Walking away from a night of spinning music that leaves you feeling completely empty is a nature sense and experience you will have from time to time. There will be days were you will not connect with the venue, the sound system, and/or most importantly, the folks that showed up for you to entertain. Just take note and deep consideration that emptiness and disconnect is enviable. I cannot explain why it happens, it just does. Even if you walk into the environment thinking it’s going to jump off, only to realize that the excitement never left the ground. What I can say, is that I can only share my insight based on my personal experiences.
I played at many socials and events throughout my DJ career where that one night of spinning just felt like a job, a hired hand for the night with no high level of excitement or thrill. I just know I walked away with the feeling of emptiness because I had control over the room after I spun all the music that I thought would bring up the energy.
I was booked by an event planner to spin a private birthday party at the Bentley Reserve in downtown San Francisco in spring 2003. The Bentley Reserve was formally a bank, with 100 foot ceiling, tall marble Columns, and a 10,000 square foot open event space.
The event was a lavish production, the crew took a full day to load-in the sound equipment, lights, decor, and catering. My call time and sound check was 5:00pm. The event was due to start at 7:00pm.
I arrived a few minutes before my call time and just as I was settling in, local recording Grammy artist Rob Thomas was completing his sound check. The band was rocking out. Rob sounded wonderful. Rob Thomas was a surprise gift to the birthday boy’s guest who was turning 32.
The event planner and production crew designed and constructed an amazing DJ booth with 2 turntables, pioneers CDJ'S, and mixer, and two monitors. The booth was positioned on a platform high above the guest, the stage, and the dance floor. I felt like, the Wiz, in the Land of Oz.
The two hundred guest arrived and I played NuJazz and up-tempo jams to accompany the spirit and energy of the cocktail reception. Rob Thomas was due to entertain the guest at 8:30. He was scheduled for a one hour performance. For whatever reason under the sun, Rob's start time was delayed. The show finally started 30 minutes later and once the band got started, they ran overtime.
My role was to keep the energy high and party going after Rob Thomas. The band completed their set at 11:00pm. I drop my first song and all of the two hundred personal guest filed out the door making a final exodus. I was taken-a sideways. I could not believe what had just happened. The entire venue became empty for the exception of the production crew, catering staff, the Bentley Reserve staff, and the birthday boy and his family.
I was thinking possibly the last Bart train to the Eastbay was leaving and everyone took public transit. I played maybe two or three more songs until the event planner came to me and said, "It’s a wrap". He apologized. I packed up my headphone, records, and CD's. I was paid my agreed compensation for the night, exited the building, jumped in a cab, and I was home sitting on my couch eating a bowl of cornflakes by 12am midnight.
Even though I was ready to rock and play music all night, the guest were not. Although the birthday party at the Bentley was one of the most elaborate gigs I have played, I walked away with the sense of emptiness and disconnect. It happens and when it does I have to remind myself over and over that every gig, even the one that appears to be one of the finest of them all has left me with a lack luster emotional state and sense of purpose.
I am fascinated by the DJ controller; the Pioneer DDJ is the second generation in the series of DJ controllers. One of the greatest attributes of the controller is the fact that the unit is a self-contained system; two playing decks with mixer, input for external devices, and microphone inputs.
I really enjoy the fact that I can transport my light weight controller in the Pioneer Utility Backpack with convenience and ease anywhere I travel. For example I live in Mission District of San Francisco and at times my gigs are located just a few blocks from my home. I can walk to the event or jump on the public transit in a jiffy knowing that all my music and controller is on my back. I appreciate the idea that my system is always ready to go.
Transporting my unit in my hatchback is also easy and I have any taken the DDJ-SR on airplanes as carry-on luggage. I am always ready to spin rather it be for friends, family, the street corner, city parks of San Francisco and or a professional gig.
Another import factor for me having a personal devise such as a DJ Controller is that it eliminates the incompatibility issues that may arise when I spin at clubs or a venue that provides their own DJ equipment. Walking into a gig, I never knew what to expect when I played at an unfamiliar venue. Before controllers I would work at a nightclub with mixed matched CDJ’s or Turntables. It was frustrating to work on inferior units and not have any option to improve the conditions of the DJ gear. When I worked on equipment I had no connection with, it made a long night seem longer.
