Tuesday, July 29, 2008

WhoDat is…?

DJ WhoDat's house for her Netmusique.com radio show: Turning Point Wednesdays 8pm-10pm+

Hip Hop artists there also: Diva, female vocalist, poet; Alex, DJ; and other man was a producer (I can't remember his name?!)


This was the perfect night to come over and hang out during WhoDat's radio show. It was the first time I had come over during the show, and I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if there would be a lot of people there, or if it would be just me, if there would be food or not, if it would be a big party, or what!? After scrambling around at home trying to eat, spend some time with my family, try and get the baby to sleep…(with NO LUCK! Thanks honey!) I finally got to WhoDat's place right on time. The three hip hop artists were there already. She had just met Alex, the DJ, recently and invited him to come over and hang out during her show, then he brought some records and two other people! Terri was so excited. She had the TV on as her audience since she usually does the show alone, Diva eventually muted it. She had her equipment connected to her laptop and then set up the connection to broadcast her show over netmusique.com. Before getting connected, she cued up her record, then connected to broadcast, then got on the mic to introduce the show after a few minutes. She mentioned getting rejected by Red Bull Music Academy. Right then I realized I forgot my camera, again!!! WhoDat handed me hers and asked me to take pictures. After playing a few tracks, she lowered the volume a bit again and started talking on the mic, introducing who was there with her. Then she started to speak on the air to people who were chatting with her on the netmusique website. She wasn't reading their comments out loud, just talking back to them on the air – sending this one sided conversation out around the globe. That was pretty cool! Someone else who was chatting got rejected by Red Bull too, so she was consoling him, told him not to drink too much Red Bull. Then she turned the volume up again and started typing back to some of the listeners. She put on a Jazzanova track that she pointed out to me. It was hot! A few moments later, Alex came over to check out who it was, said he liked Jazzanova. WhoDat said that when she got it from the store she didn't even have to open it to know it was good. Then she put it on to listen to it and let out a yell and said that she was about to have an orgasm from it. Dude. It was pretty sweet music. Later she put on a DJ Dez track and pointed that out for me. I don't really know who he is, but it was good music. Alex commented on how he likes house records because they are so long. As a hip hop DJ, the records are short, he said, and he is just so busy the whole time. It was really interesting to get to hear two different types of DJs share ideas and knowledge.

Alex started to dance and WhoDat started imitating a person dancing with the speaker – like someone spending the entire night in a club next to the speaker acting like it was a "Chick" or something. She and Alex were just making fun of that, and wondering why someone would actually want to do that. WhoDat invited Alex to get on the decks and announced on the mic that he was coming on. Meanwhile, the hip hop producer who was there whose name I cannot remember was spending his night playing around with WhoDat's equipment. Before he found the headphones, he was making some noise on her drum machine during the show. It was pretty distracting, but then he got it together. The rest of the night, he was kind of lost in making music. He would periodically get up and walk over to her record shelves, put some back where they went, take some more and head on back to play around some more. He was really serious and focused. Again, it was cool to see musicians interacting and sharing knowledge coming from different types of performance and music making. He told her that she needed some drums. Meaning that she needed an Akai MPC sampler, or some other type of sampler/drum machine with better bass/drum capabilities. They talked about using Audacity or Pro-Tools and WhoDat told him about her aversion to making music with computers. They talked some more and I think she maybe started to see his point about computers and producing a little bit.

WhoDat commented on one of Alex's records saying that she liked it a lot. He said she could have it, and later, while she was talking with the producer, he slipped it into her crate that she had set up for her show. The interaction between the four artists was really nice, and really genuine. It was such a great night. I had a conversation with Diva about Detroit, how much I like it, museums, family. She was talking about hip hop in Detroit, and other music too. About the river walk downtown.

WhoDat cleaned her records when she put them on, just the dusty ones, but with a felt/velour record cleaner. It was interesting to watch a DJ do a show out of her house with her "house shoes" on (ha ha House music, House Shoes), and her record cleaner, and even though she had some records separated in a crate near her tables, she didn't really plan her set and could have taken records out from her entire collection if she wanted to. After Alex finished and just after I left, WhoDat was going to get back on the turntables and play for a few more hours. It was 10:30 by that point and I had to get home to my babies. But she said that the next DJ in London does not start his show for a few more hours, so she was just going to keep playing for as long as she could.

I was talking to WhoDat about going to Corktown Tavern and The Works a few Saturdays ago. She said that she read my blog. We talked about various types of equipment for use in DJ performance (live in a club). Felton using Final Scratch – from what WhoDat described, the two records he was using were digitally programmed to communicate through the turntables with his laptop. So he didn't need to flip or change records at all. He was controlling things in that way. I guess he told WhoDat recently that she will soon tire out of carrying a big bag of records around and will switch to Final Scratch. She won't. Many DJs in Detroit are really attached to using vinyl, it is an important aspect of the music, the sound, the heritage. Rick Wilhite said at a conference I organized at Indiana University in 2006 on Detroit techno and house, how can you go wrong with something made from oil and diamonds – vinyl.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Corktown Tavern & The Works

