By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
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At the end of his set, Lego dropped a simple beat for Jake to build up from. The crowd breathed as one impatient mass while Harman waited for his computer to boot up. He knew that if it didn't, 3rdRail would be the one booted.
"All of a sudden you hear BOOM, tsk, BOOM BOOM, tsk. Everyone in the crowd started nodding their heads and digging the beats. It was the most successful feeling when it all worked.
"I don't see the rave scene as my niche, but there are people within that scene that are like me. It's a network," Harman says.
One performer that Harman has met through his networking is Radar, a DJ in the internationally known crew Bombshelter DJs. In the past two years, Radar has won several awards, including a New Times Music Award for Best Club DJ.
"The thing that's so cool about Radar is he's so big, but so humble," Harman says. "He'll drop some names, but it's not like he's bragging. He's living it. There are a lot of DJs with no skills who say, 'Yeah, I can outscratch you.' The same is true in wrestling. The guys who talk the most shit are the ones who always get throttled."
Radar's resume reads like a table of contents for Source magazine. He's performed on the same bills as such bands as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Notorious B.I.G. and the Wu Tang Clan. He's earned an internship for the Beastie Boys' label, and he was the DJ for the Dallas Cowboys' private party after Super Bowl XXX. He is only 21, and the world is his turntable.
The two met one night when Radar was performing at Nita's Hideaway, a bar the Bombshelter DJs turned into their own showcase.
"We love to convert people who aren't into our kind of music," Radar says. "One night, there were a bunch of bikers that came in. They wound up staying the whole night. They left saying, 'This was fucking cool.'"
Harman had admired Radar's skills on the turntable before, so he brought along a Walkman and a tape of his own work for Radar to hear. He approached Radar during a break and gave him the gear. Talented DJs like Radar are used to having no-name hopefuls drop a tape on them for feedback. He politely told Harman he'd listen to it later and put the Walkman aside. A determined Harman picked up the Walkman, put the earphones on Radar's head and pressed play.
"I said to him, 'You made this on your computer?' It was really similar to the type of stuff I like to do," Radar recalls.
Now they are working together, first for Harman's art and music exhibition. They have plans to burn a CD. A room in Radar's house has been converted into a music studio with enough equipment to keep the duo productive. He has a bookcase containing more vinyl records than most music stores, and another giant pile stacked against the wall. On the same wall is a picture Harman shot of Radar, working behind the turntable.
"A good day for us is when we get to wear socks all day," Harman says. "If we don't have to put on shoes and go anywhere, then we probably got a lot of work done."
The show at Memorial Union is under way, and Harman's best-laid plans continue to be waylaid. The sound guy never does show up, so Jake and the other performers are relying on two weak speakers that buzz like plastic kazoos if the volume is turned up. The crowd of 100 or so doesn't seem bothered by the sound problem. After all, the show is free and there are cake, soda and Blow Pops, compliments of the house.
But Harman cares. This show is his baby, and he thinks it's so ugly he doesn't know which end to slap.
"This is going horrible," he says.
Midsong, Harman decides to put the speakers on wooden podiums to bring them to ear level. Now the volume needn't be so high, and the sound is much cleaner.
Meanwhile, the audience has its choice of entertainers to watch. Radar's hands blur across the turntable like a hip-hop superhero. Mike Ricci alternates between playing the bass and generating various techno sounds with a sampler and two CD turntables. Dan Salas, the guitar player from Harman's high school band, has driven in from California to add his skills. And Chris Gough of the Dennis Rowland Band has given up a paying gig to play keyboard.
Satisfied--but not delighted--with the sound, Harman strums the computer, overseeing the musical circus.
Someone in the crowd has brought a microphone, and asks Harman if he can plug in. Harman agrees, and the newcomer starts freestyling rap lyrics over the beats. This fires up the crowd and further camouflages the lack of quality sound. The mike is passed around like a joint as different members of the audience hit rhymes.
"I've never seen an art gallery with music before," says ASU senior Steve Lee, one of the rappers at the show. "I'm glad I came to this thing. It's cool."