[Editor's Note: Recently, Heard Mentality received an email from local DJ who told us about the worst gig he ever played. It happened to be at J.Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano. We felt bad for the poor guy because of his shitty experience. We also thought it was funny as hell. And since it's prom season, we figured we'd share it with you.]
By: Drue Mitchell
First off I want to say, that I am going to just tell you guys what happened. By no means is this malicious, or vengeful, and I do not want to offend anyone. There are two reasons I say this. Number 1 is that an extended family member is the one who got me the gig referral, although she doesn't work for JSerra High School anymore (*go figure). Number 2 is that I am the eldest son of a car dealer, and I grew up going to an affluent private school until high school. SO, I know that even though it is a different life and would like to point out, that these kids and children do not choose this life, just like anything else they are born into it. But, having said that, they DO choose how they will act and an unfortunate side effect is entitlement, and that is where the authority issue that seemed to plague my situation stems from. I have been a professional wedding & event DJ for over 10 years and I wish I was joking when I say the gig I did for J. Serra was the worst DJ gig I have ever done.
I was asked by my extended family member (*lets call her Tammi to protect her) who was working in the after-school activities department to DJ the high school's Homecoming a few years ago. She hired me several months before the event and told me there would be some vendor forms, and insurance things we'd need to get done beforehand. I have played fancy hotels and flown to do gigs all over the US so I understand that and have a real booking agent that I am contracted, licensed, insured and bonded through. The first visit to JSerra was not bad, it was around lunchtime for the students, I had a small tour of the place and had to get the schematics of the gym I was playing in. We were going to meet and talk about the gig, what they were expecting, and so forth. The student girls were just as you'd expect, little OC hottie miss know-it-alls, but they were ok.
As I started to tell them about the sound we were going to need and the cost, the school officials that were present started to shrink, and tell me that it was going to be too much and asked if there was anyway we go a cheaper route. Let me stop and say that this gym was HUGE, we were going to need thousands of dollars worth of sound and its not just something you can plug into a wall, we would need outside power (*basically a generator). The student planners were adamant about the extra lighting, color and placement of that lighting. There was a theme to the dance and the lighting had to match. Like most big gigs like this, I let them tell me what they want, I quote them a price, simple. It's the way most vendors work, right? People, if you want the BMW of sound and lighting, you can't pay a used '99 Volvo price. After a long back-n-forth about the pricing of the quotes we finally reached an agreement.
Contacting the company I outsource the gear for the bigger gigs, I booked all the sound and lighting and since it did require a generator, I had to hire one of their guys to help me for set up and tear down. Meanwhile, at JSerra, some of the school staff involved changed, or also got involved and I guess they saw the invoice I had sent them and Tammi contacts me saying, "Hey, the asst. asst. principal wants to talk to you about how much everything is, can you come talk to her?"
Back down I go for another midday meeting. This time sitting in the waiting room of the principals office, I see one of the student girls that was in the previous meeting and I look up and say hello. She scoffs out loud and I can hear her friend says,"Who is that?" After 45-minute wait, I get to see this other principal lady. She goes on to wear me out about the pricing as well, at this time I started to get a feeling down in my gut that I might want to flip this to another DJ, but they had already signed all the contracts, just getting the school to approve the amount of my quote I guess was the problem. I told her she could make it less if there was not so much extra lighting, but the sound was going to need to stay the same if they wanted it to fill the whole gym. She chopped off a few hundred dollars of lighting and told me she would talk to Tammi and the students involved about the change.
Fast forward to the night of the gig, I got there 3 hours ahead of the agreed-upon time frame just because I still had a bad feeling about it. As the sound engineer and I set up and dialed in the sound I had the lighting rigs sitting where they were going to be, the student decoration crew come in and who is leading the charge? Ms. Snootypants from the principal office. She walks up to me and says, "Ummmmh where is the rest of the lighting?" I told her that principal rolled the budget back and cut some of the extras. As the steam rise out of her ears, she said, (and I quote) "That fuckin' bitch she doesn't know what she is talking about! Go get it!" I tried to explain to her that the rental company is not open on Saturdays and its in East Anaheim, she continued to lambaste with colorful profanity the assistant principal and in frustration yell at the other students to hurry up.
