Vinyl Adventure

A weekend tagalong with a top DJ offers insight into the rigors of a life spent spinning on the road

Saturday, 6 p.m. The turntables are finally set up and plugged in, and Z-Trip hits the wax after Gang Starr's set; there's been no word about Swamp or Tony Touch for quite some time. Z-Trip scratches for a minute, then jumps on the mike, asks the crowd how they're feeling, then inquires, "How many of y'all are high as fuck?" They respond exuberantly to Z-Trip's inquiry.

Next, he throws on a bit of Rage Against the Machine as a churning mosh pit develops in front of the stage. Just as Z-Trip blends Rage into a Dr. Dre track, the stage manager abruptly tells him that Redman's coming on, now, and the set halts.

After Redman finishes, Z-Trip throws on some dance hall, which the kids don't seem especially receptive to -- we're talking about 50,000 white suburban teenagers with backward baseball caps who are really here to see Limp Bizkit. He starts mixing LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" and the crowd gets moving; the kids up front are a captive audience as they're pressed firmly against the steel barricades. As Z-Trip plays, Pennywise's equipment is wheeled onstage and green laser lights shoot through the dim dusk of the sky. Z-Trip blows the crowd away as he juggles the opening riffs and dog barks of Jane's Addiction's "Been Caught Stealin'," which eventually fades into Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride" -- even the crew members onstage are bouncing to the beats. Following the theme of the day, he throws on a country song whose lyric begins "Up in smoke, that's where my money goes," but the crowd can't hear the words because the techs have begun testing the instrument levels.

DJ Z-Trip: Lost luggage and Limp Bizkit are among the many obstacles the turntablist faced on the road.
DJ Z-Trip: Lost luggage and Limp Bizkit are among the many obstacles the turntablist faced on the road.

Details

Scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 16. Showtime is 9 p.m. Z-Trip is also scheduled to appear at the Swell "Acid Reign" party on Saturday, January 20, at the Icehouse.
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Eventually, Z-Trip gives up mixing and just lets the records play -- he can't hear anything over the sound check. The stage is cleared, Z-Trip ends his set, and Pennywise comes on. Z-Trip packs the records back up and Tony Touch starts getting his out, but it'll be of little use. After Pennywise finishes, Touch gets to play only a couple of records before being told that the DJ setup's gotta go, we're done.

We get the records and mixers packed, and we're herded to the rear ramp of the stage by overenthusiastic rent-a-thugs eager to clear the way for Limp Bizkit. We don't want anything but to get the hell back to the hotel, eat, and go to sleep, but in the absence of a suitable transport to move our considerable gear, it takes another hour to reach the rear gate.

Once there, we're again confronted with transportation issues. We call the hotel and they promise to send someone soon. Standing just inside the rear gate, we bump into DJ Swamp, who's been here since 9 a.m. and hasn't even set foot on the stage, much less put a record on. He tells Z-Trip about his recent attempts at MCing and offers to bust some rhymes for us. The tall, pale longhair with black nail polish raps a couple songs, reading lyrics off his Palm Pilot. One has a chorus that goes "If God was a DJ/What record would he play?"

After the exhausting, frustrating and sometimes harrowing experiences of the past few days, one thing seems perfectly clear: If there is a God, he ain't no DJ. Front man for a rap/metal combo maybe, but the good Lord's standard of living is too damn high to be a turntablist.

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