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What’s in your bag, Dani Deahl?

DJ gear and mementos

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What’s in Your Bag? is a recurring feature where we ask people to tell us a bit more about their everyday gadgets by opening their bags and hearts to us. This week, we’re featuring Verge tech reporter Dani Deahl.

I didn’t realize how much stuff I carry with me until I had to unpack my bag for this piece. I’ve been a traveling DJ for over a decade and so I’ve learned, over time, the varying bits and pieces I need to account for the “what ifs” that can happen while at gigs, nightclubs, or festivals. DJ rule number one — always carry a USB drive, even if you’re not planning to DJ!

Aside from that, my setup is both functional and sentimental. Looking at everything, I think the way I curate my objects is so they serve a purpose, but also remind me of a memory. Tiny breadcrumbs of my travels and my life can be found throughout. Why have a regular-ass pen when I can have a pen I won with my husband in a Hong Kong arcade? I don’t get to see many of my friends often and there are times I’m away from home for long stretches, so it helps to carry pieces of both.

Ozuko owl backpack

I got this bag at the Ladies’ Market in Hong Kong a few years ago. My husband’s family is from Hong Kong and we travel there yearly to see them. The markets are always a necessary visit, and it helps that he speaks Cantonese and haggles for me. Owl bags became popular in the markets around this time and there were several lookalikes, but this one by Ozuko was my favorite. It’s starting to fall apart — I’ve re-sewn a couple of the interior pockets that have torn — but I’m not ready to let go of it yet. I know I likely won’t be able to replace it since it’s made by a Guangzhou-based wholesaler, so I’m trying to take care of it for as long as I can.

The pins are all pretty special to me. There’s one from Fake Shore Drive’s 10th anniversary event (yay, Chicago!), a Roland 808, one for a local party called Porn & Chicken, and one I got at Japanese toy store Rotofugi. On it, a little creature is sitting with ice cream that’s fallen off the cone and it says “no cry” — I adore it because this has happened to me as an adult. One summer I was having a horrible, no good, very bad day and decided to treat myself when I heard the ice cream truck come down my street. Just as the cone was handed to me from the window, the ice cream fell off with a splat. After a moment I couldn’t help but start to laugh. No cry.

13-INCH APPLE MACBOOK AIR (EARLY 2015)

Like near everyone else who has done a “What’s in your bag,” this is the laptop that was given to me when I started at The Verge. To be honest, I didn’t think I’d like using the Air — I had always used varying sizes of MacBook Pros, but now, especially carrying it with me everywhere, I appreciate its slim, lightweight design. I’ve been converted.

Anker chargers and various cables

I carry both the Anker PowerCore II 20000 and a smaller, pocket-sized Anker PowerCore 5000. I travel a lot, so the PowerCore II 20000 stays in my backpack as a backup for long hauls, and then I generally slip the PowerCore 5000 in my jacket pocket if I know I’ll be out all night or at a festival. Earlier this year I went to Marrakech which took almost 24 hours over three flights and these chargers were a lifesaver. The cables are what they are. I like keeping them (and most collections of smaller things) in sunglass pouches — they’re the perfect size.

The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop

This book was recommended to me by my friend Sam, who is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to music history. But, it’s a monster that clocks in at 688 pages. It’s so physically large it takes up the bulk of my backpack space so when I got it, I kept finding excuses to not commit to reading it. I shelved it (I have all my books displayed at home on spine bookcases), but I kept eyeing the title every time I walked by. Recently I thought, “okay, you’re going to do this.” I’m glad I did.

The book follows the story of hip-hop from Harlem in the 1960s all the way through its current domination in mainstream and pop culture. The guy who wrote it, Dan Charnas, spent seven years working for Rick Rubin, and gives a true behind-the-scenes look at just how hard people had to work, not just at their craft as musicians, but at dismantling politics at play outside of the public view. In the chapter I’m on: “But even in 1984, the market for videos by black artists remained dismal, mainly because MTV, with few exceptions, refused to play their videos ... The network was founded by men who came out of 1970s radio, when black artists had been jettisoned from FM stations with the rationale that the broadcasters’ white male target audience didn’t like soul and funk music.”

Random on-the-go bits

These sunglasses are the only pair I ever wear. They’re from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles — my family took me there for my birthday last year and they were an impulse buy in the gift shop. I’m really, really good at losing sunglasses so I bought two. The Go Cubes I totally stole from Natt Garun’s desk. They’re chewable coffee cubes and each one has 50 milligrams of caffeine. It’s not exactly fun to eat them — the cubes are bitter and don’t taste the best, but they do give me a slight boost. Now I keep a couple packs with me so I always have access to a pick-me-up no matter where I am.

