By Fastset founder Trace Van Dyne
Like many in the business, my humble career as a KJ/DJ began when an inner desire to be a star finally found its way to the surface of my soul. I never dreamed that when my friends and family gathered for karaoke at my 40th birthday party that I would be immediately addicted to the adrenalin rush of singing in front of people. I couldn’t get enough of it and within a week I would be the proud owner of my very own karaoke system.
Not long after, I would end up at the local tavern on Friday nights where I could share this new-found joy with anyone who would come. This created another level of enjoyment when I realized I had become somewhat of a mentor who could draw these same inner desires from the souls of those who sat and watched. They would come up to me and say things like “I’m a little nervous, but do you have Bob Segar – Turn the Page?” “Why yes, I do, and there’s no reason to be nervous, we’re all here just to have fun!” People started lining up to sing and it was a thrill to see the look on their faces when I handed them the microphone. Eventually these same people started asking, “could you do this at my wedding?” They were hooked, and like myself, karaoke would become a part of their life.
Before I knew it, I was up and running with more gigs, more gear, and more opportunity to spread the joy. Within the next year or two “Far-Out Productions” could be found at many of the taverns and bars that speckled the capital city of Columbus Ohio. When I bought that first karaoke system, I never dreamed that I would end up managing a few additional systems, several more DJ’s, and carrying out a dozen shows a week. After being in the mechanical contracting business for 20 years, a new career in the entertainment business was born.
Like many newbies in the business, I would have no less than the biggest, badass system that I could afford. I had big speakers, lots of lights, and box trussing that I would haul in and out of my van, across parking lots, and down long hallways to wedding reception rooms. It would take over an hour to set up and even longer to tear down. And then it happened, a familiar pain in my lower back would return with vengeance! What started out as a bit of fun on Friday nights, quickly turned into a lot of hard work.
I would soon come to my senses with the realization that it wasn’t a big “badass” system that people wanted, it was simply for me to be there and show them a good time. Some music, karaoke, and a few bad jokes would get the job done. They didn’t care about the big speakers that could fill a stadium, all that I needed was a good quality sound at a modest volume. So, I bought smaller high quality powered speakers that not only sounded great with plenty of bass, but also eliminated the need for heavy amps. Also, I didn’t need those 8-10 dance lights, I switched to a couple of good quality pieces that had practically the same effect and there were no complaints. The heavy equipment rack and cases of CD’s were replaced with a laptop and software. At the time, this was a relatively new thing and a perfect solution for mobile DJ’s. With the work load greatly reduced, “Far-Out Productions” soon became a well-oiled machine, being able to put everything for a show on a folding cart and making only one trip to the van. Now we were in and out of gigs in record time!
With the dawning of the digital DJ age, and the advent of affordable powered speakers, I was now able to build systems that could fit in a large briefcase and only required a third of the table space previously needed. This was great but presented a new problem; In the past, I would set my cases of CD’s, mixer rack (with amps, compressors, and what nots) on the table and could stand behind my “stack” and operate perfectly. Now with everything being compressed, my system sat fairly low on the provided tables. Do I sit behind it or do I stand bent over all night? Sitting was obviously out of the question, but being bent over for 5-6 hours would make for a painful night. So, the search for a solution began.
What I needed was a height adjustable table that I could fit on my cart and not add too much labor to the recently reduced work load. After researching every available option for the perfect platform, I found that an “off the shelf” folding table would be about the only thing readily available. But this meant having to lug around an oversized table and when it was adjusted it to be tall enough, it would wobble profusely. The table also had that un-needed extra space where patrons would place their drinks next to my equipment, not good, especially with the wobble! Besides being too large, it also required 3 hands and a foot to set it up and adjust the height, an exercise that had to be repeated at the end of the night to take it down.
Eventually other table options became available in the music industry. One was simply a carpeted plywood table with cheesy, bolt-on telescoping legs. It didn’t look bad but it was very heavy and once you get each of the 4 legs adjusted to the right height, it would wobble with the slightest touch. Another product I would try was one of those 4 leg all metal “platform” stands. Although it was cheap, about the right size, and had some adjustability, it was also very unstable and cumbersome to set up and adjust the height. Not long after purchasing, this thing would end up wounding my hand during set-up and scratching my new speakers while transporting it on my gig cart. This was obviously not the solution I was looking for and was a pleasure to launch into a dumpster that day.
I then ended up purchasing a musicians’ keyboard “X” stand and using a piece of black carpeted plywood as a table top to set my gear on. This looked kind of cool, was tall enough, and the X design of the stand didn’t have any wobble, but there were still issues. For example, to get the height needed to stand up straight, you must adjust the X-stand arms inward, which causes them to be at a very narrow position. So, if you weren’t paying attention when taking your gear off, the table top will flip if you happen to still have gear on the other side of those narrow arms. This would be an expensive lesson when my laptop crashed to the concrete floor.
I had finally had enough and it was time to realize there were no easy answers. This was my problem and it was going to be up to me to solve it. The rest, as they say, is history.