Monday, November 24, 2008

Miscellaneous stuff that happened over the past month.

I’m finally back, and it’s snowing!! But it’s melting…I really love winter. While everyone around me is complaining about the weather, I just keep looking outside loving all the white fluffy flakes and day dreaming of sledding with my kids.

I’ve been taking a break from writing fieldnotes because I spent the past month preparing applications to the Mellon Foundation and to AAUW for dissertation writing grants. Those went out last week and now I can get back to interviewing and fieldnote writing. I did go out to a few events over the past month that I did not get a chance to write about.

Halloween night, Friday, October 31, I went to WhoDat and Marcellus Pittman’s Halloween party at Planet XL. Some friends were there, it was really nice to hang out. The club is still getting set up. I haven’t been there in a while, I should go to Rick Wilhite’s Thursday “Speakeasy” party there again soon. I think they’re actually doing it this week on Thanksgiving night! Anyway, when I got to the club, Marcellus was playing and seemed really into it. He was hunched over the tables playing records and making adjustments on the mixer. It was a really empty club, it’s Detroit – so that’s not much of a surprise for most events. I wondered how difficult it is to play to an empty club – from what people have told me, you just play for whoever is there, but you also just play for yourself. I expected Marcellus to play some really dark, deep intense music, but he played a lot of funky things, lots of vocals which I also didn’t expect from him. It all sounded great! He played a White Stripes song which sounded so good in the midst of all the other music he was playing. Some folks came from another party at the Russell Industrial Center – it’s an artists’ collective/community with gallery spaces, artist studios, and other spaces. That’s where the People’s Art Festival was that James sold photos in. Anyway, I think on the fifth floor is a space for parties, a friend who went said it was more like a rave and way too loud for them. Mike Clark and some others were playing there – it was a pretty big lineup. Here is the email from someone who posted this to the 313 listserv:

The Russell Industrial Center hosts 2 parties for Halloween night...

Hallowpalooza. $10 entry

Mike Clark, Swayne Jensen, Benjamin Hayes, DJ Body Mechanic, John
Johr, Jay Langa, Franky Banks, E Spleece, Major Taylor, Todd Westin
aka Jit Wiggins, DJ Dez, Nick Speed, Danny Brown, Fat Ray, United
Souls, Giant Slyde, Blackmale he Band, Enemy Squad, The Process, Benny
Stoofy, Emily Rogers & Friends.

Fashion hosted by Ziam.

Funk Night $5 entry

Frank Raines, Scott Craig, Will Sessions

Some of the musicians listed, I don’t know. But there are some hip hop artists in there as well as some electronic DJs. Ziam, the fashion hoster, is apparently a well known figure in the Detroit club scene. He is a performance artist who always is expected to have on some wildly creative clothing.

That’s a Metro Times article about Ziam. There’s not much current up about him – I mean over the past year. But he definitely seems like an interesting person, and an interesting part of Detroit. Anyway, I guess the party at the Russell was like a rave from what I heard. So we all hung out at Planet XL, and Marcellus played some really nice music. At one point he cued up a record at the very beginning and got ready to drop it right when the other track ended – it was so precise and sounded excellent, just really dramatic. I wish I could remember what the tracks were like, I didn’t know what they were, but now it has been so long that I don’t really know how to describe them. Oh, I forgot to add, Kyle Hall came in briefly and brought a record to Marcellus while he was playing. Marcellus put it on almost immediately and announced it. It was quite nice. Also, he was hilarious on the mic during his set. The set was broadcast on, same as WhoDat’s weekly radio show. He was doing a devilish laugh into the mic for Halloween. He mentioned a few birthdays, and then said it was the Devil’s birthday – it was pretty funny.

A few weeks later, I had a DJ lesson with WhoDat. She asked me to bring my own records. So I mainly spent the lesson by myself at her turntables while she cleaned up around downstairs and we talked about the records. It was a lot of fun. I have a few records that I bought on my own over the years, mainly from a trip that James and I took to Detroit when we lived in Bloomington and were trying to figure out where to live in Detroit. It was in winter 2006 a bit over a year before we moved here just so we could explore the area and figure out where to live and what the city looked like. We went to Record Time in Ferndale, when it was still open, and listened to records. They had a pretty extensive electronic music section, and a big part of that section was dedicated to Detroit music. Well, I was sitting over in that section the whole time and James and I each got our stacks of records and went over to the listening station to play our records and listen to them on headphones. Vince Patricola worked there at the time, he moved away from Detroit last spring, shortly after I started my research here. We never got to do an interview, but we met a few times and he was certainly an important part of Detroit’s music culture. He was the editor of Detroit Electronic Quarterly, a local magazine with great interviews of local musicians. He put out a number of issues. Anyway, I didn’t know who he was at the time, but he came over to me while I was listening and asked me if I was a DJ. I said no; I didn’t know it then, but he probably knew everyone who came through there and listened to records. We talked a bit and he looked at the records I was listening to and then went to get me a few more. I still remember the DJ Bone record he brought me – it was great, I bought it and got to listen to it at WhoDat’s. So I listened to most of my records at her house that night – oh, I don’t have turntables right now so that’s why I haven’t heard many of my records since going to Record Time. It was fun to spend time listening to what was on my records with a new level of attention than I was used to. I was listening for what WhoDat talked about at the beginning of the lesson – she described what a DJ might listen for when she goes through records trying to learn what is on them – you might like the whole thing, you might just like one song on the record, you might just want to use one section of one song – the intro or the break or something. She also talked about how DJs try to figure out what will sound good with other tracks, trying to figure out how to use your records in a set. I also had some records that a few other Detroit DJs gave to me – quite a nice stack of things, most of which were all excellent. There was one track, however, that when I was listening to it, I said aloud that some tracks just don’t need vocals – the vocals made the song sound really goofy. I really liked the music except for the vocals and I kept hoping that the vocals would stop so that I could enjoy the rest of the sounds, but the voice just kept going all through the track – it was pretty cheesy, deep male voice, I’d have to look at the record to see the song title, then I could remember what he was saying. It was just so frustrating. Anyway, WhoDat thought that was pretty funny and said that she wanted to use my voice saying that on one of her tracks. It was a great night. Next lesson, tonight!!, she said to bring my records again and we’ll try to mix them. I will choose the first one, then she will choose one and I’ll have to blend it, then I will choose the next one and blend it, and just keep going like that. I’m excited!!

And after doing all that writing and editing and re-writing for grant proposals, I have yet another proposal to write. I am planning to go to IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music) in San Diego in May, the weekend after DEMF! Some ethnomusicology friends and I are going to submit a proposal for a roundtable discussion. My first submission to a major conference!!

And finally, I was just looking on last night and after some pretty quiet weeks in Detroit, there are three fantastic parties in one weekend. Of course, just when we can’t really afford a babysitter and I’m going to be exhausted already anyway, there are three great parties to go to. Well, I’ll be writing!

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