The challenges that may arise using non personal devices is connectability issues such as DJ software and hardware, low quality, warn, outdated, dirty, damaged and missing DJ equipment. Even during the days of turntables or CDJ’s, I just never knew what to expect.
I have gain the confidence to know when I spin using my DJ controller the unit is ready to perform at its optimum best. If a technical issues does surface I can isolate the trouble by either focusing on my computer and controller or the sound system that the venue provides. Using a controller is an efficient means to assure an evening of quality performance, programming and always being in control.
Investing in a DJ Controller of any style, make, or model is a sure bet you can trust in. You can focus on your passion that will fuel and inspire your performance rather than distract and unsettle yourself just before you start your event or in the middle of a gig trying to be an I.T. (information technology) specialist or tech person. I am a DJ, you are a DJ, and we are DJ’s.
I purchased 2 Pioneer Controllers: DDJ-SR & DDJ-SX2
The DDJ-SX2 is the larger robust model with all the features to challenge a seasoned DJ like myself. I have been spinning music for 35 years now. I have spun using Reel to Reel, Cassettes, 8-Tracks, Turntables, Dural CD Players, DJ Apps, and now DJ Controllers. I use the DDJ-SX2 in the Fingersnaps Home Music Studio to practice my skill set, record my music mixes, edit audio and songs, remix tracks, and teach DJ Lessons.
The DDJ-SX2 is an amazing system with technological advances that summarizes the history of the art form. All makes and models of DJ Controllers are the culmination and linage of the past 50 years of DJ performance, audio recording and audio playback from a DJ perspective and discipline.
Think about it, having a light weight DJ device that you can carry almost anywhere that is equipped with the capabilities of sampling, looping , programming, scratching, remixing, and tons of special effects is a tireless consideration of creative possibilities.
The DDJ-SR is the smaller sibling to the DDJ-SX2. The DDJ-SR was the first within its model and class. The DDJ-SR became the standard and base quality brand for the Pioneer DJ Controller series with in the past few years.
The DDJ-SR has many of the features the DDJ-SX2 has but the most important element is the USB power source. The Pioneer DDJ-SR is USB powered via laptop, tablet, and or desktop computer. I appreciate the idea that I can set up my controller almost anywhere and start spinning music creating a live activated space.
I acquired the DDJ-SR as a quick lightweight unit I can carry and set up in a flash. I use the Alesis Trans-Active Mobile PA System (this unit maneuvers like a roll-away luggage bag), the DDJ-SR, and my laptop computer. The laptop powers the DDJ-SR and I am good to play for up to 5 hours at a city park in San Francisco or a small social gathering at a friend’s house. The USB powered feature is one of the major definitive variables of the Pioneer DDJ-SR Controller and for any controller within its class.
There are many makes and models of DJ Controllers of all price points on the market. What every unit you start with just know will be ready to rock your world!
For information contact DJ Lamont at Fingersnaps Media Arts
Music was played in my home as a child, my mom’s mom Virginia Fountain played gospel hymns on Sunday morning while Maxwell House coffee percolated in the coffee pot in the kitchen as she got ready to go to church to in sing in the choir. Yet, the night before, Saturday night, she sang the Blues and dance sensual moves to Soul Music ‘till the late evening while hosting a lavish cocktail and dinner party for friends and family.
As a teenager, my mom collected as many 45rpm’s as I have 12’ vinyl singles today. As a kid slowly approaching my double digit years, I vividly remember my mom hearing a song on the radio or at a friend’s house. Then shortly thereafter her hearing that new song, my mom would say “get your coat we are going to the record shop”. We would leave the house swiftly, drive to the south side of the city and park the car. We would both jump out. I was trailing behind her while she held my hand, I felt the excitement of my mom’s energy flowing through my body as she anticipated acquiring that brand new record.
We approached the main entrance of the shop. The announcement of a door bell would present are arrival only to be welcomed by a familiar face of the record shop owner or clerk, gracefully stating, “good to see you again Jackie, what are you looking for today”.
