Saturday, May 31, 2008
Then James and I walked back along the river walk to our car and headed home to check on the baby. I breastfed him and then I dragged my tired husband out again to Alvins, a bar/club near Wayne State University in Detroit for the Underground Resistance party. It was excellent, and I'm so glad that I chose that party to go to. We got there when Buzz Goree was spinning. This was another moment when I heard really new, interesting sounds this weekend. His set was excellent - I feel like I need to hear him play a few more times before I get a good sense of how to describe his performances in words. Then we saw the Aquanauts (Bileebob and Milton Baldwin). They were excellent. Really interesting electro-funk-punk kind of music, I don't know if that describes it well, but I'm trying. Bileebob was the vocalist and he was electronically manipulating his voice into the mic, emphasizing the highs and lows at different points. His dancing was something to see. He's a great performer. Really robotic, sharp, harsh movements - not silly 80's robot, nice, clean, pristine movements. And Skurge was really great too - really interesting, hard, intense but simple rhythms. Then the Suburban Knight came on and again, great set. It was just a great night! Nice way to end a frustrating day. I ran into Cornelius Harris there taking photos up at the stage. Had a nice chat (well, a yell) with him about coming down to the Submerge building for a tour. Looking forward to it!
More tomorrow. Yes, there's still more...
Friday, May 30, 2008
Here's some photos from flickr of Hart Plaza. These are not my photos, I just searched for Hart Plaza on flickr.
And here is a map of Hart Plaza. This is from the main webpage for the festival. This is the layout for this particular festival along with all the stages that were set up.
Anyway, Moby was wearing a Detroit zip up hoodie that he got at the festival, probably, or sent someone to buy for him at the official Paxahau Movement tent. He played Inner City in the first few minutes of his set. Inner City is a project that Kevin Saunderson and vocalist Paris Grey put a few releases out with in the late 1980s. So it's major Detroit music. And, later in the set, he got up on the table on which his equipment (all digital) was set up and was getting the crowd to chant "Detroit!" over and over. Now, in that kind of setting, it's difficult to distinguish between a chant begun by the DJ or a chant begun by the crowd. It just starts and grows louder and louder until it fades out. It was a very strange moment to see a huge crowd of mainly young white people (teens and 20s), most of whom were not from Detroit, chanting "Detroit!" along with Moby. Festival attendance is predominantly white people in their teens and 20s. The population of the city of Detroit is predominantly African American, 88% according to the 2000 census. So, most Detroiters were not in attendance at the festival. Maybe some of the white crowd came from suburbs that make up metropolitan Detroit, the rest are midwest ravers, fans from Chicago and other nearby cities, and some from other parts of the US and around the world. So irony was in abundance at the Moby set that night. What about Detroit was being represented at that moment when the crowd was shouting "Detroit!"? People come in to the city to see a DJ who has nothing to do with Detroit, and they are only in the city for the festival and then leave, grateful for not getting mugged or killed, because, you know, Detroit is the murder capital of the world apparently. Okay, now I'm being sarcastic and moody, but this seems to be a reality for alot of people who live in the city of Detroit. It is a city full of poverty, joblessness, terrible education system, misguided leadership unconcerned with much of Detroit's population, and a lengthy history of population decline, of crippling violence on such a scale that some say the city still has not recovered, and general invisibility to the rest of the US. I write invisibility because many accounts of Detroit by visitors emphasize the empty state of this city with its abandoned skyscrapers, empty streets, and eerie nature of the dilapidated city. I wrote about this in an earlier post as well. Fans of Detroit electronic music visit the city for the festival and during the long weekend, head out to explore a bit of the city. Many come away with a view of the city that really does not exist in reality. These accounts describe the city as desolate, empty, miles and miles of road with no human in sight. Who are they looking for, because there are people present all the time, especially during the warm spring month of May on Memorial Day weekend! Are poor Black people just invisible in these accounts, even though they are clearly a visible part of Detroit's cityscape? Race and class sometimes have the ability to make one invisible to a more privileged perspective.
