It's always satisfying when you walk out of a venue, turn to your companion and say "well, that was GOOD!" and it's nods and smiles all around in agreement. Friday night marked my first adventure into the world of turntablism beyond watching the skills of Q-Bert and his ilk in documentaries, or international hip hop DJs in action. I'd gone along to the Metro to catch Victoria's finest battling it out in front of a huge crowd at in the Victorian final of the Technics DMC World DJ Championship 2004.
I had little idea what to expect when I walked into the Metro at 9.30pm. The people were settling in the for evening, but still anxious and waiting for the real action to start. While D-Vise provided the tunes to mingle to, the judges were called to take their places and pick up their clipboards around 10pm. Our first sign that something would happen soon! In the meantime we had a very young and drunk couple doing their best "sexy dancing" to the amusement of many punters. Damn hilarious, but much better once the breakdancers in the crowd stepped out into the open space in front of the stage to test some moves. This got the crowd warmed up, and then we were ready to start with MC Troy and Reason calling the punters in close to start the contest.
Judges assembled, the hosts plugged the sponsors, then outlined the 12 contestants and what they stood to win and away we went! First up was Chango Phat, who took a little while to grab our interest. Contestant #2 was by far my favourite for the evening. Bogues took them on and was a flurry of records and hands, winning my vote for working Sade's "Smooth Operator" into his routine. My position in the upper levels of the Metro had me well place to see how these guys worked with two copies of the same record, and loads of colour markers placed on the vinyl. It was harder to see the slight of hand on the record, but it gave a clue to the strategy, preparation, and view of mixer techniques such a upfader juggles.
Following on were contestants A-Styles, Elev 8, Dialz, who had me quite entranced with his routine and Osyris who just didn’t grab me with his. I think his mention of representing the KillRockStar crew and Pharmacy t-shirt put me off. That's not hip hop? But he had a go with steady concentration. Their short sets were broken up by an impromptu MC competition with 3 local MCs picked from the audience. I've got to say that none of them were a patch on Reason and Fatface (from Adelaide), who along with DJ Flagrant performed songs off Reason's new album "One Step Ahead" at the half point of the competition. It was all classy stuff indeed from Reason, who always intrigues me.
The competition was back on when contestant #7 The Master hit the decks for his few minutes to battle for glory and a blazing finish. Perplex stepped up next and let the skills do the talking without too much attitude. Unfortunately contestant #9, Fubex, left me in a state of bewilderment and covering my ears. I was even in tears by the end. He was easily outshone by the mad scratching of G-Smooth. His was a performance that had the crowd dancing and shouting in support, and my second favourite for the evening. Unfortunately he didn’t even make a place in the top three, and I'd need a little more insight on turntablism to know why. Not enough variety in tracks or tricks? I don't know, while the crowd lapped it up he didn’t light the fires of the judges who included Kuya, Flagrant, J-Red, D-Vise and more.
While most contestants were representing "the South-East", Vawn-A-Grafik was from the "Westside". After a great start he had one error, and it was enough to throw his routine. He tried coolly and calmly to regain his routine but he knew he'd lost his chance. This was a good reminder that it all comes down to the moment, as last year's Australian representative at the World DMC Championship in London can attest.
Last up was Marshmarrow, quiet and waiting to start, the timekeeper was trying to keep him in check until Troy and Reason finished their intros. When he got the nod, the decks started but there was no sound. Here was a good reminder how nerves come into it all. If you needed something to throw you, no sounds through the speakers while the timer is going will do it. Flagrant was up at the decks and a host of others until the technical error was fixed, but then it was time to for Marshmarrow to go again.
While the judges gathered to decide upon their top three, it was time for Lyrical Commission to entertain the crowd. This was my first time at seeing them. It was rather a sensation to have all these voices around me singing along to their songs in a word perfect recital of the rhyme. Aussie hip hop is going from strength to strength when this is the case! I liked their stuff for a while, but then I sat back to watch J-Red's skills on the decks instead of focusing on the MCing.
The winners for the night where then announced (see below) and the evening wrapped up. The competition was an amazing evening for the variety of routines, songs, tricks, attitudes and personalities all at work. Contestants seemed to be trying to psych each other out sometimes with their records, or were busying changing styli to use their own, swapping slipmats or dropping crazy tunes like "Smooth Operator". Though the whole routine goes for such a short time, sometimes it was over all too soon, others not fast enough. The Victorian heats were an excellent night of competition, so don’t hesitate to check the finals in your home state as the talented turntablists of the future step out of their bedrooms and onto the stage. See you at the Australian finals in August!
And the Winners were …..
1st place : DJ Perplex with 12 points
2nd place: Chango Phat with 10 points
3rd place: Bogues with 6points
4th place: DJ Dialz with 4 points
5th place: A-Style and Marshmarrow with 2 points each
Photos of the evening can be viewed in the RA photo gallery here