Friday, June 26, 2009

I knew it...

I knew I was going to forget a few important women.

Angie Schwendemann, owner and label manager for Detroit Techno Militia. And she documents the hell out of this town with her camera!

Erika Sherman of Ectomorph. Here's her 24 hour radio site:

Zana Smith of Spectacles, long time promoter and supporter of Detroit house and techno music. She also owned multiple record stores in Detroit over the years.

Stacey Hotwaxx Hale! And Theresa Hill, local radio disc jockey and DJ.

And Liz Copeland...see Movement post below.

Oh, this is lovely. I know there are more important ladies out there, maybe we just haven't met yet...

The Detroit Ladies

There was some dialog on the 313 list yesterday about the lack of women in electronic music. It started off with a question about a video interview of Jeff Mills on EQ Magazine website. ‘Where are all the girls in that club?’ I watched the video, footage of the crowd is in the first few minutes of the nice, lengthy interview with Jeff Mills. And really, there are hardly any ladies present. The video is taken from a set Jeff played at a club in Glasgow. It looks like the crowds at a lot of Detroit parties, except fewer people in general in the Detroit clubs. Then of course came the terms sausage party and sausage fest. The sausage fest was my fault. Where are the chicks? The girls? The ladies? The women? Well, I’m right here. Really though, in electronic music production, performance, promotion, consumption, and writing, women are not nearly as visibly involved as men. And I want to tell you that I use the term consumption widely, hesitating to include it here because of its connection to marketing and dollars. Economic consumption is not the primary way that I use this term, although marketing and the music industry are still really important in any discussion of musical consumption. I’m speaking of consumption in terms of musical enjoyment, fandom, support, listening both privately and publicly, and other ways in which people consume music. I know that’s a jumbled list, but this is a pretty informal blog and jumbled is how I sometimes roll. My use of consumption comes from some ideas that I am working from in my doctoral research: in music, and other forms of cultural expression and performance, we have production, consumption, and circulation, all concepts involved in the inter-performative relations that form from and formulate what music is and does for all of us. I know, I’m getting mildly academic here with my language. I always want to be careful with how far I go with that here because I really don’t want to alienate any of my readers. This blog is a realm for mostly informal, but detailed discussion of electronic music in Detroit and my doctoral research here. I have had and will continue to have plenty of opportunities to get super intellectual and theoretical in my dissertation and subsequent book, and I will try to find ways to make part or all of my dissertation public so that you all can check it out if you want to. I’ve already thought a lot about the audience for what will eventually become a book about all this stuff. That is still a few years down the road, but it’s there in my future. It needs to be an academically focused book because as a person with a Ph.D. (in the future) looking for an eventual tenured teaching position at a university, I will be required to have a major publication like a book accomplished and out there. However, I realize the potential for readers outside of the realm of academic scholarship as well and will work to figure how best to approach a wide audience. Anyway, this blog is my opportunity to write in a less formal, more immediate and public way than my fieldnotes, conference presentations, and early dissertating allow.

All that for consumption? Alright, so onto the ladies. There are a few fabulous females making music in Detroit. Kelli Hand, the first lady of techno, is busy making music. She doesn’t currently play out much here, but she is hard at work making some sweet beats. DJ Minx and her label, Women On Wax, are staples in Detroit techno and house music. And Women On Wax is not just chicks on vinyl, like Minx and Diviniti, the men are involved too and they all bring the heat. She has releases from Pirahnahead, Reggie Dokes, and Jerry the Cat. Punisher and Sassmouth are a few others, who started HEJ records in Detroit in 2007 with John Overfiend. And you know I’m a fan of Punisher! Jennifer Xerri is another local house DJ who is fairly active here.