Well, I did not plan on taking that route with this post, but I'm glad that came out onto my keyboard. I'll write more about the festival soon.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Saturday was a great day, everything went like clockwork. I was really stressing out about being away from our kids for such a long time day and night and worried about how the baby would do. But things worked out better than I had hoped for. After a nice morning prepping and cleaning up the house, the babysitter arrived at 2pm. The kids were excited and ready for a nice afternoon. James and I headed down to Hart Plaza and arrived at about 3pm. We parked in a free lot on the Detroit river walk. It was about a mile walk to the festival, but free parking all weekend, no problem finding a space, and a bunch of really nice walks back and forth along the river. We stopped by the underground Real Detroit stage first to catch some of Reggie “Hotmix” Harrell’s set. Lot’s of heavy, loud, funky house. Then we went over to the Red Bull Music Academy stage to see the Nick Speed Collection. I had never heard them before and loved it. The music was really new and different to my ears. Pretty eclectic beats, 4 musicians up there, lots of equipment (2 turntables, mixer, laptop, drum machine, not sure of everything). James got up on the stage to take photos, he was working for the festival doing photography. James Rotz photography, woo hoo! They were having set up difficulties, so while one man was working the laptop, two others were trying to repair the connection between the mixer and one of the turntables (I think that is what was happening). And the fourth man was selling cds. While the two were repairing the connection, one of them eventually stripped one of the wires, and then connected it directly to the turntable. It’s interesting to watch musicians repair their instruments/equipment in the middle of a performance. The DJ got going on the tables and mixer and then suddenly some new sound came in pretty strong and in rhythm, but the DJ looked a bit confused. He motioned to another in his crew to get on the laptop and turn down or turn off whatever was coming through from the laptop. Another interesting moment. And while all this is happening, there is excellent music flowing non-stop and seamlessly through the speakers.
We had to leave there kind of quick because I had tentatively scheduled with Minx that I would videotape her set from 4PM -5:30PM in the underground Real Detroit stage. She still had to clear it with the stage manager before I got up there. So when we got downstairs again, she was setting up. I headed down right in front of the DJ table, which was pretty high above my head. I waved to her and asked/motioned about videotaping. She asked the stage manager and he nodded his head and then disappeared. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Minx continued playing. Then, after a few minutes, the stage manager taps me on the back and hands me a “worker” pass to hang around my neck. I slapped that baby on and headed up to the stage. I was so nervous and excited to be up there. It was one of the most fun experiences with electronic music that I can think of. Watching her up close do what she does, it was freaking great. She was clearly having a good time! It was so hard for me to keep still and not dance while holding the camera. Oh, holding that camera! It is pretty lightweight, medium sized consumer grade digital video camera. I got it in 2003, right before all the really tiny digital video cameras became widely available. Anyway, I really need to get a monopod to hold it in place, because my arms were barking! I rested my elbow on a speaker from time to time and probably have some lovely vibrations in my video now. I wondered if I would get to keep my worker pass, not that I would really do anything with it – what the hell would I be doing back stage at anyone else’s set? As I was packing up my camera, the stage manager came over and asked for the pass back. I figured he would be on it. So I'm going to set up my first feedback interview with Minx to watch her set and talk about what she does as a DJ. I'm so excited.
Mike Grant came on next and played some great music. I had never heard him before either. Then we headed over to see Newcleus, but they were having some setup difficulties and James and I were starving. So we got some food and then I headed home to help get the three boys in bed at about 7:30PM. James stuck around to photograph Terrence Parker. So bummed that I missed his set. Gotta love TP!
Didn’t get back until about 9:30, bounced around for a while and tried to find James through crappy cell phone reception and unbelievable noise from the festival on both ends – nowhere to escape. Eventually we met up and headed over to see Moby. James got on stage and took some nice photos. I tried to keep an open mind about Moby. I liked him when I first started going to raves back in high school in 1995, so maybe he will do something nice at DEMF. But no, he was just silly, getting up on stage and acting like a superstar DJ, but not really doing anything superstarry.
Then we left to go up to Northland Roller Rink on 8 mile in Detroit for Kenny Dixon, Jr.’s Soul Skate party. We went last year and had a great time. But this year we got there much later than last, at about 1:30 AM. Missed the hot “soul food” and got some yummy, but cold food. The mac and cheese was gone by then though. So sad. Got a blister right away, and got knocked on my knees pretty early on. The party was great, things just didn’t go as well for me as they had in 2007. Nice music from Kenny Dixon, more r&b and funk than last year, fewer Detroit techno hits. Heard Isley Brothers "For the Love of You" as we were walking in. Wish we had been able to skate to that. Also played Captain Rapp "Bad Times" for one of the groups in the skate competition. Then we headed home to relieve the wonderful babysitter from her 14 hour stint, and got a bit of rest for the next day of festival going.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
So here is my first installment of my posts about Movement this past weekend, Detroit's annual electronic music festival. It's going to take me all week to get through these notes because I want to be thorough and there's a lot to say! It was a great, exhausting, wonderful, disappointing, frustrating, rainy, but sunny, fun weekend!
