The Working Class DJ’s Survival Kit

He’s been rockin’ crowds and moving asses for more than 20 years, and Danny Clavesilla has learned through trial and error about the absolute necessities every DJ needs in their gig bag. Let him break it down for you…

I wanted to talk about some things that are essential when DJing, some obvious, some that not too many people really bring up or talk about. These are things that as a working-class DJ, you should never leave home with out.

shutterstock_162774368Stay Comfortable!

Besides the things you should always have in your bag, you should also always wear a pair of comfortable shoes. Can’t stress this shit enough.

You’ll be standing for long periods of time, and it can range anywhere from a one hour set to marathons that last eight hours, or even longer. DJing can really take a toll on your body, especially if you’re constantly travelling and getting very little sleep. Chefs use rubber anti-fatigue mats to stand on in professional kitchens. These mats are soft and act as a shock absorber for your body, knees and back. Very useful in the DJ world, and about 97% of artists, clubs and promoters have never even thought about using them, or considered buying one. If you ever step into a nightclub that has these in the booth, then it is a well-run venue and someone there is doing their job correctly. I’ve considered buying my own and taking them with me to my local gigs. Plus, if you’re short you can buy like, three, and add a couple inches.

Hygiene & Health

Hand sanitizer is so important! There are various DJs, sound techs and booth groupies touching the equipment and turning knobs daily, which means billions of germs are in your immediate area. Not good. Use your hand sanitizer. I’ve watched numerous DJs share the same control vinyl records and lick their fingers while playing. Seriously gross. Use your own control vinyl records and don’t let anyone else touch them.

Near the top of my list are wet wipes of some kind. I use Wet Ones. Keep a small packet of these on you, as you never know what you may need ‘em for. In my experience, the club and especially the booth can get very hot, and at some point you will start to break into a sweat while playing. Wet wipes will keep you fresh and clean with a quick wipe down between songs. You also might pack a towel or two, especially in summertime.

Airborne. Yep, Airborne. You’re in a hot venue full of hundreds, if not thousands of people. That means an unusual amount of germs floating around in theshutterstock_170336117 air, not to mention the various people coming up to request songs who are in your face. Boost your immune system.

Speaking of being in people’s faces, you should keep gum or breath mints on you. Just because the patrons have cigarette & alcohol breath doesn’t mean you should too.

Utility Items

Next up, business cards. People will ask for them, or you may wish to give them to someone that is there. Perhaps another promoter checking out your set, or someone that wants to book you for a corporate or private event. Many of my additional bookings come from just playing out and being prepared when opportunity popped up.

A small flashlight is key. DJ booths are very dark. You may drop something, you might need to see to plug a cable in, or need to be able to read the labeling on your CDs/vinyl if you use them. Or you could simply need to dig around in your bag. Flashlights come in handy.

shutterstock_135979421I always have a pencil with an eraser on the top. Many times I’ll show up to a venue and for some reason or another, the headshell does not get a solid connection to the needle when mounted on the tone arm. My first trick to solve this issue, which almost always works, is to stick the end of the pencil with the eraser on it into the end of the tone arm, apply light pressure and give it a few rotations. It cleans the dirt and/or gunk off the metal inside the tone arm. You can do the same to the connecting end of your headshell as well, or rub it on your jeans if you’re wearing coarse denim.

If this does not work, I keep a small spray bottle and pen-type applicator of DeoxIT. You can scoop this up at Radio Shack, or try your electronics department at Walmart, or similar stores. A spritz of this will remove any oxidation build up that may come from other DJs who still think licking the head shell gives it a better connection. That is a myth and all it does is rust the metal parts, making the connection worse. And it’s kind of disgusting.

Make sure you have a plain old writing pen. You may need it for various reasons: writing down a phone number, special requests, internet passwords, etc.

The Basics

shutterstock_149841029You need your headphones, slipmats & control vinyl (if using turntables) and at least three needles mounted on headshells (again, if you’re using turntables). You never know when a needle might break and you’ll need a new one. If you have an extra one mounted and ready to go, you can simply swap them out in a matter of seconds. I personally keep four needles mounted on headshells ready to go, along with two extra stylus tips.

Music…do I even need to explain this?

Most venues will supply just about everything except for the items I’ve mentioned. I could go on and on, but these are your basics. Pack this stuff with you and you’ll be well prepared.

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