As a DJ I care about the music first and foremost. I get more satisfaction from exposing people to new music and artists than watching them get hype about the songs they already know and listen to everyday. Of course, there is some balance to be found in there and when effectively used together the two tactics work very complimentary to each other. Of course, that type of approach limits your audience and so I have to find the right venues to spin at where that sort of thinking is valued. It turns out that is fairly difficult, but King & I Thai has long been one of my favorite spots to do just that. My first experience at King & I Thai took place right after I moved to Minneapolis in 2002 when we had a Rhymesayers lunch meeting there. I remember enjoying the food, particularly the appetizers, and really liking the décor and vibe. I soon learned that they had DJ nights and Wednesdays was their Old School Soul, Funk and Hip Hop night. I would make it a point to go down to catch DJ Aaron Money do his thing as often as possible. I don’t recall how it happened, but eventually I got invited to DJ there. I’m pretty sure my first official ongoing night there was a partnership with DJ King Otto*. It was a Wednesday based monthly called Sugarbeet Palace.
I’ve DJed there regularly to semi-regularly ever since. As I have mentioned before, I have slowed my DJing to a near stop and for the last year I have turned down about 97% of the gigs I have been offered, particularly anything that was ongoing. The first one that I even considered and eventually accepted was picking up another Wednesday monthly at the King & I, since it was always one of my favorite places to play. There are a handful of reasons that I decided to do it. A huge part of the reason I opted to do it was because of the musical freedom I felt I could take with my playlist. I didn’t want to think about appeasing a dance floor.
There’s no doubt that there is a great feeling about DJing a set and people getting hyped and dancing and loving what you are doing. But, sometimes I like the opportunity to be much more experimental, with no pressure of trying to maintain or start a dance party. At King & I people are there to drink, socialize, eat and listen to music. I try to make a point to play several songs there that I don’t play very often and sometimes for the first time. Often times it’s the place where I “test market” songs. Sometimes to see how people react to them or sometimes just for me to hear it in that kind of environment to see how I feel about it. Admittedly, sometimes when spinning there I get lost in my own world and it could start to feel like I was in my bedroom spinning for myself, until someone catches my attention from across the room with a smile or nod of approval or comes up to the booth to ask about some obscure song I played or just to compliment my musical selection.
Plus it is always nice to DJ while enjoying some great food and beverages. I always gravitate towards the Sweet & Sour Tofu…that stuff is addictingly good. In my days of partaking in alcohol I would appreciate a nice tall King’s Punch, which had a fitting name. Although I generally stick with the Fresh Spring Rolls when I dine out, King & I have what might be the tastiest fried veggie egg roles in the Twin Cities. Beyond that, the staff is always great and many of the people working or who have worked there are true music fans with great music knowledge.
All that considered, I was excited to get back to spinning there again and my night started back up last month. Of course, I was surprised to find out recently that the restaurant was soon to close. It’s always sad to see a great place, with great people go away and I know there are many others who feel that way about King & I.
I’ll be having my final set there this coming Wednesday (12-5-12) spinning from 9 PM until 1 AM. Their last day in business will be on Dec 17th, so stop by and enjoy some food music in the finals days of the key nightlife spot in the Twin Cities!
Here’s a mix that I did live at the King & I in 2004. It was probably on of my early times of doing the full four hours by myself. When I would DJ there and many other places people would regularly ask if I had a CD for sale that had music like I was playing, but I never did. All the CDs I officially released were Hip Hop and/or themed releases, so in 2005 or so I went thru a bunch of live mixes I recorded to find something I could use for a CD to sell out show. This hour and fifteen minutes is what I picked out. It pretty much reflects what I was talking about above…
*DJ KING OTTO and myself are starting a new night together at Ginger Hop called "Back Spin"!! It is an all vinyl night with and open invitation for the B-Boys and B-Girls to come throwdown on the dance floor!! Our first night is December 15th!!