The Chicago Bears just finished an 8-8 season, which we would have cheered as a marked improvement from a 5-11 season two years ago and going 3-13 in 2016, had it not been for their miracle play last year when the team arguably could have won every regular season game and ended up at 12-4 and in the playoffs.
So after that, mediocrity just won’t do when the Bears train this year was supposed to be headed for the Super Bowl.
Reasons abound for their regression, the most obvious being the underwhelming play of quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the questionable play calling of head coach Matt Nagy.
Reacting to the offense’s season-long impotence, Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace, deep in saving-their-asses mode, just scapegoated the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, and tight ends coach by giving them the axe. (There, that’ll show ‘em for messing up Nagy’s precious “scheme”!)
Before the Bears hire a new offensive coordinator who won’t be allowed to call any plays either like the previous one didn’t – that’s Nagy’s exclusive domain – the coach did promise to do some soul-searching in the off season about how he directs the offense going forward.
It made us at N’DIGO wonder if Nagy shouldn’t hire a DJ to turn his play calling over to, or at least take some DJ lessons himself. After all, the missions of a DJ and a play caller are similar – to get folks moving in a coordinated fashion the way you want them to.
The DJ and the play caller both have to control the rhythm and the flow to make the players on the field and the folks on the dance floor do what they do.
With that assumption in mind, we approached a professional Chicago DJ to test our theory.
LaMonte Wilson, who has been spinning since 1984 under the moniker DJ L’Monte, is CEO, videographer and editor at MIXENUF Multi Media. He also founded the coalition of disk jockeys known as The DJs of The Craft, who host a popular annual House Music Expo BBQ, which is being held this year on June 14 in the Dolton Park District.
The Chicago South Side native and Hyde Park Career Academy graduate has been a multi-unit real estate investor since 2015, and April 2020 will be mark his 24th year as a Mason in Cornerstone Lodge #91 of Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois.
Many thanks to DJ L’Monte for playing along with our conversation comparing football play calling to Dj-ing. In his answers below, make your own comparisons. For fun, the comments in italicized parenthesis are purely my own take on how what he says applies to the Chicago Bears.
N’DIGO: What’s your involvement in the DJ-ing game?
DJ L’Monte: I worked in the banking industry for five years, but returned to school in 2006 to learn more about video and audio production. I earned a B.F.A. in Video Production from the International Academy of Design and Technology.
Now I shoot and edit video for live events, and DJ for club, corporate, outdoors and private events. Been a DJ since the early ‘80s. In 2013, I founded the DJs of the Craft and in 2018, I trademarked the name and logo to elevate and grow the concept to a national level to unite Masonic-affiliated DJs across the USA.
As a DJ, what’s the main thing you’re trying to do at a club or set?
As a DJ, the most important responsibility is engaging the audience. Assume being a total stranger to them each time you arrive to work. The goal is to entertain the guests and play music they will enjoy so they can leave their worries behind and enjoy a memorable experience.
After working two months in my very first night club at the age of 20, I was introduced to the legendary DJ, Sam Chatman. He taught me about “reading the crowd”. You have to watch the people and work to figure out what they find enjoyable. Sometimes I call it “spinning the wheels”. Once you get an idea of the style of music the audience likes, you run with it and bang those tunes.
Do you start off DJ-ing with a scripted play list, like many NFL teams do with a scripted list to start a game?
Most times DJs have an idea what we’ll be playing as we walk in the door. When consulting with a client, they let us know the type of event they are hosting and the tone they want to set. In comparison, a football team would study the opponent before the game by watching videos of their previous games. So like a football game, we have an idea on how to plan to begin, and then we adjust to the audience.
A DJ gig takes about three hours or so, like a football game, so how do you sustain what you’re trying to do over the long run? I assume there are lulls, but how do you finish strong?
The first hour, maybe, is the warmup time to get familiar with the audience. Once we learn how to work the crowd, we go full force with tunes they love, sometimes saving the hottest tunes for last and sweating them out to give them great memories for the night. In many cases, at the end of the night if you notice the DJ going hard, you will see the people going nuts on the dance floor.
As a DJ, when do you know that what you’re doing isn’t working toward achieving your goal?
OH, WE KNOW! If the dance floor is empty and we’re getting a lot of music requests, that’s a RED FLAG, LOL! DJs have to own and accept that the party isn’t about them (Nagy); it’s about the people and giving them a great time by playing music THEY like.
