First Fridays at the guggenheim Museum- a little story
Several years ago I got a call to DJ a little experiment uptown. The Guggenheim Museum wanted to launch a series called 'First Fridays', combining the sounds of choice top DJs to pair with the art. This was to be done on Friday evenings, after museum hours. Art After Dark. I was the DJ for the debut of this project on April 1st 2005. I thought to myself, oh great, a big debut on April Fools Day... gotta laugh sometimes, life can be really funny. My music was to be pared with 'THE EYE OF THE STORM' WORKS IN SITU BY DANIEL BUREN.
Prior to my arriving at the museum, I thought it was to be a massive cocktail party. I wasn't quite prepared to be DJ-ing as a performance artist along with the art opening that evening, but that's how it turned out to be. There were people clustered all around the stage, as tho they were watching a band at a concert. April Fools right there! When I arrived and saw the fabulous big stage that was built for me, I knew it was to be something special. Very special. By the time I was finished with soundcheck, there was a line down 5th avenue to get in to the museum! Word had traveled fast, and unbeknownst to me, there was some serious press coverage for this event, including a full page promo in the Village Voice. I found out all this after the night was over, and perhaps that was a good thing. I did what I do best, and didn't ride the hype.
The one request from the museum to me, was that I made everyone groove & feel good, but not dance. That is something that is a hard task for someone like myself. Somehow, even when I'm playing ambient tracks, someone always wants to 'bust a move'. It's just how it is. But as it was the first night of First Fridays' they were afraid to have too much physical movement around the art. This night was a test. That concept had changed over the years after my debut, but being the first DJ to set the path for the future of this project was a huge responsibility, and I wanted the opening to be a big success. From the feedback I got later that evening ... I rose to the occasion. Hallelujah!!!
When I think back on that night, there were a lot of interesting moments during the course of the evening, some really cool, and a few a bit challenging. I was being filmed for various press outlets, as well as being interviewed for quotes while trying to concentrate on DJ-ing. I can walk and chew gum really well, but, not easy when being the focus of attention during a performance. Then there were those random moments when the whole rotunda burst into dance and I had a mild heart attack trying to scale the vibe back. Of course, the rebel DJ in me loved the fact that I could pull off a dance party, even when not trying. Ha!!! I knew all the security guards by name midway through the evening and they would all burst out laughing at my expressions every time I had to figure a way to make the dancing stop! I also must have chosen a really eclectic playlist that night because I spent a good portion of the evening writing down this song or that song as so many in the crowd wanted to know the tracks I chose to spin. As distracting as it was, it's always a good sign that I'm playing something so interesting, people gotta know what it is. This was years before Shazam!
The one thing a good DJ learns over time, is not only how to read a crowd, but it's to actually read a thought or two in any given moment. As I looked around the room, I realized just who the DJs were, and I could feel a few of these guys thinking 'who is she and why is she there'. That has happened in the past at clubs, but, you do your thing, and when you get it right, you get your due props straight away. No words need to be spoken. Being a female DJ playing hip hop back in the 80s had a few funny moments, however, just give me a few songs... and all doubts about my abilities changed quickly. I have always disliked the fact that so many feel the need to differentiate between male and female DJs. We're all there to do a great job. Period. But halfway through this event, a few young buck DJ wannabees decided climb my stage, gang up on me, and give me hell because I wasn't spinning with vinyl! How pretentious is that!!! There were also a few snarky 'girl DJ' remarks as well thrown in for good measure. Jealousy is a terrible monster, and it can bring the worst out in many. It's OK in life to wish you had a gig someone else has, but it's not OK to shower that anger and jealousy on a DJ when they're in the middle of a performance. I might also add, that these guys were all early 20s, and probably still in school when I was spinning vinyl at all the big clubs in town! They knew nothing about me, yet they felt it their right to judge, riding a high horse they hadn't earned the right to ride upon. Even when you've paid your dues, it doesn't give you a free pass to be rude, and in this case...dumb and rude. I don't exactly remember my response, but I know it was good as they all froze in their tracks before I cocked my head and waved to one of my pals ... 'SECURITY'! And away they went, gone gone gone. Perhaps those boys learned some manners down the road. One can only hope. I think a lot has changed since 2005, and hopefully the whole Female DJ/Male DJ nonsense has faded. I know it still exists, but I also know things have changed a lot from the days I was still a puppy DJ. There are so many women rocking the decks these days, and many are FABulous! Props! And I might add, doesn't matter if you're spinning analog vinyl, or digital via Serato (or the like), the skill is in in the mind, heart & gut, combined with technique (no train wrecks please) when it comes to being a great DJ. Magic can happen on what you choose to make magic with.
The evening was a huge success and the museum was packed wall to wall, floor to floor. We had no idea that this little idea would blow up to be one of the most successful promotions the Guggenheim Museum ever did, and the series ran for years featuring some of the most amazing DJs from all over the world.
I'm thrilled to have been the first DJ to kick the party off!
Special thanks to the Guggenheim for trusting me with their newborn series, and calling me later that year to DJ their International GALA at the Four Seasons in NYC (designed by the fabulous David Monn), an event that was a 'who's who' in the art and entertainment world! But that affair will have to be another blog! 🎧
"Welcome to First Friday, an evening art viewing and cocktail party at the Guggenheim Museum, where schmoozing and boozing to the loungey vibes of DJ Dina Regine in the famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed rotunda on opening night took precedence over actually walking up the ramp to view the collection!" -
NYU Livewire News Service
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