And, one of the most instrumental people here who has helped me become more knowledgeable than I ever expected about Detroit and its music, WhoDat, Terri McQueen. I met her unexpectedly when I organized a conference on Detroit electronic music at Indiana University in October 2006. The panelists for the conference were Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, Marcellus Pittman, Minx, Mike Clark, Terrence Parker, Cornelius Harris, and 2 of the co-curators of the Detroit Historical Museum’s exhibit on Detroit Techno music, Sulaiman Mausi and Katherine Burkhart. So while planning travel and lodging arrangements for the panelists, Terri was one of the people coming with Theo, Rick, and Marcellus to help out and be at the 3Chairs/Sound Signature table with vinyl and CDs. I did not know she was a DJ, I just knew she was super friendly and funny. We kept in touch via Myspace for the next year and a half and then I moved to Detroit in February 2008 and connected with her in person again. We did multiple 3 hour + interviews, girl has a lot to say! And then, after talking one evening with her, telling her I was really interested in learning how to really play records, not so I could become a DJ, but just so I could have a deeper understanding, she offered to teach me, continuing the mentoring tradition that is part of Detroit’s DJ culture for some. We started weekly evening “classes” in her basement. Each week she had a theme or activity all planned out: she would pick records, she would let me pick records, blending tracks with vocals, sound quality of LPs vs. EPs and 12 inches, how to play a set and select well, how to setup all the equipment and care for it. One time I even brought some of my records and we listened together. We always had a great time together. Now she is opening her own record store, Ya Digg Records. It is currently operational online, but she is still working on setting up the physical location. Supporting local music and vinyl are really central to all that she does and that’s what you’ll see a lot of at her store. She has been trying her hand at producing for the past while and has a track ready to press and release! So yeah, WhoDat is the shit and my dissertation would not be what it will be without her!

So those are some of the ladies. And now for some exploration of larger themes. When I asked Kelli Hand about being a female DJ, she said, “It is what it is.” We’re always last, but the first one they call to organize an event. You always get called last for a gig, after all the guys, especially if it’s a club opening or something like that. WhoDat has described some similar instances of that kind of lack of support and strange expectations from the sausage owners.

Coming back to the 313 listserv on these bigger issues, one of the replies to my “I don’t get why there aren’t more women involved in electronic music as fans, writers, or musicians” speculated that perhaps women don’t feel that they will have success and so don’t bother, or do try to DJ and produce, but find less success than the many other men out there doing the same thing. Additionally, one person suggested that women don’t typically get into the technology, mythology, gear head stuff, and are less likely to become heads, like techno heads or house heads. Further, another 313 lister wrote that female DJs are often aligned, or align themselves, with campy themed parties and events, like topless lady DJs, or all girl DJs for a night. I’m not quoting directly; this is all my interpretation of what was written by others.

I’m not really interested in involving myself in a debate about how men and women are physiologically “wired” differently, and even if they/we are in any meaningful, universal way. I am only speaking for myself when I say that I am very interested in the technology, production, performance, and all the other details that are there in the production, circulation, and consumption of electronic music. I am extremely interested in learning about record labels, pressings and other release oriented details, recording/production/performance equipment, and all the other possible ways to list, define, categorize, and classify all this stuff. Hell yeah vinyl is sexy and when Todd Sines recently posted photos of his production studio to Facebook, I got kind of excited. It is certainly a male oriented, and sometimes male dominated musical culture in a global way.

The topless DJ party is not one that I have found myself at in Detroit, I’ll admit. But I have heard about and been to a few all women events. One included Aaron Carl as one of the ladies last year at Sakana sushi bar in Ferndale! The women that I mentioned above have not aligned themselves strictly with women in their musical endeavors. They have teamed up and collaborated with women and men with whom they pair well. So even though they are few in number compared with all the talented Detroit dudes, Detroit’s women have found/created some nice long lasting success and relevancy for themselves.

