Monday, March 9, 2009

Review: The 2009 Pitch Ultra Music DJ Contest

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Even if one does not drink, take drugs or succumb to a seizure, it's tricky to retain the particulars of an event such as The Pitch Ultra Music DJ Contest at NV. The intense strobe lights, the thunderous and rapid beats, the smoke and glitter pouring out of the ceiling, and the general overstimulation of all senses -- all of that makes for an awesome party.

But not one that's easy to write about afterward. But I do remember what's important.

Click on our winner, Shaun Duval, for a slide show.
  • Click on our winner, Shaun Duval, for a slide show.

I remember, for one, that it was fun as hell. You have not lived until you have surrounded yourself with the finest company in a swank dance club, mixing your own drink from a chilled bottle of Svedka, while all around you, people dance feverishly to the best DJs in Kansas City.

It started around 10 p.m., with our contestants Scott Carpenter, Jamel Rockwell, Kiko De Gallo, Shaun Duval and Kipsquared playing 30-minute sets, back to back, before a dance floor of hungry-hungry hipsters and a discerning panel of judges.

We handpicked these finalists last month, from more than 20 homespun mixes sent to The Pitch office.

Helping to judge this year's event were last year's champs: Sheppa and Johnny D. of the duo Nomathmatics. Joining them were ex-Kabal owner and talent booker Siamack Zahabi, Record Bar owner and renowned local rocker Steve Tulipana, plus Pitch staffer Nadia Pflaum and me. Huge thanks to all of them and to NV resident DJ Shaun Flo for being our ad hoc emcee and for ensuring that things ran smoothly -- and for the bottle of vodka.

In the end, after the final beats of the contest faded out, all but one of the judges voted for Duval. In the minority was Tulipana, who thought Rockwell had delivered the most interesting set. He had a good case, too.

Going second, Rockwell, who is the live DJ for rapper James Christos' True Spittaz Click, had driven the beats per minute to the near-blistering 150 mark and mixed two Nirvana tracks into his set, as if he wanted to turn the dance floor into a mosh pit.

Carpenter, who had gone first (the order having been chosen by a random drawing), had the smallest crowd. But the judges could just as easily have sided with him had his set been great. But instead, it was light on mixing and heavy on songs like CeCe Peniston's "Finally," which would go over great at Missie B's, but at this contest, eh, not so much.

De Gallo, a truly fine DJ born and bred in the clubs of his native Spain, played a solid but, I felt, conservative set. If he had taken more risks and thrown out more surprising and intense bangers, he might have edged out Duval. He's one of the most talented and eclectic DJs in town, but for this contest he packed too light.

The Turkish-born brothers Tunc and Timo Kip of the night's final act, Kipsquared, put on a set that was the most unusual if not the most roof-raising. Tunc and Timo set up their laptop-enabled rig (all the DJs used laptops) on a table at the end of the dance floor that was opposite the club's DJ booth. The move seemed to compact the dance floor, and bejeweled lamps on the DJs' table gave their set a lounge-within-a-club feel.

It was the first gig in Kansas City for these KU grads. And though the Kips' blend of spicy, trippy house music kept folks dancing, it didn't match the energy or the accessibility of Duval's.

It's tough to quantify what was so awesome about Duval's set. He just fucking nailed it. His mixing was solid, and his grasp of what his equipment was capable of and what the crowd wanted was so complete. The man is a total wizard of the decks. If you have a party coming up that you'd like to turn into a balls-out, flying-dragon, dance-until-you're-numb extravaganza, then I recommend you call Duval.

So it's with pride and pleasure that we present Duval with the rights to brag and two tickets to the Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival in Miami. Go forth and kick ass, Shaun.

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