As countless JMU students waited outside the Artful Dodger Coffeehouse & Cocktail Lounge in freezing rain last Thursday, plenty more were dancing to the beat coming from inside the downtown bar like it was a sunny summer day outside. The vibe resonating through the walls came courtesy of JMU’s own DJ duo Tricks and DJ Crums, also known as Travis Hicks and Andrew Crumley.
The two began their weekly residency this semester at the Artful Dodger last week, and will look to continue to bring a high-energy party downtown each Thursday night. In addition to traveling around the country to perform at house parties and clubs, the two are also enrolled as full-time students.
“You really do become the life of the party in the sense that you’re providing the heartbeat of the whole party,” Hicks, a senior geographic science major, said. “It’s what really unites a whole room of strangers who don’t know each other, but they all come together and get down to the same thing and have a great night.”
Rachel Millison, an attendee of the duo’s first gig of the semester last week, felt that the high-energy performance given by Hicks and Crumley set the vibe for the entire bar.
“It was the first [Thursday] night of the semester, but those guys were partying like it was the last,” Millison, a junior kinesiology major, said. “They played super hype versions of songs everyone could vibe with, and never stopped jumping around and getting everyone in the crowd hype from up on stage.”
Hicks and Crumley began DJing together last semester after years of hard work performing individually. The two are well prepared for their new gig, as Hicks’ focus has been DJing East Coast festivals and house parties or bars in the ’Burg since his freshman year, and Crumley has traveled all over the country to perform.
After working for Party Cartel for four years, Crumley began to travel extensively once he began working for fratmusic.com. For example, in one weekend he drove to Hampton-Sydney College on Thursday night to DJ a party, and then flew to Atlanta on Friday morning to board a connecting flight to Nebraska. After DJing a Friday night party at the University of Nebraska, he flew to Chicago to DJ a party at the University of Chicago on Saturday night. On Sunday morning, he jumped on a connecting flight from Atlanta to Richmond before driving back to Harrisonburg to attend his Monday classes.
For Crumley, the physical demands of traveling are transcended by the feeling of doing what he loves.
“When you’re in front of a really hype crowd, the feeling is unmatched,” Crumley, a junior communication studies major, said. “You have complete control of up to thousands of people.”
Hicks echoes his partner's thoughts, and aims to play unique versions of songs most people will recognize, while introducing his crowd to songs he loves. He often plays as many as 12 gigs per month.
“My favorite aspect is the connection between myself and the crowd and the energy we generate together — the crowd feeds off my energy and I feed off of theirs,” Hicks said. “It's a very communal, and often magical experience.”
While the two seldom produce original content, they excel at playing songs for crowds in new ways that have never been heard before. While the duo mostly takes turns leading the charge, the two subtly complement each other by playing at the same time.
“I like being able to share the music I like and spread a kind of different vibe for some of the songs that a lot of the people know really well, but do it in a different way and mix it with other songs to make it my own original thing that I’m performing,” Hicks said. “Andrew will then mix underneath it, so there really is a lot going on.”
While Hicks and Crumley seize each opportunity they get to DJ, they agree that the unpredictable nature of what they’re performing constantly poses a challenge that they must adapt to.
“You might be on track and have this fun set you had planned out ... but the moment a song request comes in that doesn’t match the same tempo as the songs you’re currently playing, you essentially have to redo your entire set based on that one song request,” Crumley said.
While Crumley, 23, knows he could ignore the requests and continue playing his set list, he feels his primary goal as a DJ is to help people enjoy their night, and so he honors most song requests.
Additionally, the duo feels the lifestyle that’s often associated with the nature of DJing can affect them both on and offstage.
“Being introduced to hardcore drugs or free alcohol because it’s in your rider, it happens a lot,” Crumley said. “These guys are flying you across the country, so it’s expected that when you get there you’ll party with them. Meanwhile … you’re working. You’re always doing something, and trying to do that on molly is not something that you would desire to do.”
Hicks avoids falling into this lifestyle by keeping his mind and body healthy when he’s not mixing beats. Hicks makes sure he gets an adequate amount of sleep every night so he can produce the highest quality work without being dependent on a substance for energy.
“These days I don’t drink more than two drinks when I DJ or go out so that I can make sure I’m staying grounded,” Hicks said. “It gets pretty hectic in trying to maintain a balance in life, and it gets pretty easy to get away from that balance if you get too caught up in the party lifestyle, which is really common among DJs throughout the world.”
While the duo will look to begin producing after graduation, the two feel that JMU’s environment is the perfect place for aspiring DJs like themselves to hone their craft.
“There is nowhere else that is a more fertile ground to do this than in a college town,” Hicks said. “I’ve devoted a lot more of my mental resources and time to DJing while I still have an environment where it’s so readily available to go out and do it. This is something that I truly love and now that I’ve had a taste of doing it here, I do just want to grow it to a larger scale and reach more and more people.”
Contact Sammy Criscitello at firstname.lastname@example.org.