DJs also break new music, but you have to know when to play it and how to slide it in on them (gadget plays). Breaking new music while the dance floor is packed, based on your personal opinion that a new song is hot (Nagy), can cause the DJ to clear the floor (or the Bears not to move the chains). That’s one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a DJ. A good DJ has to play smart without their ego being at the forefront (Nagy).
So, how long do you keep sticking to your original plan, seeing that it’s not working, but hoping that it does?
Change the plan and come quick when the original idea isn’t working! A DJ should never want to keep playing the same type of failed songs more than once (like keeping Mitch in the pocket instead of letting him run). You can be playing the hottest song in House music, but if those people don’t move, you better find out quick if they like Steppers music. SWITCH!
Then what do you do when you see that it’s still just not working?
To reiterate, SWITCH! LOL! The DJ can’t just keeping playing or doing the same style if that crowd isn’t feeling what he’s doing (try running from the I-formation instead, for a change).
Using that mindset and as a Bears fan, can you see from the beginning of a game that the plays being called aren’t right or need adjusting?
Yes. In Bears’ football, allowing a quarterback and/or coach to continue making the same failed decisions can lead to losing more games or being benched or fired or traded. For a DJ, it means an empty dance floor, having bad reviews, and getting no bookings.
How long before you would suggest that the football offensive play caller adjust to get into a better flow?
If the team is down by 10 and making no advancements on offense, it’s time to change the game plan.
As a DJ, do you maybe make a small adjustment and then go back to what you think should work that wasn’t working before?
Yes. I have had a few occasions where what I was playing in the beginning wasn’t vibing with the audience, so I changed the style and tone of the music. Later in the evening once more people came in, the majority changed. That majority wanted a totally different vibe than what the early crowd wanted so I could kind of go back to what I was doing originally (run it down their throats and then go back to your little sideline to sideline passes).
For example, years ago I used to DJ on Saturdays at The 50 Yard Line. The brunch crowd was a totally hardcore Steppers audience. When I started work at 7 p.m., the room was at capacity with Steppers, so I went in and continued that flow with Steppers. But by 10:30 and 11, the people coming in wanted a mixture between Steppers, House and Rap – old school rap, of course, back then – so I went back to my normal style.
Bears coach and offensive play caller Matt Nagy is finishing his second year. In your second year as a professional DJ, where were you at in your development and success?
At that point, I still saw myself as a DJ who had more to learn. I may have done well with a young dance party crowd, but I hadn’t experienced a Steppers or Pop Music crowd. Learning what party people like is a constantly changing experience.
How long, how many years, did it take before you knew you were really good?
I would say in my fourth or fifth year of working night clubs – at the end of the night seeing the faces of the people going home thanking me for a good time. When the end of the night comes and people leavimg have this totally satisfied look on their face, it’s a feeling that you know you have done your job.
Along those lines, where do you think Nagy stands right now as a rather new play caller? Do you think he will be better, and how long do you think it might take?
He isn’t at that level yet of being a deep playoff or Super Bowl coach. Based on his interviews, it seems he has a few more years to go or he may never reach that level. This Bears team has flaws that he hasn’t acknowledged, while the viewers have made many, many valid points about those flaws, so who knows how long it might take or how long he might be given to get there.
Another analogy is that as a DJ, maybe it doesn’t matter how good you play it, if your music isn’t that good in the first place. Would you say that right now, Mitch Trubisky might not be good enough music for Nagy to play, even if the coach knew how to call it right?
Right now at his curent level of performance, Trubisky is a record that can’t be played at every party. He may be a good record for the college party, but not the grown folks’ party. Choose another record.
So to the assumption of this interview, do you think that a DJ and football play caller have similar missions and need similar traits?
DJs, play callers, and quarterbacks have similar responsibilities and their adjustments have to constantly change during the game or the set in order to get a successful result.
Could you or any of the DJs of the Craft do a better job of play calling for the Bears next season?
Mos Def! Me, the DJs of the Craft, and the Chosen Few DJs. DJs understand that to have a successful event, you have to know how to play for who you are playing with, or in the case of football, who you are playing against. There are many styles to choose to win.
You have a son, DJ Marcellus, that you’re tutoring to be a DJ; Nagy is tutoring Mitch Trubisky likewise. What do you expect the outcome of each of these to be?
I expect my son to learn from his failures and to watch others when they fail and learn from that. No one learns and has growth without a failure or setback. I tell him to mostly pay attention to the people because without them having a good time, a DJ isn’t a valuable player in the game.