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Why Do So Many DJs Look So Bored?

You look bored doing the same job every day, why shouldn't they?

by Josh Baines
May 17 2016, 1:57pm

This article was originally published on THUMP UK Defending the Indefensible is a semi-regular series which sees us trying to find merit in the abject, the terrible, and the deathly dull. We don't believe that there's such a thing as "guilty pleasure," so this series sets out to prove that even the most shocking and schlocky corners of dance music can find a home in somebody's heart.

In a minute, you're going to scroll slightly down the page and press play on a video. As you watch that video you're going to realize that you're watching a video of someone doing their job. The person doing their job looks like the last thing on earth that they want to do is their job. They look like they'd rather be licking grit off a lint roller or massaging an oiled up and aroused Melvyn Bragg.

Now, we all have days like that. Pretty much everyone spends weeks, months, years of their working life hating every fucking awful fucking second of it. That, sadly, is life. I say pretty much everyone because Ainsley Harriott always seems to be enjoying himself.

Most of us however are loathed to work. But work we must in order to enjoy bed, board, and the occasional $12 burger. Still though, you've got to at least attempt to at least attempt to pretend that working isn't the quickest way to a ennui-induced early grave. Sometimes at least. Every so often the facade cracks and that urgent sense of inner turmoil expels itself through every orifice imaginable. That can manifest itself in a number of ways, from big, brash blind rage to horrifyingly quiet seething. There's another way, though, one that's possibly even more damaging, and it's one you can see in the video below:

During the entirety of his set at Tomorrowland 2015, Richy Ahmed looks bored out of his skull. This is not an attack on Richy Ahmed or the festival or the crowd of face-painted Europeans who politely bob about to the Hot Creations man's 90 minutes of tech-house like a 20,000 strong gang of skittles that have been brushed very lightly by a pearlescent blue bowling ball. It might have been chilly, Richy might have been thinking about clearing out the litter tray when he finally got home, someone in the audience might have suddenly remembered the harrowing 1985 Soviet war drama Come and See and started telling everyone around them about it. We'll never know exactly why it looks like a wet weekend in Solihull, but still, it looks about as much fun as a fun as a wet weekend in Solihull, and it's not a one off.

At festivals and in clubs around the world, an endless procession of DJs spend their nights with faces slipping into the kind of bleakly blank non-countenance normally associated with grouting, while tingling intoxicators stumble from dancefloor to smoking area and back again, their faces a terrifying blend of bug eyes and tight jaws. Most of us are too fucked to notice that the night's entertainer is displaying the kind of body language that mumbles "Please let me go home, I've got two episodes of The Hairy Bikers' Pubs That Built Britain to catch up on."

Look at Vera here, or Loefah there. This isn't just concentration—though it's definitely rooted in it. This is a kind of strangely admirable boredom. There's a perverse honesty about it, a kind of acceptance that fantasy and reality are never supposed to meet.

Read more: In defense of bad DJs

Clubbing can, when it's bad, when it's dull, when it fails to reach those dizzying heights of transcendence we're all looking for every time we step through the doors of Tresor or Canavan's or Mercy, be a uniquely boring experience. And it's boring in a way that's actually boring, as opposed to the the kind of boredom we tweet about when we're actually just linguistically displaying a manifestation of choice-anxiety and millennial-arrogance. It's boring in a lonely way, the kind of boring that makes you think of rural train stations or November afternoons. There you are, surrounded by the teeming hordes, all those lights, all that noise, and it feels like something big should be happening, something transformative. But it doesn't. Not often. The night seeps into another listlessly hungover morning, another dreary day of the Antiques Roadshow and toast for dinner. And that might explain why DJs look bored sometimes, too, and why boredom isn't the terrible crime we occasionally make it out to be.

The fact of the matter is that for all our lionization, for all of our praise and expectation, for all our myth-making, the DJ is just a man or woman doing their job. It just so happens that their job involves playing music to people who've paid money to send themselves into a kind of interpersonal armageddon, rather than data entry for an educational sales company. As I've said above, each and every one of us finds our job (at times) frustrating and alienating and...boring. There are footballers who hate football, actors who hate acting — making a living is never as pleasurable as it looks to the outsider. Why would DJs be any different? Get past the adulation and the free booze and the nice hotels and the romantic dinners and the whole playing records for a living thing and it's just a job.

Read more: In defense of "House Every Weekend" by David Zowie

Seeing a DJ look bored is, initially, disarming. You sputter and stammer internally, throwing wordless accusations at the headphone-wearing figure aloof and alone in their booth. "You're meant to be entertaining me," you want to shout, before adding "You're meant to look like you're enjoying yourself!" If they're not having fun, how can I? And that's the thing: we need to, somehow, in some way, ignore the DJ. Let them look tired and miserable and hungry and annoyed at themselves for missing yet another great offer at DFS. Let their faces fix into sourness and sadness. Let them look like as disaffected and blank and bored as the rest of us feel. Let them live the lives they're living, and not force them into our understanding of nightlife and our childish need for entertainment.

Because, when you think about it, do we really, actually, want to live in a world where we expect our DJs to throw cakes at one another? Where a manic grin is as important as mixing? Where fun becomes forced? I for one, don't. All hail the bored DJ.

Josh is on Twitter