Many things have changed in my life since those early days of the 1970’s but what has not changed is my passion and enthusiasm for music, rather it be music on a Reel to Reel player or a hot new track I just downloaded to be played using Serrato DJ and my Pioneer DJ controller. My connection is about the music.
A great passion of mine is creating a DJ mix for my radio show on KPOO 89.5 San Francisco. The mix is coined the San Francisco Street Inspire House, the name was derived from me spinning live on the streets corners of San Francisco using my mini-portable DJ unit.
When I was a kid and just discovering music and my interest in audio, I would use my older sisters Jean and Loray’s cassette recorder that had a handheld microphone. I would record mixes from radio station WYBC & WNHU in New Haven, Connecticut. Every weekend the DJ’s on the air would mix Disco and Soul Music. Each week I would learn from the previous week how to improve the overall quality of my recording by adjusting the microphone to various positions until I was able to gain my ideal sound, I guess would can say I was training my ear.
Some weeks the recording of the music would peak with distortion. On other occasions the microphone was too far away from the speaker and the audio signal of the recording would record week. Other times, the family would be milling around the house so I was able to hear people walking up and down the stairs, or the running of the vacuum cleaner, or even the flushing of the toilet, all of these household affects was captured while I was recording the radio signal using an eternal microphone.
Then I learned to close the door and windows, ensure everyone was out of the house or at lease settled down before I would try once again. After several weeks, I was able to capture the cleanest, crispest sound quality that one was able to record using a Zenith Portable Cassette Record from 1979. Till this day I hold the passion for recording my mixes as I did when I was a young lad exploring the world of audio. Although today, I use DJ equipment that extends way beyond the quality of an analog cassette tape however, I can say I gained a trained ear for audio during those sessions.
Expressing oneself is a great way of finding and maintaining personal peace, purpose, and vision. I have found that creativity allows me to reach a place of wholeness and reflection When focusing on a project I am able to transport myself into a super ultra reality where I reflect on my past, vision the keenness of my present, and project for my future. Creativity eases me of all my pain and replaces it with the glories of love and life.
At times when I am in my studio preparing to record a music mix I am able to see myself in another time and place. I could see the possibilities of what life has to offer.
There was a time were I never considered myself to be a creative person. Although I have always had interest in media and expressive arts, I just thought that being creative was for someone else.
I was surprised to learn that I had a level of creativity when I curated my first photography show in 2001. I visited Ghana West African in November of 2000 and I wanted to showcase photos and talk about my experience. It was June 2001 when I made the call to a local ice cream shop/art galley and told the owner I wanted to host an opening at his parlour on Saturday September 15.
Throughout the summer months I spent most of my free time thumbing through the hundreds of images I had captured narrowing them down to just a dozen. I was shopping for frames, cutting, mounting, and organizing my thoughts in preparation of opening day. It was a challenging and fun process. I gained a level of focus and purpose that I never knew was possible.
I was amazed how drawn I became to that project. It came to the point were I limited or halted participating in my routine social life such as going dancing, dining out or spending time with friends. If I allowed myself time to be away from my project my inner voice started nagging me, calling me back. I listened and honored my voice and followed it back home were I resumed my project and felt whole and complete again.
When I hung the show on the last week of August I was excited, uncertain, nervous, and thrilled to see my thought fall into three dimensional forms. An idea that I have been carrying with me for over 11 months come to fruition. My creative mind created an opportunity for me to share, connect, and give reason for people to gather.
Creativity is one of the many keys to personal success, achievement, and opportunity. Creativity allows for you to focus on something that is dear to you and then have something to show for it.
The Fingersnaps DJ & Art Collective was founded in 2002 for the sole purpose of creating community around the art, technology and philosophy of DJ culture.
Since 2008, 350 individual DJ lessons have been taught in the founder, DJ Lamont Young’s home music studio, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. The Fingersnaps experience has reached beyond the studio, teaching DJ courses and Media Skills to youth and adults at various community and educational centers, such as the SF YMCA, The San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts, The City of Richmond Police Activities League (PAL), The Hamilton Family Center, Bayview Hunters Family and the Bayview Opera House.
