The office I work in seriously needs to be quarantined. There are so many of us that have been sick lately we seem to work in a sea of hand sanitizer and forests of Kleenex. Whatever nasty bug has bitten us has gone around more often than requests for The Wobble at your last wedding gig. So as I hack over my keyboard even now I’m inspired to bring up the subject of how you all handle DJing when you’re under the weather, or worse, downright sick as a dog.
Well for me the short answer is always “the show must go on”. Unless circumstances get drastic, like having to go to a hospital, doing the gig no matter what seems a no brainer. Hopefully it doesn’t happen often (knock on wood) but with as many gigs as we do every year, it’s inevitable that there are a going to be a couple gigs that hit at the same time as a nasty bug. And because DJ days are so long and often labor intensive, feeling like crap can get magnified quickly. Like everything else in the DJ world, it’s good to be prepared. Here are a couple things I keep in my mind during those times I’d rather have my head in a humidifier than in a pair of headphones.
If You absolutely can’t make the gig…
As I said I’m a firm believer that unless you’re on deathbed you should be at the gig. I’ve been on stage in situations before where I would make an announcement or sing a song, then run off and throw up and run back with a smile on my face – rinse and repeat. I’ve had fevers, sprained ankles and worse. Still have to do the show. My friend once did a gig where he would play a couple songs then curl up under his table shivering and racked with fever. It’s called being a trooper. But no matter how much we want to go on with the show, sometimes fate has other plans and we simply can’t be there. What to do?
Prepare your clients with emergency protocols – Clients don’t like nasty surprises any more than you do. So during the planning or contracting stages long before the event, be sure you let them know that however rare they may be, emergencies can happen and that if they do, here’s how it will be handled. Clients know emergencies happen and explaining your plan in advance will give them added comfort in booking you. Assure them that no matter what, their event won’t be effected and that whoever is on the gig will be a prepared professional. Be sure to explain this in contracts as well. You may also want to explain during these preliminary planning stages that if an emergency does arise, you may not try to contact them about it the day of the event. I’ve been in this situation and I have found that if there really is no way for me to go through with an event for whatever emergency reason and I’m sure the event will be covered professionally for me, there’s no need to worry the clients during their special day. I think that has the potential to make things worse. I don’t want them preoccupied with my problems throughout the day. I would do everything possible to make sure and confirm my sub arrived on time and had all the details and have him or her quietly introduce themselves when they arrive, explain the situation and assure them that they are prepared and that things will go smoothly. What do you think?
So it goes without saying that it’s always a good idea to have a back-up DJ or substitute prepared whenever possible. This is easier said than done, especially if you’re a single op. But if you feel something bad coming on a couple days before the gig you’re going to need a professional DJ in your network to be prepared to cover for you. Even if you’re a single op, it can be a good idea to be friendly with area multi-ops who may have a larger network of available DJs with the experience to quickly cover an event.
Mum’s the word – If you do go to the gig and are feeling bad, don’t announce it to anyone. I’ve seen this happen in auditions sometimes, where someone may have a scratchy throat and start the audition explaining they don’t feel good. I find that this can color the audition for me. I may have thought they still sounded great and might not have ever known they were sick. Now I’m thinking their performance was less than it could have been. The same goes on a DJ gig. No one needs to know anything other than you’re a great MC hosting a great party. They never have to see the Vicks and Kleenex behind your facade.
Don’t get other people sick – Avoid shaking hands or sharing your mic for announcements. This should be subtle but avoid as much contact as possible.
Bring an assistant – This is a luxury I’ve really never had, but if you feel something nasty coming on before a gig, enlist one of your contacts to help you out. At least to help with set up and tear down to help you conserve energy. They can also help keep the music going if you feel you need to take a quick break to medicate or just blow your nose.
Hydrate – Goes without saying but come prepared with lots of water or juice and keep pumping the fluids through the day/gig. Bring things that will help you stay comfortable like lozenges and tea.
Let us know how you handle fighting the creeping crud during gigs. In the meantime, here’s to a HEALTHY gig season!!