For the past three years I’ve DJ’d on New Year’s Eve at a local bar, Snacky, that’s around the corner from my apartment in Williamsburg. The owner of Snacky is Sandy Pei, who has become a good friend and someone who has really opened my tastebuds to the awesomeness of Chinese food (and Korean, Malaysian, Japanese, Taiwanese too). I used to DJ every Friday night at Snacky till I burned out, but I still pull the marathon NYE shift.
On a night like New Year’s Eve, where it seems imperative that everyone have The Best Time Ever, you really can’t, as a DJ, play what you want. You have to suck it up and play the hits. Even if you think everyone is sick of "Mr. Brightside" or "Do You Want To?" or even "Milkshake," the truth is they’re not. At least when they’re drunk.
I actually look forward to playing the hits. My friend Erich, until recently, dealt in the Top 40 world for his job and would provide me with all the big hit singles of the year to play, most of which I had never heard before. A lot of this is hip hop, a genre I used to follow but lost interest in, then fell out of touch (Mos Def’s Black on Both Sides is probably the last hip hop record I really listened to end-to-end repeatedly). A lot of it I end up liking. "Hate it Or Love It" by the Game, for instance. (Paul Wall, not so much.) Please don’t ask how it is I has never heard this song before. I bet you haven’t heard The Mystery Jets. So there.
Playing the hits also makes things easy. There’s no more "hmm… which Gorillaz song should I play?" You play "Feel Good Inc." and watch the kids dance. Then you play The Killers and Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson. The hits.
Even with this mantra things can get in your way.
It was a sparse crowd at Snacky this year, which brought the energy
down a bit. And there was some annoying dude who kept coming up and
requesting songs off Madonna’s new album. I had it, and actually played
"Hung Up" as the first song of 2006, but that wasn’t enough for this
guy. If you don’t know it already, if you request a song and the DJ
tells you "I’ll see what I can do," that is a nice way of being told
"no chance in Hell." This guy didn’t know that. "Hey, you haven’t
played that song yet" he’d come up and say. Yeah I know. I finally
played them just so he’d leave me alone.
I had bigger problems anyway. The soundsystem at Snacky is comprised
of a home stereo receiver that has been overworked, subjected to grease
from the kitchen, and had it’s vents covered with a variety of heavy
objects for the last three years. Saturday night it had finally had
enough. We lost the right channel on the A speakers shortly after
Midnight, and then lost the B speakers around 2 AM. I called it quits.
I’d run out of hits anyway.
New Year’s day, Sandy, her boyfriend and I went to dinner at the East Village branch of Grand Sichuan International,
which was totally slammed. Initially, the St. Marks location was never
that crowded but has finally caught on with the public it seems. As
well it should. Grand Sichuan never fails to be delicious. (The 9th
Ave/50th Street location is probably the best, but I rank the EV one
second in the empire.) We had Broad Bean and Sour Cabbage Soup, Cold
Spinach w/ Ginger Sauce, Chong Qing Dry & Spicy Chicken (which
comes buried under an intimidating mountain of whole, dried chiles but
turns out to be not that hot), Red Cooking Pork w/ Chesnuts (delicious
because you’re eating pure fat), and one dish from their Hunan menu,
the Steamed Fish w. Cut Spicy Pepper.
That last dish none of us had ever had before and it was the clear
star of the meal. The book that comes with the menus and explains all
the dishes, describes it thusly: "the whole fish
is cut into big pieces and marinated, cut spicy peppers and sour
cabbage and other ingredients are layered on the top, it is then
steamed until completely cooked, placed onto a plate in which there is
a spicy and sour sauce soup. It is a very popular Hunanese dish which
has been adapted by Sichuanese and other Chinese cuisines." That sauce was so complex and delicious, I think I could eat cardboard if this was on it.
And so began my 2006 New Years Resolution to only eat Delicious
Things. Four days into it and I haven’t broken it yet. Other meals have
included tacos from Matamoros Puebla in Williamsburg, soft scrambled
eggs and grits from EGG, a French ham and butter sandwich, and the Fatty Crab‘s signature dish, nasi lemak. Greatest hits like these never get old.