After doing the necessary research as to the better dance clubs in Yerevan, it was decided that the Relax club was the best choice for this Friday night. Other clubs had been bandied about such as Star Time or Tornado. However, the consensus was that Relax was the right combination of dance club, bar, meat market, and cheesiness to capture the mood of the night. Our group included Lena, Jason, Anna, Ashod, Gor, Aram, and a host of others. It was our first time out together as a group to a dance club since I was there, so curiosity abound. Relax is located around the Opera Square area and is unrecognizable because there is no sign outside of the establishment. It is next to the restaurant Maestro and across from the artists market where painters sell their works. From outside the club, you walk down about ten steps until the door is opened to another side of Yerevan. The music is blaring, the air is humid from all of the bodies in the club, and the lights are dim. To the left, the bar area and lounge sit with plenty of people ready to serve you drinks or otherwise. To the right, is a small dance floor with the DJ booth in the back -center, raised a bit from the rest of the patrons. The walls are flanked with booths and chairs, which are usually filled. The atmosphere is your traditional club with a few exceptions. The first major difference was that the music was difficult to dance to because there was never a continuous beat from song to song. Rather, the DJ relied on a style of quick cuts from song to song. Often times, a song would be cut in the middle and jump to another one only for that song to be cut again. Being a DJ myself, it is hard for me not to critique the style and pace of the DJ. Other differences that I noticed were that a single song was played as much as four times in one evening set (Madonna�s �Music�). The music skipped a lot during the night. However, the biggest letdown was that in the four hours that we were there, only one Armenian song was played. Tata Simonian�s song �Left or Right� got the biggest ovation and dance floor of the evening. I was curious as to why Armenian music was shut out- IN ARMENIA? More on that later.
While all of the differences in approach and style that were employed at Relax were easy to pick up and critique, we all had a great time and danced our asses off. A funny note and cultural difference that could not be ignored was that the women of Armenia constantly dance in front of the mirror if they are not accompanied by a guy. Women of Armenia are generally fashion conscious and care a great deal about their looks. In the nightclub, it is of no exception. Where there is a mirror, there will be an Armenian woman dancing with herself making sure she looks great doing it!
After a night of fun in the club, I decided to take matters into my own hands in regards to the music. I asked a close friend of mine if it would be possible to have me guest DJ at Relax for an hour or so the next night. After a few calls to some of his contacts in town, I was secured some time to DJ at Relax on Saturday night. I had to meet the owner at 2:30pm the next day for �rehearsal�. I showed up at Relax the next day at the appointed time and met one of the people who worked there. After some name-dropping, she eventually recognized me as the DJ who would play that evening at her club. As she took me around back to meet the current DJ, she asked, �if I needed any women?� I was kind of stunned at the question and how forthright she was with it. After some thought, I stated that I was OK in that category and thanked her for asking. She then introduced me to the current DJ whom she called �the best DJ in Yerevan.� He was playing Nintendo in the back room and warmly greeted me. He showed me to the DJ booth and told me to play whatever I wanted. After looking at the system, it was no wonder why the music was skipping the night before. The system was a hodge-podge of professional and home electronics that made it difficult for any DJ to use. There was no cross-fader and the two CD players that he had were home units. Therefore, there was no instant start up on a song. The speakers used were two lone speakers located on the bar side of the room that were directed toward the dance floor. The sound wasn�t bad as I put in some newer music as well as some club classics. Janet Jackson�s �All for you�, the new song from �Moulin Rouge� by Christina Aguilara and Lil Kim, and �Dinata� by Elfteria Arvanitaki were just some of the songs I played around with. Other songs like �Easy Girls� by Les Negresses Vertes, a reworked �Didi� by Khaled, and �Don�t Tell Me� by Madonna rounded out my sound check. I toyed with the idea of playing Tarkan�s �Kiss Kiss�, but balked at the fact that it would be in poor taste to play a Turkish song, no matter how popular it is. (I heard it on the radio later that day in Yerevan). My friend Ashod stopped by to check up on my progress and as soon as we wrapped up at the club, we went over to grab some chicken Shawerma for a buck nearby.
After my brief lunch, I decided to take a Siesta and head back to the place I was staying at to take a brief nap. As I settled in on the couch, I grabbed my copy of Raffi�s Khente (The Fool) and continued the story of the author�s �call to arms� in the late 1800�s.
And here I was preparing to make my Yerevan debut DJ�ing later that night.