From 2005 to 2007, Fingersnaps has operated in a pop art gallery named Red Ink Studios, a non-profit organization which hosts a diverse array of emerging multi-media artists. It is here that Fingersnaps conducts DJ lessons, produces social events, art shows, open mics, workshops and seminars.
One of our signature events is Synchronize, an annual event produced by Fingersnaps, and is designed to bring members of the DJ community together, allowing them to tap into the potential of what they do with panel discussions, networking and interactive DJ workshops. Hosting the annual workshop/symposium, Synchronize is also a great way to connect and inspire members of Fingersnaps to visualize based on dialogue, as well as the exchanging of ideas and information in order to ensure success in the world of entertainment.
How the Money Will Be Used
Your contributions would allow Fingersnaps the opportunity to expand beyond the home music studio by creating a full-time, accessible community space and venue centered for DJ culture. The funding will be invested in the following line items:
-Deposit/Lease Commercial Venue
-Lease hold improvements: décor
-Equipment, such as DJ gear, computers, audio software
In return you will receive a handsome Fingersnaps embroidered Patch, DJ Lessons, and Membership based on your pledge amount. The point is, we want you to get the full Fingersnaps experience!
Our core mission is to bring people together with common interests and ideas. We believe that music, education and technology are ever-changing mediums, and creating a center point is a means of providing opportunity. The DJ community changed dramatically once the majority of small local DJ record shops and chain stores such as Virgin and Tower went of business due to the advent of digital downloading.
The community is surviving, but the creative core where people once gathered to share ideas has since been scattered throughout the community. There is no one centralized place where DJs can meet on neutral ground to network and learn from one another.
Having an established full-time, accessible space and venue would allow for an on-going dialogue and fulfill the need for a social network of creativity, mentoring opportunities, education and inspiration. That also correlates with core message of Fingersnaps DJ & Art Collective, which is to create, educate and inspire its DJ’s, members and the general community by providing opportunity.
Through his interaction with his students, founder DJ Lamont teaches a unique and practical worldview, incorporated with language and culture that he thinks resonates with his students. He also feels that the most important aspect of teaching is communication, which is personalized to fit the needs of each student; “I take the time to understand who I am working with before I apply my standard of teaching.”
It is though the application of these ideals that expansion of our commercial space would further suit the needs of our clients and in terms of our goals, expediting our directives in retail, events hosting and production, seminars and teaching. The ultimate goal is to represent the DJ culture by providing a place where people can learn, connect and play music.
Music played a major role in my family. My mother’s mother, Virginia, would have gospel music playing every Sunday morning on a scratchy AM transistor radio. Throughout the week my sister Jean and cousin Brenda had organ lessons. My mom Jackie and her best friend Thelma would host lavish parties every weekend at each other’s houses with fried chicken, smothered pork chops and rice, biscuits, and chilled hand shaken cocktails. However, the music was always the center of attention.
It was music that inspired the frying of the chicken in the middle of the afternoon in preparation for the evening. Music played while my mom was getting dressed for the party. And then the music played all night long until the very wee hours of the morning.
Back in the 70’s children were not allowed to linger around grown-ups, especially while they were getting their groove on. But how was an 11-year-old kid supposed to sleep while a bunch of adults were downstairs drinking and dancing to Al Green and Barry White? How was I supposed to keep my head on the pillow while the extended mix of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by Herald Melvin & The Blue Notes was vibrating through the ceiling, its heavy bass line causing the floor in my bedroom to hum?
From listening to the AM Top-40 in the car, to the kitchen, the bedroom, the family room, even the bathroom, music was a huge part of the Young Family development and enrichment. Then there were my older siblings Loray, Troy, and Jean and all their friends. Sister Loray being the oldest, she shared many of the same musical tastes as our mom; I remember her going to a James Brown concert in 1976. My brother Troy was a strict Soul and Jazz type of guy: nothing but the likes of Frankie Beverly & Maze, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Bobby Womack. I learned about Kenny G before he became famous from my brother. Then there was my sister Jean. She was totally in touch with her musical generation: The Jackson 5, Ashford & Simpson, Switch, and Cheryl Lynn.
Yet however much the family is the base of my musical influence, everyone knows that our greatest influences come from the streets. I was struck by the musical gods and goddess when, as a 6th grader at West Side Middle School, I took a long yellow school bus for the fist time.
