Being the Beat Master
DJs Jager, NightEater, and Matt Cee show us what it takes to make people bump
By Holly A. PhillipsPosted Sep 14, 2011
“You’re good as sh*t!”
A curly-haired blonde has made her way to the stage; drink in one hand, the other hand pointed at her target, emphasizing her statement.
She’s talking about Jered Petrie, known to most as DJ Jager, or simply “Jager.” He’s just set up his equipment – which he carried himself – in preparation for Northgate Tavern’s Throwback House Party; a Friday night standard.
“I know because I’ve seen you before,” the blonde said, hoisting herself up to Jager’s level. “So, what’s on your playlist?”
After a few moments of mouth-to-ear discussion, the blonde hops off the stage and joins her friends.
“DJs hate requests,” Jager tells me. “If it’s a good song, I will play it, but I’m not an iPod.”
Obviously. Jager’s setup is serious. A simple stand holds a case of turntables and a mixer underneath a laptop. He also brings his own speakers and lights.
Around 10:20 p.m., Jager checks the sound, takes a sip of his drink (a triple whiskey and Coke), and slips on his earphones.
Work it from right to left
The first outburst from the crowd comes around 10:40 p.m., when Jager plays DMX’s “What These B*tches Want.”
I don’t know if there’s anything more satisfying than seeing frat boys bounce their arms to such an anthem. It doesn’t seem to faze Jager. He fades DMX into Ludacris’ “Money Maker” seamlessly, as if it were meant to be.
His laptop screen is divided. On the left is one song corresponding with the left turntable and the left side of the mixer. The same goes for the song on the right. His collection of songs is under the screen’s division and is organized by beats per minute – BPMs.
“This makes it easier to beat match,” he said. “I like to start slow and then go from there.”
As each song is played, the computer marks it in green. Jager never plays the same song twice.
To dub step or not
Around 11 p.m., Steve Bergeron, or NightEater, takes over the tables. For the last two months, this has been a weekly routine; the Throwback House Party is back-and-forth between Jager and NightEater.
Not more than five minutes have passed and NightEater receives his first request – someone wants a dub step track.
“I will rape your mind if you want dub step,” he said. “It might be new to you, but it ain’t f*ckin’ new to me.”
NightEater fulfills the request, and no one seems to get it.
“See?” he said. “F*ck it, no more dub step.”
Chances are, Bergeron is better known for his years as the guitarist for Meriwether – though he’s a solid DJ – but he won’t admit it.
“There’s no ‘DJ’ in front of NightEater,” he said. “I’m not a DJ. I never intended to be one. I can play ‘A Milli,’ but that’s not me. I play music on turntables. I don’t get involved in the culture. I’m a guitar player and I write music.”
Bergeron started toying with electronic music in 2001, between writing songs and working in the studio.
He barely recalls a fateful night out when Jager was DJ-ing. Bergeron wanted to get his hands on the turntables. Jager let him.
“I have no recollection of it,” he laughs. “I saw him later and was like, ‘I can’t wait to play,’ and he told me I already had. Apparently I wasn’t terrible.”
It’s 11:30 p.m. and NightEater drops Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” He’s in a zone, bouncing to the beat, moving from table to table, crossing his hands, giving the song effects.
“I never really practice this unless I’m playing a show,” he says.
Given his musical background, his love for jazz, and his serious ‘stache, all of this seems beneath him.
“By looking at me, you’d have no idea,” he said. “I do this for fun. I want other people to have fun with me.”
You’d never guess that he had a crush on Peggy Hill, that his handle came from an ex-girlfriend who ate in her sleep, or that he can’t pass up a bargain. He was giddy about his recent find: a brand new left-handed American Stratocaster for less than half its original price.
Ice cold Jager
At midnight, Jager is back at the tables, and he’s worried.
“I think I spent too long playing the slow sh*t and it killed the bar,” he said.
Jager has been a DJ for nearly four years. It started with tailgating, just messing around with Windows Media Player. It got more in-depth, and he started working house parties.
“I wanted to show what I knew before I started going to bars,” he said.
Word of mouth got Jager his first breaks, and now it’s his only job. Although he says no gig is permanent, his weekends at Northgate are a standard, along with his work for the Red Stick Roller Derby team. He is their official DJ.
Jager plays hip-hop, rap, dub step, ‘90s, and top 40. He tries to please the crowd.
“I listen to everything I play. If I’m bored with a song, I know other people are, so I try to keep up with what’s new,” he said. “If you don’t like the music you play, then it doesn’t matter. It’s like kicking a dead horse.
“You can look at a crowd and tell what they want to hear by the way they dress and how they act,” he said. “Some people want to hear new sh#t, some people just want to shake their a#s [sic]; by the time the night goes on, people are drunk and everyone just wants to party.”
