7 Ways to Keep DJing Past Club Curfew Time

Phil Morse | Read time: 4 mins
DJ etiquette DJ stories DJing at parties
Last updated 2 December, 2017

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Confusing clock
By the time 3 or 4am comes around, nightclub rules apply and can be bent – if you know how…

It’s great when the night has ended, the lights are up, and the crowd are stomping and screaming for one more. I’ve DJed in places where it’s downright scary to stop playing, such is the passion for more music at 3 or 4am (miss you, Manchester).

The music plays forever on and on…
So what do you do when it’s “one of those nights”, the tunes are a-flowing, and you just know you’re going to have to push past curfew time.

At that time of night, of course, normal rules are out the window, and nightclub logic applies, not everyday thinking, so actually there are a few tactics you can adopt. Here are some I’ve got away with over the years, in order of sensible to downright stupid:

1. Stop early. So the night ends at 4am. Built the crowd up to a peak, and stop at 3.50. Everyone’s stomping for more, you hold off, and then play another record. Stop again at 3.55. Same again. This time, turn the house light on too. More cheering and stomping (hopefully). Now drop one more tune. They love it. You finish at 4.02 or something, but the crowd feel you’ve delivered that bit extra for them. Job done. Done it loads of times.

2. Ask the manager’s permission. He may be having a good night too. his girlfriend may be egging him on to say “yes” to you. He may just be in a good mood. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. You can sweeten this one by knowing his favourite record (if you love it too, of course) and save this to drop at 4.01. He’s going to struggle to say “no” to that.

3. Don’t ask the manager’s permission, but play his favourite record as the last tune anyway. Good for those “spur of the moment” one-more-tune decisions. At least you’re covering your back a bit. “Ah, man, I played it for you!” kind-of-thing when you get shouted at.

4. Buy the doormen a drink. Send someone out to given them all a nightcap 10 minutes before the end, “for letting us finish a few minutes late”. Then when the manager complains, say the head doorman said it was OK. You’ll notice I’m advising you to pitch your boss against potentially the most violent man in the building. These are getting less and less sensible, just to remind you. But I’ve done ’em all anyway, so they’re possible.

5.  Do it anyway, and lock the DJ box door. This one is obviously the most fun, and also the most likely to get you sacked, or arrested. If you have a storming relationship with the club and make them a lot of money, you can pull this off though. I remember doing this exact thing once and the club manager (who was the kind of man who was lovely 99% of the time but when he lost his temper he was lethal), erm, lost his temper, and was kicking on the door and screaming he was going to kill me.  I pretended I was drunk and had forgotten the time, and really, really apologised. He calmed down… after about 3 days. You can combine this one with asking the crowd if someone is prepared to pay for you to play one more tune, on the mike, and halving the money with him to pacify him. (Seen it done, seen it done.)

If you can’t change the record, change the venue…
So that’s how to get “one last tune” played when the curfew says “no”. But what if you are, you know, in the flow and you really do want to carry on? Well, as you’re a digital DJ and your kit fits in a backpack, you can do what we used to do “back in the day” but with a bit more flexibility, which is…

6. Go back to someone’s house and carry on. We used to rely on finding someone with decks, but all you need is a loud stereo or home PA to plug into. So get on the mike (unless,more than likely, you already know your options) and say “whose house are we off to then?” Take the best offer up on the invite and all pile round, plug in to their hopefully huge stereo, and carry on. This is of course a medium-risk strategy and could get you in all kinds of scrapes in the wrong neighbourhood, but not as many scrapes as the final option which is…

7. “All back to mine!” Easy to say, hard to get out of once you have. We used to live over a car spares showroom, that had as part of its shop display a number of car roof racks hanging from its ceiling. The same shop used to take our mail for us, as our flat didn’t actually have a mailbox. I popped in for our post one Monday morning having issued the “all back to mine” line at the end of a club night, and the guy asked if we’d had a party at the weekend, because “all the roof racks have fallen off the ceiling onto the floor.” I suppose 50 people dancing in your living room does that. (That night got worse, but that’s definitely another post.)

Even the pros get it wrong sometimes…
Mind you, even the best tactics by the most famous DJs sometimes fail. I was at a club’s birthday party once helping out on the lights (any excuse to be in the DJ box). The promoter had booked Paul Oakenfold to play. At the end of the night everyone was screaming for another tune.

Oakenfold said:  “I’ll only play one more if I can play the whole record.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course,” said the manageress of the venue, but she didn’t bank on Charlie, the lovable but very scary one-good-eye head bouncer, who barged into the box, pretty angry, half-way through and in no uncertain terms stopped that last record playing to its rightful conclusion. Oakenfold or no Oakenfold.

And of course, if it all goes wrong, you can always run. A breakbeat DJ in the late 90s (I forget who) told me he was playing in Spain, and the crowd of kids at the hillside open-air rave were so rabid for more, it bordered on violence:

“The promoter warned me that if I stopped playing, they would probably lynch me,” he said, “so I left my last record on the decks, still playing, crouched down out of sight, grabbed my box, crept to my driver’s car, and we legged it out of there!”

So however you manage to slip “just one more” tune on, good luck with it. It’s nearly always worth it, and although you can be sensible about these things, as someone wise once said, it’s often easier to ask for forgiveness afterwards than permission beforehand…

Have you pulled any dastardly deeds to keep the music playing past legal time? Have you got into any scrapes for not stopping when you should have done? Feel free to let us know below…

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