It’s a slow and delicate mating dance, the thing with drugs. The unwritten rule is that stimulants are there if the DJ makes an overture, but it’s often a bad sign if you are offered them – especially if it happens in the car. When you’ve flown 3,000 miles and been awake pretty much for three days solid, who wants to do lines in the airport car-park just to be alert and chatty for the next 40 mins in a car?
The first sign is often the immediate BOOM BOOM BOOM when the car door opens and it becomes clear that your driver listens to ear-bleeding music at welding volume at all times. DJs work with loud music, so some believe they like loud music all the time. No.
The best (worst) moment of all is that moment when the conversation ends and the driver ‘accidentally’ puts his own mix on: “This is me, by the way!” Having said that, it can be smart to wake up and pay attention if it’s the driver’s own productions; not only are you getting a free A&R session but a vital crash-course in local tastes. Often, the person who picks you up is the promoter, the resident and often one of the best producers in town – sometimes in their whole country. But it’s also sometimes audio pollution that makes you sick out of your ears.
Paulo was both the local promoter and DJ. I’d arrived in Italy late at night from Ibiza. It was pretty much only possible to arrive late due to it taking a minimum of two flights to get anywhere off-season. Some parts of Italy are extremely bohemian, and I thought nothing of landing at 2am for a gig from 4am ’til 8am. I did start to wonder when the call-sheet said the journey from airport to gig was 90 mins. That seemed long. Paulo was ridiculously urbane, good-looking, well dressed and unusually reserved at pick-up. It was only when we got outside into the heat that I noticed he was sweating profusely and chewing constantly. There, in the bus stop lay-by, right outside the main doors, was a brand new Lamborghini Murciélago parked at an obtusely diagonal angle denoting an arrogance usually reserved for police cars. “Nice,” I thought as I walked past.
“Nononono!” barked Paulo as he called me back, opened the crazy winged doors and started to cram, squash and generally worry my bags into the tiny compartment. I was impressed.
As the door closed and we screamed away from Arrivals I mentioned in passing to a visibly unhappy Paulo that it seemed a long way from the airport to the gig. Turns out the gig was in a completely different city, with, I might add, its own perfectly functional airport. I managed to squeeze from the monosyllabic Paulo the reasoning behind this decision: it was simply cheaper to book my flights to arrive at this one, 400 miles away. And anyway, he informed me, it was an honour, for I was being driven in his best car. “You like the car?” I did like the car. But it was very, very uncomfortable with all my stuff on top of me.
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