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Planes, airports familiar territory for touring superstar DJs

All these world-famous DJs who perform in Vegas – they arrive here very sleepy because they fly more often than pilots and flight attendants.

"I’ve gotten used to flying on planes. I can sleep standing up now," jokes Liv Nervo, who performs Wednesday at Surrender with her sister Mim.

Afrojack flies so much, he has seen the dream-simulacrum movie "Inception" "like 30 times."

"I used to watch the movie every time I was on the plane," says Afrojack, performing today at Surrender.

"I sleep in cars, on airplanes, on bicycles. When you’re really tired, you can sleep wherever," the Dutch DJ says.

DJ Markus Schulz is a million-miler with two different airlines.

"I’ve probably accumulated over 2 or 3 million miles," says Schulz, who plays Feb. 15 at Marquee.

DJs cross the Atlantic four or five times a month, Schulz says.

"There have been many times when I’ve had the same flight crew. I’ll land in a city, go do my gig, and then go to the airport the next day, and the flight crew is the same crew."

Schulz says he can relate to George Clooney’s frequent-flying character in "Up in the Air." But unlike that movie, no airline VIP has ever presented Schulz with a special-fulfillment card and Champagne midflight.

"Only in the movies do they do that," Schulz says.

DJ Max Graham says when he first met DJ Sander Kleinenberg in Ibiza, they sat in a hotel suite and obsessed over airline gossip – while bored women waited for them to stop talking.

"We kept comparing: ‘Have you flown the new Singapore Airlines’ business class?’ He was like, ‘Oh my God, I did it from New York to Singapore!’

"There were these girls in the room," Graham says. "And the girls were like, ‘OK, every time you guys talk about airports and hotels, you have to put a Euro down on the table.’ "

Those two DJs agreed to the women’s terms and started placing Euros on a table.

"The pile got bigger and bigger to the point where the girls just said, ‘We’re leaving. You guys are boring.’

"It was bad," Graham says.

Graham says DJs always try to figure out who travels in the air more than them. Their best guess: General Electric repair people who go around the world fixing giant generators.

"A repair guy, or a support guy, might fly to London, go to a plant, fix something, and then get back on the plane and go to another city and fix it," Graham says.

How about pilots and flight attendants?

"We travel more in a month than they’re legally allowed," Graham says.

"We might play L.A. in the afternoon, Vegas at night, and the next day you’re off to Seattle. It’s crazy. No one tours like we do – no rock stars, nothing."

I have personally seen the sleepy travel effects on DJs.

When I met the duo Cazzette recently, it was in a hotel suite, they had just landed, and one of them (Alex Bjorklund) had slept 30 minutes in the previous 26 hours.

Bjorklund says DJ passports are weird, too, because DJs travel under their myriad DJ names.

"I have four different names in my passport," Bjorklund says. "It’s always different names on different tickets that get booked.

"With frequent flier clubs being tense about names on the tickets … it’s a pain in the ass."

And the last time I saw Hardwell at Marquee, he told me he had been awake 30 straight hours.

"I had a gig in Poland, we had to go straight on to Germany and a connecting flight to Vegas. I closed my eyes on the plane for maybe an hour, but I couldn’t sleep," said Hardwell, who returns Feb. 11 to Marquee.

The only DJs who get good sleep are the ones who figure out this idea: Don’t fly so much.

"Being on tour is being constantly on the move. It’s plane, car, hotel, club, hotel and off we go again," says Benny Benassi, who plays tonight at Marquee.

"But to be honest, I am not as intense a touring artist as some other DJs, and try to defend my private life and the time I need to unwind and stay human."

Doug Elfman’s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Email him at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

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