I was totally intimidated riding on a bus with people I had never met before, even though they were all my neighbors. I took my seat and just looked forward for the duration of the ride. Every now and then, I would peek back and check out Manny. He was the guy holding the boom box.
Manny was one of the cool upper-classmen sitting in the back of the bus. It was 7:15AM and the music was pumping from his boom box. This was a type of music that I never heard before. It was fast, driven, spiritual, lush, and groovy, with raw and honest vocals. The bass line was thick and kickin’. It was Disco, and I was hooked.
From the moment when I saw that small group of upper-classmen at the back of the bus I wanted to be part of them. I could not wait until the end of the school day to jump back on the bus to listen to the music that would come screaming from the back. I was born again. When I arrived home I would run to the radio, trying to find those very songs. But they weren’t on the radio: Disco was too new, too deep, and extremely underground at the time.
I learned how to connect my DJ studio myself. I had no idea what I was doing. I just took the equipment out of the box and started connecting the cables. I started to figure out any problems I was experiencing by asking questions, going to audio stores, and reading the manuals, along with a little common sense.
My first interaction with a record and turntable was a Close N’ Play. It was a self-contained turntable that was in this little wooden boxed with a green vinyl finish on it and it had a little speaker enclosed in the box. The record player played 331/3, 45, and 78 RPM. I would play children’s sing-along 45’s that came with coloring books or cereal boxes.
I remember once I had this all-in-one turntable that I got it for my birthday. It was lime-green with a cool green-tinted plastic dust cover, and I loved it. It sat it on the top of my chest of draws. I hadn’t even started my record collection yet so I was constantly playing my mother’s and siblings’ records, of which I am sure they did not approve.
In my household we had a stereo in each room. My mom loved music and played it all the time, especially on the weekend. She was on top of all the latest sounds during the 70’s. She had this bumping stereo console that was about 8 feet long, with a turntable, AM/FM stereo, and 8 track tape, and it would pump when she opened it up.
I asked her once why she never played my little lime-green stereo and she said it did not have enough bass for her. “I need to feel it,” she would say. One day I woke up and I decided that I was over the little lime green stereo and I wanted a better one. But when I asked my mother for a new one, she said the one I had was just fine. So I went up to my room, picked up the lime green turntable and tossed it down the stairs.
Then I picked it up and placed it on the floor in my bedroom. I went to my mother and told her that my stereo had fallen off the top of the chest of drawers onto the floor, “It’s broken. Now can I get another one?” To my utter dismay, she said no.
Synchronize Again gives the up and coming DJ community the opportunity to lean how to thrive in the art and entertainment world from the officials and the professionals of the industry.
Fall 2011 was the first time Fingersnaps DJ & Art Collective produced such an event that brought members of the community in one environment to share ideas, learn from each other, and to be inspired to get out there and take on the world.
Synchronize was an idea I was carrying with me for many years as I learned the one thing that my students and music enthusiasts in the community needed most, information.
After the closing of most DJ records shops do to downloading and file sharing, the common place for all DJ’s went away after many family owned small business could not compete with the digital age. The record shop was not only a center place for buying the greatest music that any DJ would ever want but it was now unavailable for a center place were DJ’s would meet.
I did not realize the hole that was placed in the community until after 2 years when I found that I did not interact with as many DJ’s as I have in the past. The void that I noticed was the lack of common places outside of the club were DJ’s would meet to purchase new music, network, exchange ideas, share dish on club owners and promoters, connect with friends and establish new ones.
The ease of downloading music replaced the common ground of meeting. I really enjoy and appreciate the fact that I could find almost any recorded song by logging into a music search engine, however I morn and feel the lost of the music society that was associated with the records shops.
The last UPS delivery of a box of 12’ dance single and the final closing of another sole proprietors shop was a blow to many of us that appreciated vinyl records, CD’s and the social interaction, There was a time were I would travel to cities and towns around the world and I was able to find instant community by seeking out a DJ record shop.
Based on my own life experiences life does come after death and Fingersnaps DJ & Art Collective and Synchronize is the new life that stands on the memory of all the great music shops and music enthusitist I have meet over the past 30 years.