My DJ stand was on the free throw line of one baskets on the gym floor and the dance floor was stretched all the way back to the other one. I was on a four-foot stage only really big enough for my DJ table. After the generic "rules & regulations" speech from one of the teachers, I began my set. Sticking heavy to songs that they had given me in the first meeting. Looking out over the gym as it filled up, not a whole lot of dancing was going on, the students were circled up in groups (*I assume to their respective clicks) and glancing over at me occasionally. Some cheerleader-looking girl runs up, jumps up onto my DJ stand, violently shaking my stand (*which is bad because I use turntables with Serato and it shakes the needles and makes the song playing skip) and plainly looks at me and says,"Why the fuck are you playing the techno shit, nobody likes techno!" After her, about 4 more similar girls with similar requests did the same exact thing.
As I started to transition into a more Power106/KIISfm type set from all the requests for generic dubstep and Katy Perry I was getting, then the reverse started happening: about every 12 minutes, a student would come up, rag on the song and insist I play the opposite because it was better, or what I was playing was total shit. Then I started playing some more ghetto/trap type songs, and the two opposing crowds I guess were properly warmed up and started really dancing. I thought to myself, "Ugh, finally I got them going."
As I looked out I noticed some commotion: the teachers and staff that were on the sidelines running into the crowd of students and pulling out a guy and girl. Then it happened again and again. Turns out a few students were freaking and twerking one another in a super-aggressive and sexual way, all under a GIANT depiction of Jesus on the cross. I finally had to have my wife (who came just to see the family member, but felt she needed to help me) try to hold off the bombardment of people coming up to make comments and song requests. I could hardly focus on my mixes. She later told me that three very tall kids began harassing her, literally, making sure she knew that they were very important and influential and that she had better listen to them. They used their height over her to try and scare her into submission to make me do what they wanted. She went over to an adult asking them to please protect her from their threats. The adult came and asked the kids to please step down and go hang out with the other kids. It was anything less than a request. My wife later told me that her heart was racing so fast, she never wanted me to work this school again.
As I came to the end of my set, to a almost-empty dance floor, I said on the mic, "I'm DJ Drue, thank you for letting me be your DJ!" A plastic cup came hurling at me and barely missed my Macbook. At that point I did something I have never done: I shut the song off, closed my laptop and started packing up. Tammi came up to my DJ stand and said, "You really should be playing for about 15 more minutes" I told her that the kids were not into it and we were done, as they weren't they were all clicked up on the sidelines and circled up towards the back of the gym. Then SHE got cross with me and stormed off. Outside, the truck and sound engineer were there to pick up the rented gear. As we got to work tearing down, none of the students helped, I did not see Tammi anywhere. I asked some other teachers and they said she left. I texted her, "Hey, the sound company needs to get their check and so do I can you please advise?"
Well, turns out my invoice was never approved, they had 'this' and 'that' and never got to finally approving my quote so there were no checks at all. As I tried to explain this to a very VERY pissed off sound engineer that he'd have to take almost $2K of sound, lights, outside power and staging back to his company and not be paid, he said that the owner would be contacting me in the morning. I had to make payment arrangements and pay out of pocket for 3 months until J. Serra FINALLY paid my invoice. Of course in the signed contact from my booking agent it says 'to be paid upon completion of event' I almost wound up on them with lawyers. It took 2 more in-person visits before they finally cut me a check.
I remember walking into the main building the 3rd and 4th time past rows upon rows of student BWM's and Lexus and thinking, "Really???? You can't just take care of me because it is the right thing to do? You go to a restaurant, you pay the bill after you eat the food, why is this so hard for you to do this?" There was nothing "Christian" about any of the staff and students I had to deal with. Again, I am merely telling the story I do not mean to slander or put down the school, students or staff. I am not perfect and I am sure that I could've handled the entire situation differently myself. Well, that's it, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!