Take a glimpse at any electronic music event posted on Facebook: one frequently asked question will standout. No, it's not the routine inquiry about cheap tickets from some hapless punter who didn't buy pre-sale. Nor is it the sketchy characters asking if they can bring backpacks in.
The most redundant inquiry is people nagging for set times in advance. Aggressive, often condescending, and totally commonplace, this behavior has become an epidemic.
The practice of releasing set times early is regular for many festivals and clubs, but others are putting their foot down. In promoting their 16th anniversary party this year, London's legendary fabric proudly announced, "We're sorry. We do not release our set times ahead of the party."
Sure, everyone has to plan their evening. In the case of a festival or a mega-club with multiple rooms, the concept of set times is totally valid. After all, you don't expect to miss your favorite DJs if you actually arrive on time. But, demanding to know set times creates the impression that you have something better to do. A night out shouldn't be treated as another appointment that's squeezed into your busy itinerary. At a club you're supposed to be forgetting about the time, not focusing on it.
Planning the evening around set times also factors into how much time you unnecessarily spend at that sketchy pre-party and/or after-party you always regret in the morning. If you know a DJ starts at 1 AM and you're still at home playing "chug the beer" at midnight, you're probably just falling victim to another typical pre-game disaster ending with bong rips, Call Of Duty, and delivery pizza. If you want to head out at 1:30 AM, barely have time to get a drink, and split when the lights come on at three, that's your decision. But it's weak. Really weak.
Announcing set times in advance also creates a logistical dilemma for venues. It's a common scenario where hundreds of patrons—all upon discovering when the headliner is playing—arrive at the same fucking time. This influx causes a strain at the front door as every drunken twenty-something needs to be processed and possibly have their weed confiscated.
Announcing set times can also unfavorably impact the vibe of the night. After all, the objective of any promoter worth his salt is to program a club lineup with artists that complement each other. It's the opening DJs job to set the tempo with a carefully selected mix of warm-up cuts. However, if they're only playing to a sparsely populated dancefloor, the flow is damaged—as is the opportunity to grow local talent. Furthermore, when the headliner finally does step inside the booth, they're expecting a room prepared for the transition. If it isn't busy enough, or the crowd is just settling in, their energy may too be adversely affected.
Many DJs feel the same way about the current obsession with set times and recently spoke to THUMP about it.
Before the days of set times being released across social media, Octopus Recordings boss Sian remembers when it was a real necessity to arrive early. "We felt like that journey from open to close was the proper way to do it," he recalls. "Plus, some of the most interesting DJs I know like to play early. I miss the sheer power of a great opener setting the mood or taking you somewhere."
Italian producer and SCI+TEC regular Francesco Bergomi says, set times be damned, it all depends on who's playing first. "When Richie Hawtin welcomes Sven Väth as a special guest at his ENTER. party in Ibiza and warms up for him, you already know that going there super early will be a truly amazing experience. You'll get to catch a unique and different set from Richie himself."
However, there are others who don't feel as strongly about the matter. Take Toronto's Nathan Barato, who himself once paid his dues as a local act. "I'm indifferent mostly. Although I don't like when promoters are all secretive about it to avoid people coming late," he admits. "It's their money. If they want to come late, they should be able to. Or if you want them there earlier, find a reason to make it worth their time, and they'll be there."
Barato may be right in believing that promoters have to respect the wants of paying customers, but consider this: Would you skip over half a film just to catch the epic conclusion? Well, the same goes for wanting to show up to an event with just two hours left when you're blacked-out from playing flip-cup for three hours.
Christopher is lucky if he makes it past the pre-party and is also on Twitter.