The art of the warm up set is a mighty fine one. Whether youre opening up for a massive international act a major festie or just a local up-and-comer in that stingy nightclub down the road, the way you do your thing can have a massive impact on the nights success.
All you aspiring DJs are probably going to start as warm-ups too, playing to uninhabited dance floors with the venue manager giving you eyes from across the room. But fear not, this doesnt mean you cant shape your craft and get the crowd hyped in the best way possible for the act they probably came to see. There is perhaps more to it than you think though, so listen up as we run you through the dos and donts of the warm up set from some HD level warm-up set Alumni.
Its all about the music selection
An instantly recognisable name in the Sydney club scene, Kato, is a DJ that has been around the traps for close to 15 years. His dominance and longevity in the scene comes down to his knack for creating a tailored connection with his crowd during performances. To Kato its one thing to play the bangers, but most importantly you must be flexible and well-prepped with a range of mixes and tracks.
”I like to keep a certain energy with my warm up sets, I want to tempt people to dance but I also want the music to be interesting enough to enjoy if youre not quite ready to dance. I also think about variables like the venue, time of day, what happened that day (are people coming in hot from a festival or big party? Did a new government get elected? Was it rainy?) and many other things that can affect your mood and the crowds mood so you can make a connection.” says Kato.
You heard it here first, keep an eye on which Prime Minister we have each week and youll have the jump on the rest out there. Another big variable, as a warm up youll most likely go in not knowing if there will be 5 or 50 people at your set and you have to be ready for both.
”Its good to have as many tracks as possible that you know well, and you think will work well. Sometimes it can take longer than you think to build a dancefloor, but you also need to be able to pounce on it and take control once it gets going. Later in the night and headline sets can be a bit more planned but first you have to earn your stripes with the warm up so get digging.”
How can you best prepare?
One of the most common downfalls is undoubtedly DJs playing their favourite songs or mixes with complete disregard toward the other acts on the bill. Its something that might make you happy, dropping that sick new rework you did of Flumes latest, but no matter how hard your vibing it behind the decks, the feeling isnt mutual if the crowd came to see something different. Kato says do the research! Or risk a very flat response from the crowd.
”I think its really important to listen to the sets of everyone playing on the night especially the person before you and after you. Then you think about your style and how you can present it in a way that compliments the others whilst maintaining your own unique vibe which as a DJ playing other peoples music is all you really have.” Kato says.
Another doing it large on the decks is A-Tonez, a killer Sydney based DJ who gave us some insight into his warm up days and secrets. For A-Tonez, its all about respect and knowing your place.
”You need to have respect for the artist you are warming up for and do the right thing for the event as a whole. A good warm up is simply that, A warm up. Getting people in the right mood, setting the tone for the night. Not being the hero and trying to play all the latest bangers” A-Tonez says.
Every-aspiring warm up acts also often come undone from a case of big head syndrome. Its easy to increase the hype when you see the crowd arriving but according to A-Tonez, that not always the smartest thing to do.
”I feel where most go wrong is panicking. Panicking when the room starts to fill up and they feel they need to go harder or play bigger tunes to keep the crowd interested. You need to be comfortable knowing the crowd is there for the headliner and waiting for them to start so they might have a little boogie to your set but arent going to go nuts. You need to have faith in your ability to choose the right music and your ability to control the room.”
Mixing vs Track selection?
Its the age-old question that has pretty fair arguments on each side. Spend ages mixing tracks for your set? Or focus on a good set of tracks that you can choose at will? A mix of both? For big-time dance DJ Young Franco, its the versatility of track selection that makes it rain superior when set-prepping.
”I can never really predict what a crowd will be like and the vibe of the venue. I think its extremely important to be flexible and not too locked in. I think you just gotta feel the vibe and go with it. Its not always your job to get people on the dance floor within the first 5 seconds of being there. I think in order to build a culture around a venue/club and for that club to have longevity is to be consistent and not go for the easy bangers or whats hot at the time. Otherwise your venue wont last long.” Young Franco says.
For Young Franco, its the creative license that excited when preparing his warm up set.
”The beauty about a warm up set is that you can get a bit creative with it. Theres no need to play bangers to get the crowd going. You can really take it anywhere you want.”
So there you have it. Tread lightly, but not too lightly. Its a great chance to show some flair and get your name out there. These are our main ones to chew over.
- Know the crowd, venue and most importantly the other DJs for the night.
- Make sure youre flexible in what you can play, have your music prepared to go either way.
- Mixing and track selection are both equally important aka (DJ) practice makes perfect
- Dont make it all about you, its about giving the crowd what they want but also challenging them once they trust you.
- Have fun with it, its a party!