Disc jockeys are cocky by nature, says Eddie Hansen. So the Wichita promoter didn't have any trouble finding DJs willing to pit their skills against one another in a competition.
"We all like to talk about who's better than who," said Hansen, who's a DJ himself. "Certain towns like to claim they're the best. This contest settles it all. We're going to find out who the best is in the Midwest."
Called the "DJ Midwest Throwdown," the contest features 25 DJs from Wichita and nine other cities facing off on Thursday nights at America's Pub.
Each week through Dec. 30, five DJs will battle it out at the microphone and turntable, trying to win over a trio of judges. Finalists from each of the five weeks will meet to decide the championship on Jan. 8.
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Although the crowd doesn't have a vote, it will definitely influence the outcome. The most important judging criteria is how well the DJ fires up the crowd.
"Does the DJ read the crowd right or go off in his own little world?" Hansen said. "You want a DJ who's a party rocker."
Hansen, who's not competing, called the contest a good opportunity for DJs and their fans alike.
The competition was by invitation only. Helped by other friends in the business, Hansen came up with a list of notable DJs in Wichita, Dallas, Chicago, Oklahoma City and elsewhere. Everyone he asked put up the $75 entry fee and agreed to pay their way to the contest.
"A lot of DJs in this contest have DJed from Hollywood to New York," Hansen said.
There's a $1,000 top prize.
Contestants are each given 30-minute sets, during which they choose what songs to play, blend one song into another, talk to the crowd and add "scratching" and other tricks if they wish. Nothing can be prerecorded, Hansen said.
The judges panel, which changes each week, will include a nightclub owner or manager, a non-competing DJ, and a regular clubgoer.
In the case of a tie, the top two DJs go into "battle mode" — playing two songs each and creating transitions off each other's material until last call.
That's what happened in the first week, when DJ CEO of Springfield, Mo., won a playoff with DJ Envious of Dallas.
Contrary to Hansen's description of the trade, DJ CEO —"or you can call me 'The CEO, or CEO" — sounded more analytical than cocky when asked about his win.
"It could have went either way," he said. "I think the reason I won, honestly, is selection. I pulled out some real bangers at the end. He made a couple critical mistakes."
The CEO said DJing — blending, scratching, cutting and most of all playing great music —"is a dying art form, for sure. There are so many push-button DJs out there. This brings skills back to the forefront instead of just playing top 40 records."
Given one more chance to brag about his first-round victory, CEO declined.
"I come from an old-school mentality. We don't talk with our mouths, we speak with our hands. If you're good enough, you don't have to tell everybody how good you are."
If you go
2010 MIDWEST DJ THROWDOWN
What: A contest pitting 25 DJs from Wichita and nine other cities against one another to find the best one
Where: America's Pub, 116 N. Mead
When: 9 p.m. Thursdays through Dec. 30, finals Jan. 8
How much: Admission $5
For more information, go to midwestDJthrowdown.com.