Corktown Tavern: techno BBQ
DJs: Punisher, Kero & Tetzzie, John Overfiend, Lindsay Yeager, Dan Bain, CFX, Errol, Drew Pompa
6PM (we arrived at 9:15PM) – 4AM (we left at 11:15PM and I came back at 1AM for a bit)

The Works
Felton Howard
2AM-6AM (I left at 4:30AM)

Corktown Tavern is an interesting place. Corktown was historically an Irish neighborhood of Detroit, near Mexicantown, west of downtown, near Michigan Central Station (the giant, abandoned train station), it also holds the now abandoned and partially torn down Tiger's Baseball stadium. Wiki for Corktown:


The bar was two levels, ground level was mainly a long bar with a DJ set up at the front with her/his back to the door/street and looking down the bar. Tables and chairs, gambling machine, shooting arcade game, that's the downstairs, then stairs leading up and a door to the fenced patio area where the food was being BBQ'd and served. Upstairs there was a similar set up, bigger DJ booth taking up the full width of the building on the street side. Then dance floor, bar along one side, tables along the other. There were stickers on the draught pumps, one of them was Detroit Techno Militia! Took a crappy cell phone photo of it because, AGAIN, I forgot my camera. I leave it in the diaper bag, which is kept in the bedroom where the baby sleeps. By the time I remember to get the camera, it's too late - I would wake the babe. Lots of DTM shirts there, and Bang Tech 12 shirts as well. The music was really techno, but with hard bumping bass. Bang Tech describes it really well. Both James and I liked it alot! James and I got beers and some food. Then we went over to Michelle/DJ Punisher and I introduced myself. She remembered me from my MySpace email about doing an interview. She said that she would like to meet for an interview anytime. Then I introduced James and he gave her a disc with some photos on it that he took of her at Movement. She was really appreciative. So then we hung out for a while longer, went upstairs to hear Drew Pompa. Much different sound – darker, a bit slower, like DJ Krush, really dark and deep, almost down-tempo, but not quite. Having sound issues, sound went out and we could hear the music from downstairs coming up really clearly. Then we went out for a walk partway around the old Tiger Stadium which was right next to the tavern. On the way back to the tavern, I got a text message from our babysitter that the baby would not stop crying and would not take the bottle. So we headed back home an hour earlier than we had planned. As it turned out, she got Earl to sleep right before we came in the door. So, she left and James and I relaxed for a bit. Then I got myself dressed again to go out to the Works. As I checked the directions that I had printed out from google maps, I realized that I was heading back to Corktown just a few doors down from the tavern! Funny night! When I got to The Works, I was the second car in the lot and did not hear any music. As I walked from the side gravel lot to the sidewalk, a man was walking toward me. It was late and I was alone, and I tried not to make eye contact with him. But he asked me if I knew when the club opened. I didn't. So then he just started talking to me, and talking, and talking, and talking. It turned out he was gay and seemed pretty harmless, so we talked for a while as we walked over to the Corktown Tavern to hear the music while we waited for the Works. I should have just told him that I planned on going into Corktown Tavern and left it up to him to pay the $5 and come on in if he wanted to. He didn't like the music, he made that clear, it didn't have enough emotion, or feeling for him. He was critical of the Harley crowd who had come to the tavern in my absence. The Avengers of Michigan motorcycle club. They clearly were there on purpose and knew lots of people in the tavern, but this guy I was talking to for 1 ½ hours assumed they came to the tavern thinking it was a motorcycle bar and mistakenly happened upon the techno. It was just a difficult conversation waiting for the Works to open up. It's my own fault for worrying what this guy would do with himself if I left and went in to the tavern – because he was by himself and didn't know anyone, but neither did I. I just wanted to hear some good music. Then, close to 2AM, Felton Howard freaking walks out of the tavern to head over to the Works! The plan was that I was going to videotape his set and then take a look at it together and talk about it. We greeted each other and then he asked me to give him a half an hour (ahhhhhhhhhh!) to get things set up and going. Finally, we walked over to the Works, there was no guest list, so I paid my $10, it was only $7 for guys, $10 for girls (That's what the sign read). It was boys night at the Works! We walked in and Felton found me, asked me if I had to pay, then called the manager to get my money back. It was so nice to not have to pay for once, I don't expect that to happen usually. I want to support musicians, many of whom rent out the club or make very little money on a party. But it was nice to save a little money.

I extracted myself from the guy, finally, and headed over to the DJ booth to get set up. Felton did not say anything to me, nor make eye contact with me until 2 ½ hours later at 4:30 when I had packed up and was ready to say goodnight. He was so focused and really busy non-stop. It was an interesting night – he had two turntables, a mixer, two CDJs, an effects processor, and a laptop running Final Scratch. He had two copies of the same record playing on each turntable the whole night – this was really unusual, and I was a bit confused at first to not be able to see him flipping vinyl around. The two records supplied the beats for the night, basically. He did not even flip either record, just moved from track to track, sometimes stopping one record, using them as the beats for the other samples and tracks that he was playing overtop. I had never seen anyone spin like that and it was a really interesting approach. He had a bunch of CDs laid out on a shelf to the side and behind him. He used those CDs and Final Scratch to play lots of vocal tracks, Nelly Furtado, Janet Jackson, etc. He had written lists, maybe of the tracklistings for the numbered CDs (?, I didn't look closely), that he would periodically check and then choose something through Final Scratch (I don't really know what that program is capable of, so there is great possibility that he was doing lots more than I even realized). It was neat to watch him on the mixer. DJs definitely have their own style of using their equipment, how they handle their records, mannerisms with their hands, ways of moving knobs and levers on the mixer, dancing/or not dancing. Videotaping is giving me great insights into all this.

