GALVESTON — Local DJs fed off the energy from a diverse crowd of music lovers as they spun and scratched songs to the tune of a 120,000 watt sound system on the Jagermeister DJ Stage Friday at Electric Mardi Gras. The young musicians said the event encouraged them turn the volume up on their careers as live performers.
The crowd stayed strong until the last performance despite the absence of the night’s headlining act, DJ VICE, a Californian famous for his electronic dance music. Yaga’s Entertainment Director Mike Dean said VICE was the victim of a scheduling mistake that event sponsor Red Bull refused to correct.
Texas A&M University at Galveston student Sean Haley said something in the air drew him to the scene that throbbed with samples of hip-hop, rap, dub step, electronic dance, rock and just about everything except country music.
“This is better than what I’ve heard on the radio,” Haley said. “It’s not just the sound — it’s the laser-light show and whole environment — the crowd is relaxed and we’re all here to have a good time.”
Clear Lake resident Seth Villarreal, aka DJ Villa, said the concert topped the inaugural Jagermeister DJ Stage he played during Mardi Gras 2012. The 24-year-old musician said the experience “re-lit his flame” for spinning dynamic sounds.
Villarreal was 17 when he started spinning at parties back in the day when he still lugged around cases laden with hundreds of records that he has since uploaded to a laptop. He supplements his income as a musician with his winnings as a professional poker player, but is serious about pursuing a full-time career as a DJ.
“Anyone can be a DJ if they have a laptop, turn table, music and the right software,” Villarreal said. “
It was a true test of a DJ’s talent is how much effort, or how little, DJs devote into their live performances.
“If I can keep the energy moving the crowd will keep moving,” Villareal said. “What the crowd is feeling is what I give them. I’m not playing for myself.”
Pushing the play button on a pre-recorded track is the laziest kind of live performance because it prevents the DJ from adjusting tone or tempo with the audience, Villarreal said.
“Some DJs create the whole show at home before they even get on stage, but presets sabotage the show if the crowds aren’t feeling it,” he said. “And if the DJ is bored, the crowd will get bored.”
For 22-year-old Galveston native Zach Toth, aka DJ Ragyd, (pronounced “Ragged”) the evening was an opportunity to show his peers how much his spinning has improved since he moved from the island to Corpus Christi.
He described his particular brand of music as moombahcore, with a mid tempo that gets “dirty and raunchy,” but without the negative connotation.
“This show is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s definitely my inspiration to move forward (with my career).”
Armed with 400 gigabytes of music, Toth said his game-changing performance took advantage of Jagermeister’s “great sound system.”
Sound Engineer Jay “Static” Bethel was responsible for accommodating the technical changes in the frequency of the music DJs applied via laptops onstage. His instrument was a sound mixing console loaded with $20,000 worth of technology and buttons.
It was his job to ensure every note the DJs spun, scratched and sampled on stage was amplified using 30 subwoofer speakers that massaged the crowd with 120,000 watts of sound, Bethel said.
“We play Mardi Gras louder than other events,” he said.
He also worked the sound for live performances during Lone Star Rally, and said both events posed unique challenges for musicians. Sure, they had to compete for a crowd’s attention with musicians performing on other stages, but Bethel said crowds were just as easily distracted when Mardi Gras beads sailed through the air as they were when motorcycles roared down the street.
“We have to push up the volume on stage when parades go by because those draw the crowds looking for beads,” he admitted. “The DJs have to read the crowd and switch up their sound to keep things interesting.”