Dancin' Shoes

Our judge gets down at the Ultra DJ competition

My bedroom floor is a mess. I lovingly think of it as a multipurpose tool: a dirty-clothes hamper, a bookshelf, a CD case, a file cabinet and even a tool rack. But in spite of the land mines between my bed and my door, a good six or seven square feet of space exists no matter how filthy my room gets.

This is where I shake my shit.

Music writers aren't known for coordination, and I'm no exception, which makes my love for dancing that much more tragic. You ever see that episode of My So-Called Life in which Ricky (the gay one) went to a school dance and busted out moves that made him look as if he were mid-seizure? Put those moves on (a shorter) Conan O'Brien, and you have me.

Rock, hip-hop, techno, whatever--give me a crazy beat (plus privacy or alcohol), and I'm a goner. Thus, when I was asked to be on a panel of judges for last Friday night's Dallas Observer-sponsored Ultra DJ contest at Minc Lounge, I grew concerned. The combination of free drinks and nonstop beats very well could expose my dirty secret to Dallas, so I made a personal pact to stay sober and hide in the judges' booth.

But hiding wasn't an option. The contest needed guidance. The finalists were confused. Two of the five didn't even show. But on top of that, I worried far too much about the judging task ahead of me. Sure, I listen to 106.7 KDL's dance mixes, and I was a huge big-beat techno fan in the mid-'90s, but other than my private love for a good groove, I was no mixing expert. I'd spun CDs at parties on occasion, but when fellow judges like 102.1 The Edge's DJ Merritt and Scaraoke's DJ Mr. Rid chatted excitedly about mixer delay effects, tempo matching and obscure dance songs, I could only smile and nod. I knew what they were talking about...but not really.

All that stress made my free drink tickets look a lot more attractive, and within an hour, my promise to stay dry was history. Luckily, DJ Merritt chipped in on hosting duty, which meant I was finally able to sit down and listen to some music. Of the three DJs who played a 20-minute mix, Bill Spillz was the most consistent. He offered a smooth rotation of trancey beats, though he fumbled at set's end with a clunky segue into a reggae track. Opener DJ Kelsey FX spun potent techno tracks, but he sounded nervous about cramming different beats into 20 minutes, and the result lacked both technical and creative punch.

Last up was Aleksus Sanchez and his cheering section of more than a dozen friends. Luckily for Sanchez, his beats were so good that his friends didn't have to fake their cheers. From a loud, punchy opening to a strong, steady build, along with an amusing mash-up of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "By the Way," the night's closer offered the most fun and interesting set, even if he lacked some technical muscle compared with Spillz.

Sanchez will represent Dallas at the Ultra Festival in Miami on March 26, and in the meantime, I will leave my dancing shoes at home, because during the winner's set, I nearly kicked a girl with an ambitious "move." Hope you don't cause that kind of trouble in Miami, Aleksus.

Sarah Hepola is on vacation. She will return next week.

 
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