Playing to an empty room

Yesterday we celebrated my wife’s birthday in our home town of Birmingham (UK).

It was a three-part event.  Sixty of our family and friends had a private viewing of the classic movie High Society in the small screen of the lovely Art Deco Electric Cinema, then a Chinese meal at Barbecue Village – who looked after us brilliantly.

And then we moved on to cocktails and dancing at Sence – a brand new bar/club on the premises of what used to be 52 Degrees North.  Again the staff there were lovely, helpful and thoughtful but they were rather let down by the young DJ.

I was concerned when we arrived at about 10pm. As Sence has only just opened, they are still building up their reputation, so it was far from crowded.  The (big) dance floor was empty and the DJ was playing banging commercial dance, very loud, over the punchy sound system. Classic error: trying to create a happening atmosphere, when actually it makes stepping onto the dance floor very forbidding.

We’d given them a steer as to the sort of stuff that our lot would like and he made a desultory attempt at playing that (but he clearly didn’t have any/much 70s stuff, for example). A few danced, but he very quickly went back into his comfort zone and cleared the floor again.

Technically, he was fine.  Good mixing, consistent levels and so on. But DJing is about atmosphere, mood and energy – assessing the mood in the room and moving it gently in the direction you want, which eventually is a dance floor full of people having a good time.

But you can’t do that in one jump.  If he had:

  • stepped onto the dance floor a couple of times to feel how isolated a dancer would be there under that relentless beat,
  • used his eyes to assess the people who were there (older, in black tie),
  • thought about why most of us were staying behind the glass in the VIP area, rather than venturing out onto the dancefloor,

he might have played some more mid-tempo, possibly some older tunes, and gently enticed more and more of us – and the other customers – into having a dance.  Once he’d got us in the right mood, we’d have danced happily to the vocal 4/4 and a lot more besides.

We’d have had a better time – and so would he.

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The INQ 1 “Facebook phone”

A week or so ago I was surprised to get an email inviting me to a mysterious launch of some gadget that would, allegedly, improve my social life.

And it specifically mentioned this blog.

I was surprised because:

This is hardly a must-see blog.  Although my post on how I write the Who’s Who in The Archers book had over 1000 views, that’s exceptional.

And it’s not exactly a blog on tech or gadgety things.

Flattery turned to intrigue when the actual invitation arrived in the mail:  a rubber stamp, ink pad and piece of rough paper on which to print my own invitation.

dried on paper stamp and pad

dried on paper invitation

(These pix courtesy of Ms Geeky)

Dried on Paper… sounded like ink was involved somehow.

There was a little speculation in the blogosphere about what this was all about, but it was only on the day itself  that the suggestion arose that it was a phone.

A phone… seems a bit disappointing after all that build-up.  But it seemed like a pretty clever phone – very tied into social networking sites like Facebook, but at a much cheaper price than the iPhone or other smartphones.

So I made my way down to London’s trendy Shoreditch, partly because Unabombers were playing and Hexstatic were doing the visuals, which seemed to imply that that the event should be of good quality.

And it was.  Lots of attractive young people (who were they? why were they there?), plenty of free booze and not enough food to soak it up (nibbles courtesy of Jamie Oliver’s nearby “15” restaurant).  And indeed the music and visuals were good.

inq 1 launch - visuals

And I have to say the phone itself – the INQ 1 (‘Ink One” – geddit) is a cunning piece of kit.  Cleverly integrated with Facebook, Skype, MSN Messenger, Last.fm (not Twitter yet, although you can access Twitter via its browser, as you can RSS feeds).

inq1phone

It’s relatively small – much more the size of a Motorola RAZR than an iPhone or Nokia N95/96.

And at a base £15 per month with unlimited web/Facebook/Skype calls/texts plus 75 voice minutes (an extra £5 a month gives you  200 minutes) it’s very attractively priced compared with its flashier rivals.

I think they could be on to something.

Detailed review from The Guardian.

(I eventually worked out why I’d been invited, by the way, once I’d realised that 3 was involved.  It’s because I wrote about my 3 mobile internet dongle a while back. Somehow I didn’t think they wanted me because of my series about camping equipment for festivals :o)