly the most aggressively listener-unfriendly DJ on the planet; not bad, necessarily, if you like shuddering, shrieking techno in impossible-to-follow time signatures or put-the-drill-in-drill-'n'-bass played at absolutely ear-splitting volumes. By the end of his set there were a few scattered casualties lying on couches at the edges of the terrace and one blissed-out girl still grooving away, so I had a bit of a challenge building a dancefloor. Now, I don't mean to big myself up, especially considering I had the bonus of Saturday's headliner Marilyn Manson finishing his set right at 12:30 (and the crowds dispersing to our still-bouncing side stages), but even by then I had managed to get a pretty packed floor going, something I think I should really get a fucking award for, although granted I was playin' the hits.

Amusingly, another group of DJs had (apparently, from what I understood, "inspired" by our mashup-themed room) created a "Bootleg Bar" just around the corner from our zone, and while they seemed to mostly play breaks remixes of familiar tunes, I have to admit I was pretty jealous of their setup which had a much better lighting rig (although our sound system showed theirs up by the time it got retuned on Thursday). It was also more open to the nearby path and just generally had a more solid crowd. (Especially when our room was playing Aphex Twin b-sides). And just like that, Saturday night I find out that the guys over there are big fans of my work and want me to do a guest set. I get Simon Idoll sorted out in the terrace after a few false starts and skedaddle over to their stage where I proceed to do a Party Ben power jams set, which goes well but not just ridiculously well, I mean I kind of lost the hands-in-the-air energy during a few of my own admittedly self-indulgent little electro forays. But first of all, I felt a little like acknowledging my homeland, since it was July 4th, so I opened with a short edit of Jimi Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock. I don't think anyone got it. But my two new Hungarian mixes went down a storm: first up, I've done a kind of electro mix of Hungarian metal combo Omega's '80s euro-smash, "Girl With the Pearl's Hair," a power ballad whose la-la-la-la chorus even a few Americans might recognize. My mix just basically plays the chorus and then loops the final note for a big buildup into a stomping techno beat lifted from Jean Elan's "Killer," which is just massive on a big soundsystem like that. Second, perhaps using my DJ ESP to anticipate the utter dominance of breaks and drum 'n' bass at the festival, I did a jungly mix of Belga's "Egy Het Ka." The band are kind of the Hungarian Beastie Boys-slash-Bloodhound Gang, and the track I picked has a loping reggae beat that fit perfectly over the good old Urban Takeover jump-up mix of Fatboy Slim's "Rockafella Skank." What I didn't realize is that its lyrics are also, apparently, utterly filthy, with a chorus that refers repeatedly to fellatio (my fellow DJ informed me). But, you know, bonus! So wrapping up my set around 3am with that little number (photo at like 3:10am above) turned out very well.

At this point as well I'm kind of drunk, partially because I figured out these weird ball things made by some local alcohol producer. All week people would give me these goofy little plastic balls, about the size of a golf ball and branded with the company's logo, and I would just toss them, thinking they were dumb promotional toys or something. Well, no, it turns out, if you unscrew it, it opens up to reveal a deliciously fruity alcoholic shot of some sort. One of the other DJs gave me one as I started my set and when I was like "what the hell is this thing," he demonstrated, and then once I'm seen up there on stage drinking the thing people are of course all like, "give Party Ben more balls." And then what am I supposed to do, offend their country by not drinking them?

A big giddy after all that, I wander over to another side stage where Noisia and MC ID are doing a much more melodic, friendly style of drum 'n' bass, and I dance around with the crowd for a while. Then I headed back to our good old terrace which wrapped up, again, around 5am, with the sun bright in the sky.

At about 5:10am, I'm waiting for the car to the hotel in a bit of a daze, standing out in the path a ways away from the Bootleg Bar, which still has a good crowd going, amazingly enough, to more drum 'n' bass. I see that it's the DJ who introduced me on the decks, and take a quick picture (see above). A second later and he spots me standing out there and gets on the mic, and starts shouting stuff. I hear a few "Party Ben's" and then a bunch of Hungarian and the whole crowd turns to look at what the hell he's talking about. "Party Ben, you arrrre my DJ brrrotherrr!" he shouts. The crowd is baffled, and I give a bit of an "I'm not worthy" bow, and mercifully, he's done. But, funny!

Anyway, I'd just like to speak to any of my DJ friends out there reading this, thinking, "who is Party Ben to deserve to go to this random country and DJ." Some of you have even come out and said it, like Australian mashupper Dsico who posted "gee, 4 days at VOLT, how did you manage that?" on GYBO, like I somehow tricked the festival into booking me. How do you fucking think I managed it? Maybe they fucking asked? And maybe when I said "could I please play two or three nights so I can go do Bootie Paris" they said, "no, we want you every night"? Maybe that? Whatever. But yes, okay, whether or not you’re an insensitive Australian dingo-face, I get you, I don't exactly have Top 10 hits or anything, and sure, there are many other deserving mashup producers, DJs, and supermodels out there who could also have been booked, for sure. Yes. However, I would just like to say that this was not all fun and games; the festival, especially the first day, was a total clusterfuck, organization-wise, and since I was pretty much at the bottom of the bill I was last priority for the organizers, who had forgotten to schedule things like, say, a car to get me from the festival to the hotel and back, and then, say, after two hours of waiting for a car, finally plop me into one, and then the driver turns to me and says something in Hungarian that I assume means "where are we going," and no-one's told me the name or location of the hotel, and he doesn't speak English, so I try to make clear to him I don't know where I'm going in a pastiche of German and hand gestures, and he gives me this look like "fucking Americans think they own me and I am biding my time before I can kill you all," and then we have to go chase down the organizers who have, of course, disappeared. That kind of shit. Also, with the music around the festival and what the crowds seemed to enjoy a bit off from what I expected, I spent hours each day reworking my set and remixing some of my tracks. So, what I'm trying to say is that, yes, I'm totally not famous enough to get booked at a big festival like this, and clearly it was some sort of mistake, but this was a goddamned fucking battle, and I battled, and I labored, and I endured, and I totally earned the great crowds and hugely fun sets I had the last three days, through sheer blood sweat and tears. The last thing I felt was "entitled" to the gigs, so I worked my ass off, and was rewarded. Anyone else out there willing to do the same would, I'm sure, have been as well.

Ahem. So, yes, I'm off to Budapest in a few minutes, which I'm looking forward to very much – this Hunguest (huh huh huh) hotel is basically in the forest at the edge of town and there aren't any things like stores or whatever anywhere nearby, and I have like 18 cents left in Hungarian forints right now and I'm so hungry I'm about to die. Will post pictures when I'm back in civilization…

4 comments: said...

I'm pissing my pants off while your entries about the Hungarian trip. Yep, im hungarian and i will be there in Zold Pardon. Keep on rockin, we love your shit ;)
(And don't even stop writing the blog)

fregz said...

Well, I didn't notice you at the schedule but when we were down at VOLT a friend of mine told me there's Party Ben making a party every night. WHOA! What a surprise!! And so were your sets!! So bad I missed the Zold Pardon ones..

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