Looking back, we can get a pretty good sense of how the party scene will play out in 2007. Here's what's in my crystal ball.
If you spent any time peering into DJ booths in 2006, you've noticed that vinyl has become increasingly secondary to digital media, whether it's good old-fashioned CDs, laptops controlled by turntables, purely computer-based systems or, in a few cases, even iPods.
There may still be some convincing arguments about the superiority of vinyl, but in the average Toronto DJ booth, the turntables are often the worst-maintained equipment and the least reliable of the available options.
The main reason digital is taking over, however, has to do with the changing definition of what a good DJ is. While many old-guard DJs bristle at the lack of respect for technique, some admit that what's going on now is very close to the magic of the early days of DJing, when it was more about the music than the mix.
This could be seen as a return to the basic principle of playing the right song at the right time, and there's no better way to achieve that than by having a large collection of music to choose from.
The best and the worst part of what software has done to the production and distribution of new music is how accessible it's made it. Now more than ever, DJs are needed just to sort through the immense number of songs out there, and, for a change, a homemade track stands a chance against big-money-studio-backed singles and new releases by old legends.
Even for those who still care about DJ tricks, the digital realm offers so much more if you want to make music out of other people's music in a live context. Is it cheating if a program is keeping the beats locked and the melodies in key? As long as it sounds good, no one on the dance floor cares, nor should they.
Let's face it -- three-turntable five- minute mixes rarely sounded good. But we now have the tools to make them work musically instead of doing them to impress the guys huddled around the booth.
Return to the underground
It'd be easy to fret over the demise of so many mid-sized venues that were friendly to underground dance music, but this may work out for the best. Real underground cultures flourish best when operating in stark contrast to the mainstream they're reacting against.
Right now we have, on the one side, a plethora of top-40 bars that equate bottle service with prestige (i.e., most of officially sanctioned clubland) and on the other, eccentric dive bars, semi-legal loft parties and guerrilla (albeit polite) free events on public property.
It's not hard to guess which side is more fun, is it?
If there's a Santa, please have him bring Toronto some decent club systems, and please stop DJs from redlining the mixer their whole set. Our ears are hurting, and we expect better.
A new mid-sized venue with an open-minded booker and a decent stage for live acts would be nice, too. While there's something romantic about nomadic dance parties, everyone needs some kind of home, and there's enough of a market for the new-ass shit that it could actually be viable.