Okay, so back to Todd's set. He played some older electronic music – tracks that I know are important to Detroit, and that I have heard before, but I can’t name them or identify them other than sonically. I have a difficult time actually recalling artist and track titles and connecting them to most of what I hear during a DJ's set. So, sorry that I can't tell you more of what was actually played, but that's not really the most essential element at least for me when I go out. Like I've written before, I'm not a record collector, nor am I a DJ, I dance and that's why I go out. I'm doing this research to learn more about the history and the current state of electronic music in Detroit, which includes learning about important releases and learning about music that has been influential in Detroit, and that is part of Detroit's innovative musical history. That said, I know what I hear, I just usually can't tell you what it was. Anyway, Todd uses Serato and, maybe you know, digital and analog musical production and performance are major issues in Detroit and for DJs in many parts of the world. There are a lot of Detroit artists who are adamant about using vinyl and analog only, and there are a lot who experiment with both digital and analog, and some who strictly use a laptop. I don't really fall to one extreme or the other, I like to see the DJ for what she or he is, and the equipment is almost secondary. A set can be fantastic even if its all digital, and a set can be a mess even though its all vinyl. Over the past few months, I have become a Todd Osborn fan. He's a really talented and knowledgeable musician and his set Friday night was definitely tight. He had a computer set up and uses Serato to DJ and it’s not just a replacement for vinyl – he and I have talked about this. He said that he really likes playing records and did not start using Serato until it became more than just a replacement for vinyl. He uses Serato because he can do things with it in a live performance that he can’t do with 2 turntables and a mixer. That's a pretty big deal when there is so much equipment and music available for DJs to use. Todd is the kind of musician who doesn't seem to use equipment or music frivolously, everything has a purpose and a place.
Part of the issue of digital and vinyl/analog is that a laptop sometimes inserts a dramatic separation between the DJ and the crowd. Some have told me they get distracted by the glow of the screen on a DJ's face, or that, when a computer is there, the DJ becomes more focused and intent on the screen than on what is happening throughout the rest of the club or the dance floor. Sometimes that's true. But Todd’s set was phenomenal. The diversity and eclecticism that seems to guide his musical artistry in things that he has produced, his Preset radio show on Red Bull Music Academy Radio, his DJ sets, and from the interviews I have done with him, it’s really exciting to me, and just fucking great to dance to! OK, now I'm gushing, and I could talk about a lot of Detroit artists in this way, Mike Banks, Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, DJ WhoDat, DJ Minx, Pirahnahead, Kyle Hall; these are all people who are inspiring to me and help fuel my excitement about Detroit (this is a tiny list, I know; but I've interviewed them all, except Kyle Hall - I'm working on it!).
Okay, back to Elements...it really was one of the best nights out for me ever, definitely at the top of my list of nights in Detroit! Todd played Theo Parrish's “Synthetic Flemm” (there - something I can actually identify) which I love to hear out in Detroit – lots of people played it over the summer, but I haven’t heard it for a while. I'll describe this moment in his set in detail because as I was dancing, I was really moved by what I was hearing. Todd sometimes mixes tracks together for extended periods of time, he’s not always just dropping one track after another. So the complexity of sounds is incredible. The track he played before Theo’s, I don’t remember what it was, was really different, but the two together as he was slowly, very slowly, bringing Theo’s in, sounded excellent. I kept thinking, wait, is that what I think it is? I don’t know, maybe I’m hearing something, no that’s what I think it is. And then, after a bit longer still, he brought it in completely and I knew. But the anticipation and the excitement of that kind of DJing style is freaking effective. It just felt really exciting, almost like he was teasing the crowd, and I think that’s what some DJs are doing when they play. I interviewed a DJ recently and he explained that he loves being able to pick out one individual seated all the way in the back of the club, choose a track, and draw that person up out of their seat and all the way to the dance floor and keep them there. That’s a little different from what I experienced Todd doing, but sort of similar in that the DJ is adding anticipation and excitement to an incoming piece of music. It almost impacts the night by adding a sense of urgency and pleasant expectation of what’s to come. And I danced almost his whole set, which was just short of two hours. I just took a break for water and to take a few photos, wish I had taken more of the space and the crowd. It was so much fun.
Okay, that's it for part 2, still a bit more to come...and I'll get some photos up!