DJ Pauly D: who cares if he's not that great?

DJ Pauly D performed a rowdy set at Bartini’s Monday just after midnight as part of the Britney Spears after party. Indianapolis responded with mixed emotions throughout the city in the days leading up to the event.

First off, the set wasn’t bad. At all. Despite the “gorilla juice head” stereotype that the cast of The Jersey Shore have embraced for themselves with wide open arms, you honestly can’t knock the kids for their choice in dance music… unless, of course, you don’t like progressive house. But that’s beside the point.

I don’t think many people knew what to expect Monday night. Would DJ Pauly D be a total failure behind the decks, poorly mixing mismatched tracks and yelling signature catch phrases like, “Cabs are here!” and “Yeahhh Buddy!”? Or would he pull out deep cuts from respected producers and truly showcase his skills as a legitimate DJ?

The answer was some hybrid of these two extremes, leveraging the set on mainstream tracks while adding booming electro beats for added fist-pumping opportunity. There was the occasional “Yeahhh buddy!” and there was also a “twinning” reference when he identified look-alike sisters in the crowd. The show itself was longer than Pauly D’s performance as the opening act for Britney Spears a few blocks away at Conseco Fieldhouse earlier that night and had more of his own fans (as opposed to Britt’s) in attendance.

But let’s be honest, here. Pauly D’s fans weren’t there for a bangin’ DJ set at Bartini’s; they were there to see a celebrity. I ran into a local DJ friend outside of the bar on my way to Conseco early in the evening who told me all of the VIP tickets had already been sold. As we discussed the waves of controversy that the looming Pauly D show had created in Indianapolis, we both agreed that chastising the people attending the show (and the people responsible for booking the show) was futile. “It’s obviously not about the music tonight,” he agreed with me after I explained that I’d been repeatedly questioned by my friends for planning to attend.

“I enjoy pop culture and being a part of it, so the opportunity to see Pauly D in person in Indy had significant allure to me,” I added to a friend’s facebook status with more than 40 comments ripping on The Jersey Shore, its fan base, and Pauly D’s legitimacy as a DJ. Someone else in the conversation suggested Pauly D was simply a bedroom DJ before becoming a pop culture icon on The Jersey Shore and that now he’s “riding this bitch till the wheels fall off”.

And so what if he is? If you had a hobby, magically became famous overnight, and found yourself in a position to suddenly be paid handsomely for that hobby, I bet you would do the same thing. I maintain that the sour feelings that so much of the Indianapolis music community had towards that show didn’t stem from a hatred for the cast of The Jersey Shore, or even from Pauly D’s questionable status as a DJ. I think the resentment is more accurately directed at local music consumers in general, not the kids wearing too much bronzer and skimpy clothing who showed up to Bartini’s Monday night.

I can’t help but think about statements made by Zach Deputy in our interview earlier this summer at The Electric Forest Music Festival. “I don’t think the consumers realize how much power they have,” he said as we discussed the state of today’s music industry. “Their voice is everything. What they support is what the next generation is. Where they put their money is basically saying, ‘This is what we want to keep around.’”

And judging by an at-capacity Bartini’s with a line outside running down the sidewalk to pay $30 a head to see DJ Pauly D, I’d say that Indianapolis has made its voice heard. In the eyes of our city’s biggest contributors to the local music scene (especially the DJ and electronic community), it’s a sad day when an uber-famous (but incredibly amateur) laptop DJ can eclipse ticket sales of a day-long festival featuring more than 20 high-grade electronic performances. When the IDentity Festival rolled through town a few weeks ago with legendary acts like The Crystal Method and Steve Aoki, organizers and promoters were literally giving tickets away just to get people to the show, yet hundreds of people dropped $30 for just a few hours with Pauly D.

But before jumping the bandwagon and publically expressing your disgust (tempting as it is), it’s also important to remember that we’re really dealing with two completely different subsets of consumers. The people who support and produce local electronic dance music are not the type of people who support establishments like Bartini’s or shows like Pauly D’s. Similarly, we’d never expect to see three-inch platform heel-wearing, blonde bombshells grinding on their popped-collar boyfriends at The Mousetrap on Thurzday night. The show seems unwarranted to the underground culture, yet exhilarating to mainstream clubbers. You simply can’t compare apples to oranges, although that’s precisely what so many haters attempted to do this week.

So, to those of you who didn’t join the fist-pumping action on Monday night- rather than ridiculing people for enjoying something that you don’t understand and can’t appreciate, I suggest following the age-old advice, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Remember that indifferences are what keep our lives interesting and make each of us an individual… an ideal that the underground culture thrives on, is built upon, and should be quite familiar with.