My heart bleeds for the poor DJs playing Topshop this christmas
Are they the saddest people in the world?
Berghain, Berlin. Elrow, Barcelona. DC10 and Pacha, Ibiza. The Warehouse Project, Manchester. Topshop, Oxford Street. What’s the odd one out?
Imagine your dream is to be a successful, respected DJ. You do the hard time and the hard thinking, the montage plays out like 8 Mile but with beats instead of bars.
You begin in your bedroom like everyone else, channeling the scant talent you have into technique, downloading bootleg edits, feeling anxious before every chat with small time club promoters, before you send your demos to record labels.
Fast forward past your first (unsuccessful) residency and you’ve signed yourself up to a DJ agency like this one.
Before you know it you’re like the DJ I watched last Saturday, playing the mega four-storey mothership Topshop in Oxford Street.
On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with DJ-ing there. Presumably the money is good and you’re given free drinks all day. But there’s something sad and a little depressing about watching someone who’s self-image is that of an artist being reduced to pumping out muzak for shoppers who couldn’t tell you the difference between Future Sound of London and Frankie Knuckles.
It’s like being a singer and ending up on a cruise ship. It’s like graduating from the Royal Ballet School and ending up as a back-up dancer on the X Factor for something called Reggie N Bollie. It’s like being a promo man for Dapper Laughs after taking History at Peterhouse.
Any good DJ will tell you it’s the symbiotic relationship between them, their music and their crowd that makes a night special.
Through the thick club mist, the sweating club walls, the decadent touches: confetti, drag queens; the ridiculous juxtapositions – A-listers mixing it with 18-year-olds experiencing that telltale tingle between the shoulder blades for the first time; shared elation, a higher intensity of feeling, music more vivid and symphonic than you’ve ever heard it before.
Does any of that sound like Topshop?
In a way it’s worth going down to Oxford Street and watching these DJs plug away, shift workers like anyone else. They can’t really dance, they can’t do drugs or drink properly. Nobody goes near them and they’re surrounded by four floors of people who don’t understand what they’re trying to do.
If anything it’s worse than that. People actively don’t like the DJs in Topshop. Observe Waitrose mothers proudly shaking their heads in whatever direction the bass is coming from.
I get what Topshop are going for: shopping as a lifestyle. Live DJs are a small part of a retail experience which includes manicures, blow dries and cupcakes. It’s a long way from a pulsating crowd in Motion or Sankeys, who frequent these places for the music, not to browse for a new playsuit.