Movement: Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival
Saturday, May 24 – Monday, May 26, 2008
Hart Plaza, noon - midnight
Afterparties that I went to:
A Night at the Museum: The Fusion of Techno and Science
Originally at Detroit Science Center, moved to Majestic Theater day of party
Friday, May 23, 2008
Soul Skate ’08 with Kenny Dixon Jr.
Northland Roller Rink, 8 mile road in Detroit
Saturday, May 24, 2008
For Those Who Know PT IV
Underground Resistance Party
Alvins 5756 Cass Ave, Detroit
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Friday night at Majestic:
Disappointing night, originally scheduled for Detroit Science Center. Great idea, but didn't work out. It was moved to the Majestic the morning of the party. I headed down at 8:30PM imagining what I had been missing because the doors opened at 5:30pm and the lineup was so tight. There were three stages scheduled for the Science Center, but only one stage at the Majestic, so the lineup was pared down considerably. When I arrived, Delano Smith was on, playing some really nice house. I wasn’t sure who it was at first, because he was up on a stage and was pretty far away, and I actually haven’t yet met him. Terrence Parker was there and he mentioned that it was Delano up there. He said that coming down to hear some good music is like therapy for him. Still pretty empty space. Huge concert hall with two bars and some round tables with chairs set up around the outside edges of the linoleum tiled dance floor. DJs were set up on an elevated stage with curtains and everything. It was a pretty interesting set-up. Not one I have seen in Detroit – because usually the crowds are smaller for electronic music in Detroit, and the clubs, bars, lounges, and restaurants they play in are smaller and more intimate. It was interesting to see who was in the crowd. Clearly some Detroiters were there. I recognized some of them from other events, and some of the older, Black men just looked like they were not festival goers from out of town, but were house heads from Detroit! Then there were a few people who looked like they were from out of town. It was quite a change to see some young white people (in their 20s) at a party with primarily Black DJs in Detroit, also not something that I have seen a lot here.
Headed outside for a bit. As I walked back in, I heard Minx call my name. Walked over and talked to her for a while. She’s so friendly. Said she doesn’t like playing to an empty room because she likes to dance when she plays and likes the interaction with the crowd. Introduced me to Diviniti, vocalist for Women on Wax, Minx’s label.
T. Linder was on of Detroit Techno Militia. Part of Submerge. Detroit Techno Militia is an interesting group of DJs, I think they are almost all white which is interesting next to some of Submerge’s other groups – like Underground Resistance. Nice techno. Then Terrence Parker was up – played some nice house music. As always, a great set. And he kept it under an hour and a half, which seems unusual for him. Then Minx was on, but only for a short time. Mike Clark came up to the stage and they switched. Mike played a really interesting set, kind of house with a lot of Brazilian beats. It sounded great!
By this time, it was getting closer to midnight, I was getting tired and ready to head home so I could conserve energy for the rest of the weekend. But I heard that Juan Atkins was supposed to play at midnight and I really wanted to see him play since I never had before. I know, can you believe it???? After watching the party promoters and others scramble around for a while making phone calls and talking with worried looks on their faces, I decided that Juan was not going to show up. After making a bathroom stop, I was getting ready to head out to my car. But I first saw Rick Wilhite, they must have called him up to finish the night. We talked briefly about setting up an interview and then I decided to head home anyway even though I really didn’t want to miss his set. I just really wanted to get home.So there you have it, night one. More tomorrow.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Oslo, “Radio Skool”
Friday, May 16, 2008
This was a strange night. I have wanted to go to Stacey Pullen’s “Radio Skool” monthly night at Oslo since we moved here in February. But the first month, there was a conflicting Minx show at the Woodbridge Gallery, so I chose Minx. The next month, I think there was a Rick Wilhite and Karizma party at the Woodbridge, so I chose Rick. Then Stacey Pullen was touring, so there was a break in the schedule anyway. So finally, I see a flyer for it this month, and even better, Rick Wilhite is one of the DJs! Mike Brown was another DJ spinning, but I did not get there in time to see him, and I don’t yet know much about him. I’ll have to catch his set soon.