Everyone at Northgate seems to know Jager – if they don’t, they want to. During a trip to the bar, a brunette with endless legs and hot pants shows Jager what she’s got. He doesn’t reciprocate.
“I like to play stuff that makes me wanna dance,” he says later. “I like to dance, but I can’t.”
NightEater takes over for the remainder of the night, starting with Cash Money Millionaires’ “Project Chick,” then slipping into Lil’ Wayne’s “Make it Rain.”
With one hour before closing time, NightEater’s dub step fans are back and ready to beat the beat. Despite his earlier declaration, NightEater makes it happen with Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites (Noisia Remix).”
“When you show up at an event with 900 people and they’re all tripping on drugs, it’s insane,” he says, watching the pulsing crowd. “And it’s awesome.”
The DJs Formerly Known as Prince
Saturday night is a different side of Jager and NightEater, with a completely new name: the DJs Formerly Known as Prince.
The two agree that the name came from a night of drinking.
“If Prince sues us for using his name, that just gives us more publicity,” NightEater said. “Now Prince goes by the symbol, so we are working on one, too.”
When it’s the DJs Formerly Known as Prince at the tables, it’s a night of 504 music. This includes Cash Money Records’ artists.
After a round of 504 Boyz’s “Wobble Wobble,” and Master P’s “Make ‘Em Say Ugh,” the crowd loves it.
“You should get him his own toilet paper, ‘cause he is the sh*t,” says a guy near the stage, pointing to Jager. “I want him to do my birthday party. He is tight.”
But Jager is distracted, trying to fix the needle over the turntable – a red light signals that something isn’t reading properly within the machine.
“Like a good hooker, I’m never satisfied,” he says. “I want it to be perfect every time.”
Introducing Matt Cee
The following Wednesday, I make my way to the Spanish Moon. DJ Matt Cee is setting up for HOWL – a recent mid-week event. Just before 10 p.m., the setup looks similar to a dining table that has been taken over by teenagers. There is a computer monitor, a laptop, energy drinks, and boxes with illuminated buttons.
“I have never used turntables,” Cee said, smoking a cigarette he lit from a match. “Anything that looks like a video game to me works well.”
Cee, a Baton Rouge native, moved to New Orleans and was DJing for a boutique earlier this year. When he was laid off, he moved back to Baton Rouge. Shortly afterward, he got the Spanish Moon gig.
“This is the bar I’ve been going to since I was wiping the X’s off my hands,” he said. “So getting this was the best news ever.”
Cee has created a few of his own mash-ups and likes to lay vocals from Motown songs over house music to create a mix of old and new.
“You have to give them something they know to latch onto,” he said. “I try to be versatile. Once it becomes refined and everyone starts doing it, it becomes something else.”
Although HOWL is gaining a following, Cee is humble in his position and giddy to see his friends and other DJs join him for the night. His roommate is there, along with KLSU DJ Frostbite and Shoelace.
“Word of mouth has been the best,” Cee said. “People I knew years ago are doing great things that help me now. I’ve gotten some lucky breaks.”
Someone, presumably a friend, approaches Cee and comments on how crowded the bar is.
“I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about this Stanford study that said when the economy is going to sh#t, people like very syncopated music,” he tells the guy, snapping his fingers in a steady beat. “So let’s hope the economy keeps going to sh#t.”
Just before it’s time for him to get behind his laptop, he takes a look around.
“I’m really excited about this,” he said. “There’s a break dancer, a hooper; it’s awesome. It’s a freaking eight-ring circus.”
Once he puts on his headphones, the small-framed man in the plaid shirt transforms into the man of the hour. Just as his friends told me, he’s incredibly fun to watch – dancing, clapping, and encouraging those around him to do the same.
“I f*cking love it,” he said. “I can’t help it. It’s like being in the zone, the movement, the rhythm. It’s this collective consciousness and, for a moment, everyone on the dance floor is best friends.”
Cee says he has experienced the other side of DJing – he posted some videos of his mash ups on YouTube.
“It sounds cheesy as hell, but I got a fat dose of hate,” he said. “This guy said some sh#t, called me an a#shole. But polarizing stuff is good. If you don’t have people disagreeing with you, then you’re not doing it right.”
Cee is here to stay – at the Spanish Moon, anyway.
“Sure, I’d love to tour and go to Japan. But if you follow the community, it’s this organic thing…I’m not trying to rush this stuff,” he said. “I had no intentions of being a DJ. It’s not a show, it’s a party; I could be behind that f*cking curtain as long as people are dancing.”
Dance with Matt Cee every Wednesday night for HOWL at the Spanish Moon; join Jager and NightEater for weekends at Northgate Tavern.