The little robot was given to me by my husband. It’s the most adorable audio splitter there ever was! The head pops off to reveal an 1/8 jack and the eyes are inputs. We use it to watch movies together on flights, and it came in handy when I was visiting The Verge office, letting me noodle around with chained pieces of audio equipment without disturbing anyone. The V-Moda Zn in-ear headphones I keep as a backup pair. They don’t take up any space, they’re comfortable, and I like the way they sound. I really do prefer over-ear headphones, though.

As far as the remote phone camera trigger ... a lot of my travel is done solo and it’s nice to be able to document where I go and not have it consist of a million selfies. This way I can actually set up shots. Great little tool.

Notebook and pens

I always like to carry a physical notebook, and recently bought this one. Buying a white notebook was a bold move for me — I have chunks of hot pink hair and the dye regularly gets transferred to my fingertips, which then gets transferred to whatever else I touch. I couldn’t help it though. I love this notebook’s clean, simple design, and the cover has a velveteen-like feel to it. The pens I got with ticket winnings in a Hong Kong arcade. I love the look on people’s faces when they ask to borrow a pen and I present them with these options. Whatever, they’re cute!

Health, wellness, and beauty supplies

This Domo bag was given to me by a friend who recently went to Thailand. It wound up being the perfect size to carry my makeup essentials. When you’re at all day / night festivals or going to an event straight from a flight, it’s good to have touch-up options. I’ve had to get ready for shows in venue restrooms without stopping at the hotel first. Adding to all my “just in case” scenarios is that little yellow egg. It’s a capsule from a toy vending machine and is the perfect size to carry my medicine essentials in case of headache, cold symptoms, upset stomach, anything! I’m such a rave mom. I’m also asthmatic, as you can see, and obsessively buy chapstick in bundles (chapstick is something else I somehow lose with great regularity).

Another gift from the husband are the kitty brass knuckles. Not only do they look badass, they’re a better and more effective alternative than keys between my fingers if I’m walking alone at night. I keep them in a slim pocket that rests against my back so I can reach back and grab them in a flash.

DJing and event necessities

All my music for DJing is on this Corsair Flash Voyager USB. It’s got a rubber housing and is built for “extreme performance” which is great because I need something that works even if I put it through hell. It’s gone through the wash, the dryer, been dropped, stepped on, had liquor spilled on it, and still works perfectly. I use the V-Moda Crossfade Wireless for DJing, a recent switch from the V-Moda M-100s I was using before. I beat those M-100s to the brink of dying over the course of hundreds of gigs. Though I have to be more careful with the Crossfade Wireless, I like that they have the same frequency response I was used to in the M-100s, and now I also have the freedom outside of DJing to use them for answering calls or listening via Bluetooth.

The rest of the items are more “just in case” odds and ends. Having a small industrial flashlight is great for looking for dropped items in clubs, or trying to find something in my bag. I buy foam earplugs in bulk, not just for myself at shows, but in case a friend needs them while we’re out.

Lastly, it may be a little weird I carry a handful of 1/8 to 14 headphone adapters, but, having spares has saved my butt many times. Also, I’ve seen many an artist realize at the last second they’re missing one and then I get to be a superhero. Once in the artist area at EDC Las Vegas, R3hab was running around asking for one of these adapters in a panic. I pulled one out of my pocket and he looked at me like I was removing Excalibur. I think he still only knows me as “headphone adapter girl” but it made me happy I could help him out! These things are cheap, but so valuable in the moment!

Tokens and memories

Okay, so some of these things I just forgot to take out. But, the obsidian and cicada pendant I deliberately keep with me. A friend gave me the pendant after traveling across Asia, and the cicada is meant to represent longevity and protection against backstabbers. The obsidian I found at the base of a volcano in Tequila, Mexico, and it supposedly helps to shield against negativity, resentment toward others, and anger. To be honest, I don’t know how much I believe in all that. But, I figure it can’t hurt, and they’re at the very least good reminders to work on myself in day-to-day life.

The Catcade flyer is from a new-ish cat cafe in Chicago that combines many things I love in life: cats, video games, and helping animals in need (all the cats are available for adoption). They also do cat yoga and blanket fort movie nights with cats, which means I have actually found heaven on Earth and it only requires a $15 donation. What a deal.

The ticket and the photo strip are from a recent night out when I went to the Aragon Theater to see a bunch of friends who were performing. I wound up staying much later than I had planned, and at the end, my friend Mija (one of the people on the bill) suggested going to Smart Bar. She lives in Los Angeles and had never been. Smart Bar is a legendary club that’s world renowned for its positive, inclusive culture and music curation, with no LED screens and no flashy lasers. It’s just a small, all-black box with low ceilings, tucked away in a basement. You go there to dance. So, I said fuck it, let’s go. We stayed up until 5AM getting sweaty to Hot Chip and now I have this photo strip that vaguely smells of sulfur to remember the night by.

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