Definitely a great night! Thank you Felton!

What…what…WHAT!? 3 Major electronic music events happening in Detroit on the SAME NIGHT!????? Just had a fantastic 2nd interview with DJ WhoDat last night and we talked extensively about this issue. WHY does this happen? There is a BBQ & DJs event at Cortown Tavern Saturday night starting at 6pm and going until late. Punisher is going to be playing!!! So James and I are planning on heading down there for a few hours. Then, I am going after that to the Works to see Felton Howard spin. He is moving to Scotland (I think?) at the end of the month, so I am really excited to make it out to see him before he leaves Detroit! That goes until 6am…not sure if I'll make it until then, but I'm going to try! And finally, I just saw that Terrence Parker is spinning Saturday night as well. Are they serious? This is going to be the second time I have missed TP spinning in Detroit in the past 2 months!

Can we please figure this out? Out of three events, one happens about three times a month, that's Felton Howard's night at the Works. But do the other two events really have to go on at the same time? You could be giving Detroit two great weekends in July, but instead, it's all happening on the same night!

Don't like this. More later…cause I've been busy with the techno.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I am back! Aren't you relieved?

We just got back from a family trip up to Arcadia, MI. It was a hell of a lot of driving, especially with five people in the car. We made three different 4-5 hour trips in the form of a triangle, from Detroit, to Arcadia, then down to Northwest Indiana, and back up to Detroit. Add three kids, and the trip time grows to 6 or 7 hours. We have been up to Arcadia twice before, and now it is becoming a summer family tradition that we get to go up to the beach halfway up the Lake Michigan side of the state. Usually, in the past, I have noticed mild culture shock coming up from southern Indiana (Indiana University and Bloomington) all the way up to Michigan. There is a maritime culture that pervades much of Michigan that is not a part of southern Indiana. Nowhere in the country is there more water than in Michigan, except for along the coasts. It really seems to have an impact on Michigan's culture - it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is other than calling it maritime. After spending the past 5 months in Detroit, the difference between SE Michigan and mid-way up the west coast of Michigan was not nearly so great.

This full time job is kicking my butt. It is so hard to come home, eat (although James usually has some food ready, so that is wonderful), play with the kids or go for a walk with them or something, usually deal with some emotional explosion from at least one of the boys, get all three boys ready for bed, put the baby to sleep, and then, by at least 9:30, start doing some research, oh yeah, and clean up the kitchen. It’s craziness, but someday in the not so distant future, I will look back on this, with my wonderful teaching job at a cool university, much of my current debt paid off, and older children and smile at the way we got through it all.

The blog is kind of taking over the way I write fieldnotes, and I don’t really like that. For the blog, I try to keep things a bit more distant and exclude some private personal details, my own or those of research consultants. So I need to get better at writing fieldnotes first in a Word document, and then selecting the text that I want for the blog and editing it for the web. So this is what I got myself into!

After our trip to Arcadia, James and I went up to Chicago on Thursday, June 26th, for his opening reception at the Museum of Contemporary Photography. It was so great to see his work up on the wall, and to see all the other wonderful photos that were hanging in the museum. There were three levels and four separate rooms on the ground level. The exhibit was put together so nicely and I really enjoyed seeing James’ work next to so many other great photographers. There were a bunch of former IU photo students there, and James introduced himself to a few photographers, and the curator. After the reception, we headed over to a really nice bar called Villains and met up with many of the artists who had work hanging in the show. My brother and his girlfriend were there too. We played a few good games of pool, drank some delicious beer called Gumball Head, yum yum, and listened to Beastie Boys and other older hip hop that they were playing in the bar. Since we arrived at the bar after most of the other artists, we really didn’t know how to fit ourselves into the crowd, and we almost left to go see a movie. But I’m glad we didn’t because James got a chance to talk with the curator, and then with a few artists. After a while, some more food came out, that the museum paid for :), and James and I went over to sit down and eat. We ended up talking with a woman who was also in the exhibit, Barbara was her name, but I can’t remember her last name. For most of the rest of the night, she and James talked about their art, about camera equipment, about photography in general. There was one point, however, that she asked me about my research in Detroit, because we had briefly mentioned earlier about moving to Detroit for that purpose. She asked me so many questions, and was fascinated by the fact that DJs are still active in Detroit, and was really interested in the history that I am recording here; the history that is so widely unknown and so important to tell. And this is where I stop the blog, but continue my own fieldnotes, because these ideas are fresh and not ready for public eyes quite yet.

Heading out to the City Fest this weekend - De La Soul is playing!! Along with some Detroit DJs!