Starting from Scratch

Posted on June 26, 2012 by webmaster

-written by Brett Allen

Get it? It’s a pun because I used to be a DJ — never mind. Actually, over the last 20 years, I have been a club, wedding and event DJ, a radio personality and as of lately, a member of a band. When I first started out, we played at the largest club in the area. The dance floor had about 40 PARs covered with five different-colored gels and a — wait for it — mirror ball with a minimum of two spots illuminating it. I eventually relocated to a different venue where the owner operated a high energy, Vegas-style nightclub. In addition to the basic fixtures, we bought intelligent lighting, fog machines, confetti canons and a laser that didn’t do anything except shoot a beam across the bar and presumably blind people, but it sure looked cool. We were something new and exciting, and it worked for us.

When I started the band, I applied the basic principles of DJ formatting. We knew our target demographic, practiced until we were tight and had a front man with
personality. Even though we attracted a decent-size crowd, it was nothing like we envisioned.  We decided to go out and see what other bands had going for them. One was musically better than us, but had a minuscule crowd. (Maybe it had something to do with their boring performance — they just stood there and didn’t move.) The next group was awful but had a huge crowd. Their singing was bad and they were out of tune.  The difference was their band had energy and ambiance, and we didn’t.

I stepped back and realized our band needed to be run the same way as my wedding business. Let’s face it, well-placed lights create energy and complement the mood of a song. I built light monitors, linked them together and attached four PARs and a strobe light. The monitors form an arc around the front of the band and bathe the singer and guitarists in light while a bar system featuring sound-activated lights is located at the rear of the stage.

I’ve decided to ditch everything and move to LED and DMX controlled lights. I’m trying to decide what will work best for me in terms of programming. My goal is to build up my show, light by light, and create scenes. So if you are in a band or starting out as a DJ, it seems you can build a system that won’t cost an arm and a leg but will create huge energy on the dance floor. Just by starting from scratch.