I TRIED TO STOP HIP HOP - Tales from Bo by Bo Gerard

It wasn’t on purpose – I just didn’t know any better.  And to those baby boomers out there that wish I HAD prevented Hip Hop from occurring, I really didn’t have much of a shot anyway.  But if the DJ/MC I admonished had been a little more thin-skinned, I might have slowed the movement down a bit.

It’s 1978 and I am hired to perform at what was known back then as a “Block Party”.  I put it in quotes because sometimes it was actually on a street that the particular neighborhood that was hosting the party got permission from the city to close their street to traffic for the day.  But sometimes it was in a neighborhood park, which in the Bronx in the 70’s meant concrete and dirt.  In the case of this particular block party in the South Bronx it was down an alley in the back court of a bunch of apartment buildings.  So, there I am doing my comedy/magic thing, when one of the first floor windows opens and a guy starts setting up two turntables, a crude little mixer, a mic and PA on the window sill.  Then he starts – beat mixing, and rapping and SCRATCHING HIS LP RECORDS!  No one else seemed to mind, but I had been brought up to be very careful not to scratch my Hi-Fi’s needle across the record.  So I went over to the DJ on a break and asked if he wasn’t worried he was ruining his records!?!  Little did I know I was actually witnessing the birth of Hip Hop.  I just wasn’t hip to it!

It was still an underground urban movement then and it began to develop right then and there in the South Bronx in New York City. The DJ at this party could likely have been Grand Wizzard Theodore himself - the man who is widely credited with inventing the DJ Scratch. These DJs created their own music live, by mixing records, scratching, and improvising.  This was a little before the other main elements of Hip Hop (graffiti, break dancing and beat boxing) joined forces with the DJ to take over the music industry.

This is not the first time I tried to stop an unstoppable movement.  At one point I was living in the Bronx and some friends suggested we take in the midnight movie at the local movie house (single screen).  We had never heard of the movie that was playing, but it was better than sitting in my living room staring at each other.  So, we when to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  This was in 1976 and the audience participation craze was just getting started.  Up in the Bronx the audience had not started dressing up yet, so when they started engaging in the now famous “Rocky Horror counter-point dialogue", where they all yell dialogue and asides back at the screen, my friends and I became irritated.  We thought they were a bunch of jerks trying to ruin the movie for everyone, so we started shushing them and finally yelling at them to Shut Up!  Another “not-so-hip” moment for me.

But both of these experiences were a great lesson for me, and I have tried to practice what I learned from them to this very day.  It is simply this – “If you don’t know what’s going on, for God’s sake don’t try to stop it.  Life can be a wild wonderful “Happening”, if you just relax and roll with it.”  Now that’s hip!

A SOUND INVESTMENT – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

What if I said you could be adding an additional two or three hundred dollars onto your show fee, simply by bringing your own professional sound system? I’ve got your attention now, don’t I?

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Owning and using your own professional sound system will not only guarantee your show sounds great, but it could turn out to be an additional revenue source. Over the years I have expressed my great enthusiasm for using a pro av setup for your show. Yes, I know that it’s much easier to use these all-in-one speakers that are light, and require little or no set up. But the one thing these affordable, convenient systems CAN’T do, is provide a truly professional quality sound. And I understand that purchasing pro audio components, loading them in, and setting them up can be more expensive and time consuming. So, it’s really a trade-off. But if you have a pro system, or are planning to invest in one, here’s a way to increase your profits at the same time.

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When you are booked to do a show in, say, a hotel ballroom, for a medium sized group of 75 to 200 people, you can offer to bring your personal sound setup, and inform your client how they will save hundreds of dollars over using the hotels’ AV company. For instance, last night I did a show for 50 people at a popular DFW resort hotel (whose name will not be mentioned), and the in-house AV company (whose name will also not be mentioned) was charging the client $957 to bring in a 4 channel mixer with EQ, and one wireless handheld mic; and hook it up to the in-ceiling (Yuk!) speakers. The AV guy literally walked in with the mixer, plugged one cable into the XLR input in the wall, and plugged the power cord into the wall. He did the same with the wireless receiver, turned on the wireless mic and he was done! 4 minutes of work - $957.

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In a case like this, offering a client YOUR sound system for $300 would save them a nice chunk of cash. I find clients are always happy to learn how much I can save them. And since I’m already making my main money on the show fee, I can afford to add my sound for a low price. I don’t have to arrive at the venue any earlier than I would if I were using some AV company’s sound, and I always prefer to use my own setup anyway. No surprises! (Like last night, when the hotel AV guy didn’t have the mixer plugged in until 10 minutes before they let the guests in!!!)

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In addition to my wireless headset mic system, I have a hand held mic and receiver in my case, should my client have need of it. Of course, all of this only works if you have pro gear, the right size audience and a client who does not have any other AV requirements, like video projection or multiple mics. When it works out, it’s a sweet deal for my clients and for me!