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Someday on Sunday

I have this habit of enjoying playing records outdoors in public places.

21 Oct 2003

It all sort of started back in Wellington in 98. I started looking out for and finding publicly accessible power points.

At the time I was toying with the idea of renegade parties, where we would sweep in, set up, plug in a big PA and rock the block for a while. Of course if you get busted, this can involve all sorts of authorities who confiscate gear, hand out fines and generally ruin you day.

Still we did head out in Wellington a few times and to have some out door dj sessions, on a smaller scale. One of my favorite times was at a little spot at the top of Adams Terrace, Wellington. The University building just to your left at the top of the steps has a little amphitheatre, with a live power point!

We waited for one of those lazily warm summer nights where the breeze is light and the mood relaxed. Just three of us, a set of decks and monitors, not loud, not banging, just not at home.

We hung out for a few hours, mixing tunes and playing with yo-yo's as you do.

On other travels around the country I have always looked for place where you could plug in and play. I guess you could call them 'free power parties'.

Nelson has an excellent spot just up the Maitai River, right next to some coin operated BBQ's. So perfect for a summer jam. The trick was not to crank the music up so loud that people around you got annoyed.

That summer in Nelson prompted me to conceive the concept of Gathering Picnics: almost impromptu picnics with a dj and sound system. Some beatnik idea I had about using music in a park to bring people together who were planning on going to the Gathering. All so that faces could be meet and mild sense of community be established prior to the New Years mayhem.

More recently, we set out on a four deck adventure in Christchurch. Initially we went to the Band Rotunda in the Gardens. I have video footage somewhere of us setting up the decks in the center of the rotunda.

(read the origional story!)

That was a beauty of day! We managed to play for about 30mins before the utterly shocked Park warden came over to shut us down. He couldn't understand what we were doing, and when he asked why? I replied because there is power point here! In that half hour, we had attracted about 60 random public, including a family celebrating their 6 year olds birthday.

The afternoon got better when we moved our gear over to the Christchurch Arts Center, who were gracious enough to loan us a power point.

We played on a mat, on the grass, four decks. Playing lead and follow where one dj would lead the mix and select his records for the other dj. After about four hours the sun left the courtyard and we wandered home.

I have always found it interesting when playing in a public place. A lot of people have never seen someone Dj. If you consider that you need to go to a club or a dance event to see a Dj then its not surprising.

The afternoon at the Art Center attracted people of all ages; many older people came and sat right beside us watching what we were doing, asking questions.

The wider public can have a perception that is related to the media's representation of loud flashing party environments with kids on drugs. I don't believe that they would ever imagine dj'ing to be a slightly soulful pastime involving music that is a pleasure to listen too.

Also the fact that Dj'ing involves skills and finesse equal to playing any instrument is a real surprise to the un-initiated.

Just this weekend gone, I took myself to the Band Rotunda in Queenstown. Just two decks a mixer and four speakers. A fantastic sunny Sunday afternoon: people doing what they do in the park, relaxing, reading, playing frisbee golf, and me playing records.

I must have played music for about four hours, quietly, occasionally going for a walk to stretch my legs or have a listen. In that time many people came and went, some came over to chat.

Some people seemed rather perplexed; others took it as natural and just enjoyed the music. What I found interesting is that most everyone asked me why I had not advertised.

I understand people needing to know what is going on, but I had one person who almost refused to accept that I was just doing it for kicks. They almost found it morally wrong to not promote a dj event and turn it in a 'big thing'.

It is interesting for me that after 10 years of dj'ing in New Zealand; the perception and practice of what dj's do is still very narrow. The Dj is type cast as a hype merchant.

Personally I have lost the drive to play to clubs, or headline parties. I just want the ablity to play music in a different context.

The park on sunny day opens up so many things. It's an audible fact that music sounds better outdoors, where there are no surfaces for sound to reflect off. For me it also allows music and sounds to be presented in a different way. Subtlety and obscurity in the mix becomes delicate and insightful.

Most forums for music, like clubs, radio stations even house parties have an expectation or requirement from the dj and the music.

The park, un-advertised allows me to find an open platform to present sounds. I guess it's almost like finding the underground again. Where people accept you for what you are and enjoy it just because you are doing it!

Simon Kong