By Aaron Barrie
Two turntables and a mixer: these are the essential tools of a turntablist. From its roots in the ’70s, where Grandwizard Theodore introduced the idea of scratching a record to create new sounds, turntablism has evolved into an art form.
Last Friday, the Night Gallery played host to the Battle of the DJs Part II. What was meant to be a competition featuring turntablist talent from across Western Canada ended up becoming something that too closely resembled Calgary’s DMC eliminations. Of the 10 DJs originally billed to compete, five never made an appearance, although two others were added to the list. DJ Donkey from Vancouver, DJ Grasshopper from Winnipeg, DJ Krispy from Saskatoon, and DJ Phonograph from Kamloops decided not to make the trip across the country–while Calgary’s DJ Spinacillan must have just forgot. Stepping up to fill the empty spaces were Edmonton’s DJ Rerun and Calgary’s DJ Astro. That left the event with seven competitors; five from Calgary, and two from Edmonton.
The competition began with the eliminations. All the DJs performed a two-minute set, after which the judges choose the top four who advanced to the next round. Local boy DJ Skinz kicked off the event, followed by Astro, and then by Edmonton’s DJ Reece, the only female competitor in the event.
The next performer was DJ Degs, also from Calgary, who ran into a little bit of trouble with one of his slipmats. The eliminations were rounded out by DJs Kato and Disoriental, both from Calgary, and finished off with Rerun. Although there were some impressive moments, none of the sets were that innovative, and they were an overall disappointment.
The energy of the event picked up significantly between the elimination and final rounds courtesy a 15-minute set performed by special guest DJ Swiftrock, representing his Bay Area crew, the Supernatural Turntable Artists. After sitting on the judging panel for the lacklustre first round, he was itching to show the crowd what world-class turntablism was. With the 1998 Vestax World Championship under his belt, Swiftrock was qualified to do the job. He immediately got the crowd moving by juggling the new Q-Tip single "Vivrant Thing" and continued to keep them going by chopping up some older classics by ll Cool j, Rob Base and Mantronik.
Unfortunately, after Swiftrock left the decks, the event slipped back to its previous pace. The four DJs that moved on to the final rounds were Skinz, Astro, Degs and Reece. There was a little drama when Skinz stopped after going for a little over a minute, not knowing that he had a full two minutes. Astro, who was next up, got a little too vocal in his opposition to Skinz’s request to finish his set. After each DJ had performed, the judges broke to tally up the scores and decided that the title should go to Astro.
Afterwards, Astro took to the stage along with Calgary’s most prominent turntablist, DJ Pump, as well as Swiftrock. Together, they performed an unexpected but welcome freestyle set. However, the whole event felt like a letdown. All of the most anticipated DJs, with the exception of Swiftrock, did not show up, and the talent of the DJs that had made it there was average, but nothing to get excited over.