Tech Tip:In the Groove: Pacing the Six-Hour Set
When you start DJing, you generally start early and your set time is short. But don't take it personally, the day will come when you have the entire night to yourself. This scenario happens mostly in smaller bars, or in smaller rooms of a big club. My first six-hour set was an affair to remember. Fortunately, the promoters wanted me to play a variety of things, so I was able to start out with chill stuff and work my way into the dance floor frenzy. When playing a long set, I tend to choose music that doesn't take much "mixing concentration" per se. I like to play old soul and funk tunes, which you generally don't beat match, so it consumes less mental energy. That's not to say, however, that you can just play anything you want with no transition and no flow.
You still have to think carefully throughout the set which records fit the tone for the room, when to move from genre to genre, and how to make the people follow you.
First rule for the marathon set: always bring more records than you'll need. If you can, try to play different styles of music; it will help keep you interested. I like to begin with slower, more relaxed music at the beginning of the night. Let the crowd, like yourself, work its way into the high-energy mood with you. Think of yourself as a cross-country runner who's bringing a hundred people on the trail with you. Learn how to pace yourself, so you won't find yourself out of ideas or music. If you don't have the luxury of playing whatever style you want (for instance, you could be looking at six hours of nothing but hardcore techno), there are still ways of keeping yourself interested. Towards the beginning of the night when there aren't many people around (and maybe none dancing), stretch your records out as far as they can take you. That 12-minute track you always cut off early may come in real handy when you're trying to kill time. However, it's important not to become complacent about what you're playing. Even though there may not be many people in the room, you still have to give your best to those who are there.
Perhaps the best part of the six-hour set is the last hour. You know you're nearing the finish line, and so does everyone else. If you've done your job at the club, there will still be a ton of hopping people there and you won't run out of material. But if you're playing in a regular bar, most people will be gone by 3 AM. This, to me, is when the real fun starts. Everyone still there is either a staff member or drunk, which can really give you freedom to experiment. If there are some couples lying around on the couches staring into each other's eyes, help them out by playing some slow love jams. Never heard the B-side of your new record? Now is the time to check it out.
A long set can be challenging and flat-out tiring; but when you finish, it does have that sort of crossing-the-finish-line feeling to it. So be prepared to lug those record boxes into the winner's circle when it's all over.