I finally got to go out with James, my husband. Not a common thing because he usually stays home with the baby. (Now that's an awesome thing). Didn't get there until almost 1am because of work conflicts. We ran in to DJ WhoDat and talked about upcoming Movement festival and afterparties - rollerskating!! Then we bumped into Rick Wilhite and talked about me coming up to his record store, Vibes, in Oak Park for an interview this week. I'm really looking forward to it.
I need to mention something that happens a lot to me when I go out in Detroit. Some guy came up to us during Stacey’s set and was motioning to James and me to dance. He was either African American or Latino, it was hard to tell because of the darkness. But, it’s not like I can pick out someone’s ethnic genealogy just by looking at them anyway. I just smiled politely and told him that we were good. I couldn't even hear or understand what he was saying anyway. We were standing in the dance floor amongst many other people standing and not dancing. I think I was bouncing a little, or nodding my head a bit. There were some people dancing up closer to the DJ booth, and some dancing behind us. But we weren’t in anyone’s way, nor were we doing anything rude or weird. This guy got really aggressive though, he was clearly drunk. He moved behind me and pushed me forward to dance, and maybe even did something similar to James. I just stepped forward and ignored him. Then, he hung out behind us pretty close. James told him to back off and the guy was not getting it. I just pulled James over a bit and the guy eventually backed off. This kind of thing happens to me a lot in Detroit. Usually Black men or women come up to me and motion to me to dance, like come on white girl, you’re not supposed to sit, you need to dance. Even though there are plenty of Black people in the club standing or sitting and listening to the music just like me. And, I dance plenty, I just take a bit of time to get out there, or if the music is just not grabbing me, I really don’t feel like trying to fake it or find a groove that I am not feeling. Dancing is really not a problem for me in a club. I’m not shy to dance, I just need some good music and some energy (physical energy to get up and move that is). I love to go out and dance to some good music, that’s why it’s weird for so many different people to come up to me and assume that I’m not planning on moving or that I’m doing something wrong or weird.
So I'm talking about race and I will continue to do that because that is a major element of my research here in Detroit. Race and racism are really important issues in this city and in this country. I don't think it's a "Black thing" that people keep coming up to me to get me to dance. And its actually not usually an aggressive, negative interaction like at Oslo Friday night. It just becomes annoying after so many times. But I do feel like it happens because I am white and maybe I look out of place. I am out of place - I'm not a Detroiter, I'm not Black but I'm often at an event where the crowd is mainly African American, as are the DJs, and I am researching - so I sometimes even have a notebook with me taking notes. I'm going to have to figure this out.
Anyway, by about 2:30AM, I noticed some people starting to empty out. Then I noticed Rick head up to the DJ booth and speak to a man that I assumed to be Mike Brown and then speak with Stacey. A few minutes later he was picking out records and then putting on headphones!! It was a pretty quick set, but it was great. He played a Nelly Furtado song, I think something that is on the radio currently, but remixed.
Okay, now we've talked about this wiki thing. I'm not reinventing the wheel, nor am I currently writing my dissertation in this blog entry. So relax and just read about what a remix is. It's an interesting essay.
Okay, now we've talked about this wiki thing. I'm not reinventing the wheel, nor am I currently writing my dissertation in this blog entry. So relax and just read about what a remix is. It's an interesting essay.
Then he played a few funk/r&b songs, there was mic feedback – why the mic was on at that point, I don’t know. Maybe Stacey had it ready to make his announcement at the end of the night. The final song was a new one from Theo Parrish’s recent album Sound Sculptures. I think three different people told Rick that he needed to finish up about five different times during that little segment – Stacey, Mike Brown, and a man who worked at Oslo who was sweeping the floors. :) That was pretty funny - I would have stayed. It was a great night.
We got home at about 3:45 after a bit of construction/highway trouble. And the baby did not even wake up!
Friday, May 16, 2008
So, in response to the comments that I received on my last post about transcribing interviews, I need to be a bit more specific about what I mean when I write about how to handle interview recordings in ethnographic research. Somedays I would love to "outsource" my interview recordings and have them professionally transcribed. My first and most obvious response to that is that I cannot afford to. But more importantly, not transcribing them myself would make me feel even more out of touch with my research. Like Anthony mentioned in his comments, I need to use my interviews as springboards to various topics and themes that I might want to explore in the near future. Ideas, issues, and information comes up in interviews that I was not aware of before conducting the interview. Listening to the recording, indexing, and transcribing it will help me to redirect my research where it needs to go based on new found knowledge and understanding.
