Last Night:"The Worst Music Ever" at the Knockout
“The Worst Music Ever”
May 14, 2008
By Jennifer Maerz
Better than: Having to hear this shit sober
If you want to hear really terrible music, all you have to do is go to a wedding. No matter how good your friends’ taste in life partners may be, their taste in wedding DJs is usually terrible. After all the cake and champagne, your ears get the cavities listening to all the oldies frosting wedding DJs spin – music that makes the maids of honor shake off their stilettos and wiggle some ass to, say, Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.” (A song that really was pretty celebratory the first time you heard it). Add to that the fact that the cockroach decade of ‘80s music has survived the buildup, the backlash, the backlash to the backlash, and remains in an infinite loop of club nights, and there’s stiff competition out there to be the San Francisco DJ spinning “The Worst Music Ever.” But damn it if Dimitri and Ryan weren’t gonna try to win that title last night.
It was gonna be a tough battle to the bottom, though. Ryan Poulson and Dimitri Dickinson aren't two dudes who grabbed their vinyl stacks from the trash cans outside Amoeba. They spin in various crews around S.F., from Booty Basement to Gun Club: the dudes know their shit from the shit. But still, they made the flyers – featuring John McCain saying “My name is Johnny, and yes I am queer.” They posted the name of the monthly club night, “The Worst Music Ever.” And by 10 p.m., there were a half dozen of us lined up at the bar, debating what little sonic turds were gonna pop out of their playlist.
We knew the Worst was upon us when “Hotel California” came on the speakers, with the DJs mixing snippets of M.I.A. gunshots into the song. Good choice – the Eagles are definitely a guilty pleasure. Next on deck: an indefensible “grunge lite instrumental” of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – at which point the younger bartender turned to the older one with a grin and said, “Let’s do this.” And then, for a while there, it was on: Pet Shop Boys, Terence Trent D'Arby, Seal, Nero’s Rome, they all made appearances. Ryan and Dimitri were going for the jugular with some of these songs, reeling between hitting those secret pleasure centers (Robbie Nevil’s “C’est La Vie”? Totally wore down a cassette tape listening to that song in the ‘80s) and eliciting a collective cringe (Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”)
And that’s the tough thing about a terrible music night that goes out of its way to be terrible. You’ve got to have that delicate balance between unearthing guilty pleasures and unleashing the stinkers, without driving away the costumers. For the most part, the crowd seemed into it: dance floor girls threw up their hands for Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” and didn’t put them down for the next hour. The guys next to me hopped along nostalgia lane every time an old track unlocked a new memory. But my friend Katy and I started feeling the brunt of the club’s name close to midnight – when the songs stopped making us laugh and started making me feel like we were at that bad wedding where the ecstasy was getting steamrolled by the irony. By the time they were spinning “Wind Beneath My Wings,” we’d paid our pittance to the bad and left debating the merits of a club night based on pushing the limits of good taste. In the end, we realized, finding the humor in bad music is just as subjective a game as finding the hook in the good stuff. But personally, I have to draw the line at Bette Midler.