The lost art of the warm-up DJ with Davidow

It’s an early Monday evening in the lounge upstairs in Jæger and Davidow (Brokesteady and Mandagsklubben) has already had his first request. One of a trio of girls from the suburbs, on their way to a Shania Twain concert, has asked for a prelude from the country songstress, but her slurring appeal goes unanswered. She eyeballs the DJ from under a furrowed brow, but the seasoned DJ merely smiles back, in response to her icy scowl. “She annoys me a little bit” he says through a smile, his words barely piercing the frequencies from the DJ booth speakers. It leaves little impression on him as he carries on serving up a selection of funky house-edits that billow around the edges of the rhythm section.

The tables are dotted sporadically with people and beer glasses, but the dance floor is still empty as patrons settle into the evening ahead. Cerron’s disco classic “Supernature” comes on and feet start to twitch under tables as Chi-Chi Favelas’ voice shrieks about an ominous chemical future. Dystopian lyrical themes contradict an upbeat Disco progression, bridging a gap between the mind and body that will take Davidow into the next phase of his set. The eccentricities start to fall away to make room for the stripped back pulse of an incipient dance floor.

The practise of an opening DJ is becoming something of a lost art in the world today. The subtleties of that first musical contact with an audience and establishing the mood of the night ahead eludes us in an age where immediacy and the idea of a DJ as an artist has dominated the booth. For most DJs coming through the ranks today and for the next generation making their mark, concepts like Boiler Room and Soundcloud have set an unusual standard. With little to no introduction and the DJ-producer honorary in full effect, the DJ is no longer a facilitator, but rather more like an artist. There needs to be some rather inconsequential cohesiveness to the DJ’s set, establishing a sonic identity that has some fundamental relationship to said artist’s recorded works and its effects need to be immediate.

Completely disconnected from the reality of the dance floor (even during the Boiler Room sets you are usually facing a camera and not the audience), the DJ’s role no longer accommodates the club environment, and the set becomes an extension of the DJ’s artistic expression rather than facilitating what’s happening on the dance floor. For a DJ like Davidow, this style of Djing is doing little more than indulging an ego, and when he steps in the booth on a Monday night at 11:00 pm there is no room for an ego without a dance floor.

“It’s important to make people dance,” he says extending his voice over a downtempo Tech-House track, “more important than playing my own selection.” He digs for a longer track through his USB stick, with playlists and track listings extending into the infinite space of his thumb drive. A primal rhythmic track starts snaking its way through the preceding outro with a melody floating through the spaces between the beats coaxed from a quirky panpipe. He selects the extensive track to accommodate room for a conversation rather than the short bursts of questions and answers we’ve been throwing back and forth between the mixes.

“It’s all about positive energies,” he says. “It sends out a good vibe when you step into a place and see two people dancing” and that is what he tries to recreate every Monday through his sets. Contextually that can change with the seasons, making each Mandagsklubben very different from the last.  Whenever Davidow takes to the booth for Mandagsklubben, he will always “check for moods.” For example: “There was a time when there were a lot of people dating on Mondays,” and Davidow soon realised that certain style of “Techno and dating can make a vibe.” He would play “Techno with a little touch of darkness” during that time and it always seemed to work in coaxing budding young lovers onto the dance floor.

But it’s not just about a genre or sound, and Davidow has to juggle many external factors in accommodating the early hours of Mandagsklubben, but two things that remain consistent through his sets are that “it usually starts very slow” and there’s an underlying rhythm that connects all the tracks. In the early sets I like to mix different genres and moods, but I try to let the rhythm be the guideline,” he explains. Rhythm “is the key” to his sets and even when he floats between genres and styles there is a very tangible link through the rhythms of his set.

The panpipe tracks stops abruptly while we talk, ten minutes passing by in the space of a few, belying the languid progression of the song, but Davidow is quick with the next track, picking up the pace of the set as a steady 4-4 beat comes into focus. He says he’s “stopped preparing” for Monday nights at Jæger and just brings everything he has on USB sticks. How does he know which way the night might go musically? “It’s hard to say how, or what I take into consideration,” he replies. “It’s usually what I find the day before I play. He’s “still learning every night” he explains and can never predict which way a night might go. The “positive thing about having your music digitally” for Davidow is that he can often go back ”through playlist seven or eight years back to see what I played on a Monday in November.” He finds it “interesting to find gold now what you thought was shit back then.”

DJing is in a constant state of flux and evolution for Davidow. “Because people change and DJs change, especially myself going through so many different steps in my life,” Davidow perhaps finds himself more adept in the context of the warm up set today more than ever before. Is it experience that makes for a better warm-up DJ?

Back in the beginning when Mandagsklubben was “very much a party concept,” it was “very hard in the beginning and all of us were partying very hard,” says Davidow. Since then they’ve moved the concept from Visk & Vilt to Jæger, and Davidow has become a family man with two kids and a career towards law. Naturally his priorities changed and they “don’t have an after-party every Monday anymore,“ he says with a laugh. “It’s been a long journey” he says, and although he does “miss playing the late hours, there’s no room for that anymore in this period of me life,” he insists. He seems very content in playing the opening hours and setting the stage for his Mandagsklubben compatriots, Jeff Niels and André Bravo.

On this particular night Niels’ absence means he has to pitch it up for André Bravo, who is ready to take the night into the next phase in true uncompromising Bravo- bravado. André pulls down the volume faders and pitches up the tempo and Mandagsklubben sets into overdrive as more dancers join the splattering of bodies on the tight dance floor upstairs congressing under the swirl of light from the mirrorball up above.  A few people still linger around tables in a state of flux, between dancing and standing but Davidow’s work here is done… at least for tonight.

*Davidow plays every Monday at Mandagsklubben with Andre Bravo and Jeff Niels as Brokesteady.

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