And to Anthony, thank you for that excellent description of how to deal with interview recordings. Please read his comments about conducting interviews, and indexing and transcribing them. I actually have been doing a bit of indexing with the few interviews that I have dealt with so far. And when I say that I need to "transcribe" an interview, I don't mean that I am going to transcribe it word for word. I agree, that would not be useful and would be excruciatingly time consuming. The bits of conversation that stand out as particularly useful for future writing are the types of segments that I choose to transcribe. Still, I'm struggling with this aspect of field research.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Doing this research with children is exhausting. It is highly possible and rewarding, but holy hell, it is exhausting. There are just so many stresses and challenges to doing field research with a family that are nonexistent without a family. They typical way of doing this type of research is for a grad student, with a master's degree, doctoral coursework, and doctoral qualifying exams all completed, to head out into "the field" on her own and begin research with no obligations other than those related to her research. Now, I know that is a highly idealized fantasy of what happens, but compared to my experiences with my family of 5, the idea of being able to stay out all hours without worrying about a babysitter, or my husband at home with the baby, without thinking about the next day, up at 6am/7am ready to go with three boys running around, without worrying about having to support a family of 5, and just trying to manage schedules with my husband so that our boys are well cared for, it just seems like a completely different world. I am being a bit whiny right now, yes, I can admit that. But at the same time, I would never change where I am at this point in my life, or the major choices that I have made up to this point. I am completely satisfied with the choices I have made up to this point - I chose to have three children before I actually had a career. I love this crazy life, it's just crazy hard!
So I'm planning next weekend - time for DEMF!!!!! I am getting excited. It's the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, an annual, outdoor, three day music festival every Memorial Day weekend. It has been happening since 2000.
Here is the wikipedia entry about the history of the festival. It's pretty interesting.
I've got to plan out our schedule, because my husband and I are going together to see most of it, and the afterparties. Oh, the afterparties...need some careful consideration here. There are going to be so many great parties. Kenny Dixon is hosting his Soul Skate party again. We will be there Saturday night. I need to figure out the intricacies of going back and forth between home and the festival to check in on the kids and breastfeed my little baby boy. It's going to be crazy. And the recovery after the weekend??? Oh my goodness, that is going to be interesting. We'll see how long it takes me to get some comprehensive fieldnotes about the festival up.
One last thought about blogging - I've been hearing a lot lately about people making money off of their blogs. That seems so strange and foreign to me. But I guess a fancy few can actually make a good living off of companies advertising on their blogs. We are so financially F***** right now (sorry, but it's true), that I have actually thought about going this route with my blog. Although I don't think I have enough readers to make much difference. But more important than that, it seems unethical to make money off of this research - so I'm not going to start advertising on my blog. Dont' worry, you won't be seeing nasty "ads by google" on my blog.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
I went to Oslo with Ellen last Sunday, May 4th. Clark, Smith, and Talley are DJs who have been making music in Detroit and representing Detroit electronic music for decades. They are starting up a weekly party at Oslo on Sundays and I was really excited to finally get out to it last week. The music was fantastic - Norm played for most of the evening and Mike got on the decks at about 12:45AM. Lot's of female vocals, heavy, deep, funky house. Sadly, after only going on for a couple of weeks, the club was pretty empty most of the night. Sundays are pretty quite in Detroit. I took I-75 downtown and it was really empty, the city streets were full of parking spaces and hardly anyone was out walking around. Oslo's sushi bar was not even open, there was just a door open going down to the basement from the street. Ellen and I walked downstairs to the club and no one was at the door to take the cover. The bouncer then walked up from the bar to take our $5. A few people were at the bar, the dance floor was empty, as was the small lounge area. Norm Talley was spinning and the music was great. It was oddly bright in there that evening - more colored lights than I remember. We did a little dancing, drank a beer, sat and talked about varicose veins and the mistreatment of horses in horse racing (the Kentucky Derby was that afternoon). I was talking to someone at the bar a little later, said he had been a fan of Detroit techno and house for years and planned to dance his ass off that night. He ended up sitting at the bar the rest of the night and when I went back into the bar area around 1:30AM for some water, he had already left. So, I hope that this night grows for these lovely Beatdown DJs! Definitely worth heading out for.