The Art of Crowd Control

Rousing thirty thousand A's fans isn't just an adventure: It's Michael Addicott's job.

Upon his death, Gary Glitter’s obituary will most likely cite two things: pedophilia and sports. The convicted pervert has of late been spending his time being kicked out of various Third World Asian countries known for their exploitation of children (“Lord, I was born a NAMBLA maaaan … “) He left Britain because he is a pariah there.

Back here in the States, there is nothing we detest more than a child pornographer. Yessirree. So to punish Glitter, we play his song, “Rock and Roll (Part 2),” at every sporting event from Los Angeles to New York, ensuring him a lifetime of ASCAP royalties to fund his travels. But man, what a song! It’s custom-made for crowd rallying, complete with cries of “Hey!” and a solid, almost tribal drumbeat.

But Michael Addicott, or “Addi,” doesn’t play Gary Glitter at the Oakland A’s games he DJs. “That’s really a basketball song,” he says. He instead plays Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Scorpions, “Bust a Move,” and “Billie Jean.” As each game progresses he plays more and more aggressive music, bringing out Metallica’s “Fuel” in the eighth inning. It’s his job to play all the music you hear at games, either between innings or when the batters approach the plate. And from his vantage point at the large mixing board in his Coliseum control booth, looking down on thousands of fans, the job is actually pretty damn daunting. “I did it about twenty times before I felt comfortable,” Addi admits.

It’s not just a matter of whipping in a clip of “Whoomp! There It Is” — he also has to synch his act with a whole lineup of control-room geeks who run the message boards, TV cameras, and general audio for the games. The producer, director, technicians, and announcers are separated from Addi by a pane of glass, but their headset mikes are pumped into his booth. Man, what a boys’ club — a true dream job for a male sports fan. The wisecracks are constant. Wadded paper-ball fights prompt the joke, “I’ve got three balls, and I’m not even at bat!”

“I hope they’re not offending you,” says Addi, smiling apologetically. The 32-year-old is an ex-jock with a muscular stockiness and close-cropped hair. He’s also a trained pianist and regular DJ at the Jupiter pub in downtown Berkeley. The A’s have actually managed to find a guy who knows a lot about both music and sports. But most important, he’s more than patient with incisive, hard-hitting questions like, “So where do the Raiders play?” and “Wow, Anaheim has a baseball team?”

The songs are uploaded into a computer, on which he need only point and click or press a button to send them out over the loudspeakers. But he’s free to pick the music, provided it’s clean and gets the job done. (The job, like that of any DJ, is to get the crowd dancing.) To his credit, he tries to give preference to East Bay artists, like Green Day and even Too Short, though it’s a feat to find a Too Short track that doesn’t mention coke, bitches, or ho’s. Addi settles for the rapper’s ode to Oakland, which is titled, strangely enough, “Oakland.” “I’m really here for the crowd,” he says, adding that the fans, more than the game, are the focus of his attention.

But on this day, the game was among the most important of the season, pitting the A’s against the Angels on Thursday afternoon. With all the kids in school, it was actually a pretty sedate crowd. Addi played a rousing drum bit that sort of sounded like the beginning of “I Want Candy” to get the folks going. “The drummer for Huey Lewis made that specially for us,” he says, pointing down to the seats behind the dugout where the dude regularly sits. But the stomping drumbeat doesn’t succeed in getting the fans clapping, let alone get them on their feet. “We will not be manipulated!” the guys heckle from the other side of the glass. “Hey Addi, play Yanni! ‘Cause that’s what this crowd is … yawny!” Or “Sinatra! This crowd wants Sinatra!”

“I wasn’t a big baseball fan when I started this job,” says Addi. “But now I’m addicted to it. It has a certain beauty.” Lucky for him, since his job requires sitting for three slow hours and watching game after game. The A’s actually have two other DJs, and Addi is second in line of seniority. Having not worked in more than a month, he was kind of nervous.

As Terrence Long approached the batter’s box, a voice from the other side of the glass trickled in, “They probably swap the brothers all the time and nobody knows it … “

Hmm. Does Long have a twin brother that they’re talking about?

“No … ” says Addi, appearing slightly mortified. “I don’t know what that was all about.” He shuts off the mike feed from the control booth.

“It probably sounds weird,” he says, changing the subject, “but if I’m having a bad day I feel it affects the game. But if we win I also like to feel that I had a part in it.”

It makes sense. It’s Addi’s role to release the crowd’s energy, which wafts up through his open window directly above home plate. He then answers back with his own energy via Pink, the Beatles, or Elvis Costello (“Pump It Up,” natch).

Oakland does end up winning the game to snatch back its top slot in the AL West. “Great job, Addi,” says his boss from the control booth. “And it only took you three and a half hours.”

“That’s baseball,” says Addi with a relieved shrug.

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