I hope to Synchronize with you.
We are here to live, love, and be creative. With these three concepts you will be able to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Creativity is a way to tap into your inner self and express ideas that can inspire you and those that are connected and influenced by those ideas.
Music and DJing is the art of being creative. The year of 1998, when I was seeking and forging my way through life, I started asking myself what is the purpose of my being? I was feeling ordinary by going to work Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm with two weeks off.
And although I was working in my chosen profession which was radio broadcasting at the time, I was not able to rise above the grim reality that there must be more to life then just going to work everyday.
Then, a dear friend suggested that I start teaching DJ lessons. I was encourage by the suggestion yet challenged because of the task ahead of me. I said to myself, wow, I can teach someone the gift of spinning music? I could inspire someone to learn with this vinyl and CD library that I have amassed over the years?
The exciting part for me was sharing my experience, music, and passion for DJ culture. The challenge was sharing my experience, music and passion with others. The task ahead meant, I had to sit myself down and create. I would have to create a course of instruction. I would have to think and write something down on paper. Again, I was wowed by the idea of teaching and fearful to move forward.
18 months after the conversation I had with my companion, the creativity hit me and the fear and challenge was put to the side and the pen, paper and I begin to talk. The creative thoughts flowed through me just as a salmon swimming up stream.
I locked myself in my studio for weeks, writing down every ounce of experience that I knew about being a DJ. And if I could not put my own ideas and experience into an intelligible sentence, I started asking questions from those that expressed passion for the DJ profession or have been spinning music as long as I have.
I read physics text books and learned about relative motion and how it relates to turntables and DJ equipment. I would thoroughly read each instruction booklet that was accompanied with DJ equipment. I even took the time to read music theory books and going to live music shows to study musicians and bands.
The knowledge that I knew and learned surprised me; I never assumed I knew much until the creative streak struck me.
Today, I have taught hundreds of children, youths, young adults, and adults the art of DJ culture in my home music studio and community centers and schools throughout northern California. The source of these great opporunties was fueled by my own personal creativity. I never considered myself to be a creative person until I begin the journey of teaching others.
Being creative is a powerful force that cannot be under estimated or toyed with. When in doubt about your life’s direction, just take a look around you. Everything that we have as a people, as a society, was forged by creativity…nothing into something.
Challenge yourself. Be the creative being that you are.
Spinning outside on the streets of San Francisco provides me the distinct opportunity to create a weekly house music mix coined “The San Francisco Street Inspired House Mix” which airs on KPOO 89.5FM or KPOO.COM: Wednesdays 12midnight to 3:00am.
As the leaves were falling during the autumn season of 2011, I mixed over 16 live sessions on the Embarcadero and Valencia Street in the Mission.
Vulnerability is one of the key engines that drive me to create music mixes on the street because I have no idea what can happen next. The SFPD rides by and as they give me a slight glance as they take on matters of great urgency. What I do know is programming music as transits are making there way allows me to connect with the people, humanity.
The feelings that I am tossing around while I a selecting songs are wildly incredible. I shake. I tremble. I think.
I encourage you to plant yourself on a street corner and create and express yourself for the greater good of your community. Sharing my passion for music with the general public is a great way of being part of something bigger then I.
Share your passion with your world and you will realize how generous, loving and engaging people can be. Normally, when I step away from mixing a music set, I am left with an overwhelming state of contemplation and wonderment.
Being a personal witness to humanity as I stand still, in a creative state, shakes me to my core with the reality that life is a force, a force that cannot be played with, and a force that thrives on its own no matter what I may think or feel about it. I have relearned that we are all the same on the inside now matter how we make up and dress ourselves on the outside or the body we were born in.
I realized that my opinions are important but not necessary to the force of life because now one is living for me or the force of life depends on me. I had no idea that taking on the streets of San Francisco as a DJ will inspire deep thoughts and a reappreication for who we are. I am just doing my thing, playing music, getting myself out of the house and sharing something that I have great passion for with my community.
Vulnerability is the essence of having an exciting life. Take the risk and give what you got. Take that one special thing that you have and share it with humanity… the gifts that you will receive will be beyond the words on this page.
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