Monday, March 3, 2008


Okay, so here we go. I am using this as a way to report on my experiences in Detroit studying techno and house music in Detroit. I am a graduate student doing doctoral field research on this music and that is why I am here in Detroit. For those of you interested in the more academic aspects of fieldwork, ethnomusicology, and using the blog as one form of fieldnote, I am aware of possible conflicting issues that posting online will raise. I still think it is a worthwhile experiment and an intriguing way to interact with a larger public while I am engaged "in the field." For readers less interested in the academic aspects, it is going to be interesting to see how this pans out as a form of communication with people I don't even know yet, or at least don't even know to be interested. Bare with me and I'll make sure I do Detroit justice.

What follows are some excerpts from some fieldnotes that I have already written about techno and house in Detroit:

Electrifying Mojo Tribute

Bert’s Motown Room, Eastern Market

The Butcher, S.G. Detroit, Marc Ducan, Rick Wilhite, Kenny Dixon Jr.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The party was in the Eastern Market – I have not been there during the day, but it’s supposedly a very large, year round, farmer’s market. Definitely deserted at night. Eastern portion of metro Detroit. Lots of parking lots, storefronts with metal gates covering the fronts, older buildings, almost like an industrial area. Bert’s Motown room – located next to jazz club, also Bert’s. Came in to club – Rick Wilhite on tables, not very full yet. It was about 10:45. Marc Ducan was frequently on the mic for the first few hours of the night. He was funny, calling people down to dance when the floor was empty, also reminding crowd of what this night meant – tribute to Mojo. Also emphasized that it was Black History Month – fascinating link, clearly African American history and cultural background are important. DJs were all over the mixer, when one was playing, another would come up and make an adjustment on the mixer or listen on the headphones when the DJ on the decks was looking for a record or cd. Two turntables, two cdjs and a mixer. Rick played Peter Frampton live solo portion.

Another DJ, S.G. Detroit, played Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Rose Royce “Car Wash,” James Brown “Body Heat,” some “Sunshine” song, but I don’t know who it was, maybe Earth, Wind, and Fire (?), Kraftwerk “Robots." For most of the night, the crowd was largely African American. By midnight there were about 5 white people there. Some of the crowd before midnight seemed like they usually hang out in that club on the weekends and they just happened to be there during this party. I am assuming this because many of them left relatively early in the evening, like before 1 or 2 am. White and Black people, I’m talking about.

S.G. Detroit also played Christopher Cross “Ride Like the Wind,” it was so funny to see him grooving to this song the way he was dancing to other songs he was playing. This song sounded so good so loud – I wasn’t ready to dance yet, but I should have gotten up. When am I going to hear that again in that type of setting, and so loud? Then he played some segment with a man, maybe Mojo (?), talking about the Midnight Funk Association. That was the name of Mojo’s radio show. And he was talking about being a part of the MFA. On the cover of the DEQ that we picked up that night, there was Mojos MFA ID card with his signature on it. Really cool! S.G. Detroit, and Marc Ducan really liked to lower or silence the volume of the song and let the crowd sing along. It was great to hear so many people know these lyrics to so many different types of songs. By this time, it seemed like the growing crowd was filling up with people who were there to see these DJs specifically and who listened to Mojo as teenagers or young kids. A lot of the African Americans in the crowd were in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Some were dressed up. A lot of the women were either in all black or had tight jeans and furry boots pulled up over their jeans. Slowly, more white people trickled in. Mainly white men in their 20s and 30s, one boy who looked pretty young and was clearly a raver from the way he was dancing. Other white men were scruffy, lumberjack, urban white men – I don’t know how to describe this look, but it reminds me of my brother, and a lot of men in Chicago and Bloomington. Maybe it’s a Midwest, kind of mod, kind of indie style.

Rick now playing Cybotron “Alleys of Your Mind,” Marc Ducan got on the mic again and reminded us all that it was Black History Month – this was a really serious, powerful part of the night. He kept mentioning this. It was a really interesting, exciting parallel. Saying something like, this is black history month, this is black history! He also mentioned how Rick used to work at Buy Rite Records. I don’t know much about this place, except that it was an important record store for Detroit DJs. I’ll have to do some research and ask in interviews. Rick then played Queen “Another One Bights the Dust,” Michael Jackson “P.Y.T.”, a Carl Craig track, and Devo “Whip It.”

Then Kenny Dixon came on, about 3am. Kenny Dixon is an excellent DJ - other DJs were really watching him and studying what he was doing. It was pretty cool. I don’t yet know how to describe the difference in sound and technique, but I know that I heard it and I want to be able to study what he does more and understand what really makes someone a talented and skilled DJ. Because, just like guitar players, anyone can be a DJ, but it takes a lot of years and practice to become talented. Like any art form.

Alright now, how was that? I'm heading out again this weekend after a break last weekend - I'll post again soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.