It’s in the crowds at parties that I also notice a strong lacking of upside down triangles. And I don’t get this either except that maybe this is just an effect of “underground” musical cultures. Would you agree with me if I say that in general, musical cultures that are labeled as underground tend to be made up of men in larger numbers than women? It just seems like that to me, I’m not really basing this on any kind of serious study. Is there some sort of hostility to women that is inherent or assumed in underground cultures? I don’t know. I don’t really feel that too much in Detroit as opposed to any other realm of general daily existence. I mean why would chicks want to frequent bars and clubs with boring music when they could go enjoy Kenny Dixon’s skills on the decks, or be intellectually and physically stimulated by Theo Parrish’s sets, or have a real party with Rick Wilhite? I mean come on, how could you pass up any of these Detroit folks, like Omar S, D.Wynn, Shake, Todd Osborn, Minx, Buzz Goree, Terrence Parker, or Marcellus Pittman…oh man, Marcellus Pittman, now he would be someone I would like to see play here again! Do I have to wait until Halloween again so that he can wish the devil a happy birthday?!

So this is what you call heat.

Turning Point

Check out this week's show. 80s heat Detroit style!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oh wow!

Recloose and The Dennis Coffey Quartet


At Cliff Bell's in Detroit
2030 Park Avenue
Saturday, July 11

Here's the description I swiped from Facebook:

Atlast! Detroit & Family Funktion proudly present

Part 2 of the Family Funktion reunion series.

In case you missed the Memorial weekend party now you get another chance.
If you did attend, we thank you for helping to make it a great night.

This time, we a bring you a special night with Recloose and the Dennis Coffey Quartet.

Matthew Chicoine, aka Recloose, returns to Detroit, for a one night, rare, special DJ set. As a DJ/ producer and live musician Recloose is one of the most versatile and successful talents to emerge from the Detroit scene in recent years. Coming to us from his new home in New Zealand, this native Detroiter returns to hit us with his eclectic taste of musical wonderment.

Along with very special guest Dennis Coffey and his Quartet. This legendary funk/jazz guitarist is the man who gave us the classic and much sampled tracks Scorpio and Taurus as well as the theme to Black Belt Jones. As a former Funk Brother, Dennis played on many of Motown's greatest records and has recorded with Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Marvin Gaye and George Clinton to name a few. Dennis Coffey and his quartet join us to lay down some Detroit funk/jazz genius.

I might possibly be out of town that weekend...sadness. This night looks so hot! I really want to go, but I'm not sure if I can perform that kind of magic.

Also that weekend, which I will definitely have to miss because James has a gallery opening at the Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago that same night.

Robert Hood at The Works in Detroit
Friday, July 10th

Here's the link on Detroitluv

Very disappointed to be missing this.

Oh yeah, and to add to good radio, Recloose's show which is posted regularly on his blog,

Listening right now...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Electivism, I mean Eclecticism

Alright, been listening to some radio again lately, been streaming/DLing some radio lately, that is. First off, Drew Pompa and Josh Dalberg have a new weekly radio show called Babes in Hi Def Wednesday nights on WDET. Here’s the link for their blog: Babes in Hi Def. Some enjoyable listening.

And what, did you say that show is on the same night as WhoDat’s Turning Point on Mama’s gonna get me! Wait, no Mrs. McQueen, I only listen to Turning Point…I listen to it every day until the next week’s show. Oh yeah right, you can download WhoDat’s shows from her blog: Win WhoDat Blogs. Good listening all around – lot’s of deep house, old R&B, great 80’s music, some techno and electro thrown in for jollies, and just all around mixed up goodness.

I have finally started tuning in to Beats In Space, Tim Sweeny’s weekly radio show. His most recent show pairs a nice Maurice Fulton hour with an hour of Sweeny. I’m going to be spending some time there in the coming weeks.

Then we’ve got the RBMA radio, which really rounds out my work week as I slave away trying to ignore as much of the office “liveliness” as possible and nourish myself with good tunes. Always enjoy a good Morgan Geist mix, there’s plenty to choose from on the RBMA site. Listened to a good Benga & Skream show last week, and a couple of good Dam Funk features. And, right after returning from the IASPM-US conference a few weeks ago, I discovered a lovely chat with composer, Steve Reich. According to the RBMA blurb, he prefers to call himself a post-minimalist composer. Labels are so fabulous! Well, this is interesting to me because my fellow ethnomusicologist friends with whom I presented at the conference brought up his name and his music several times over the course of the weekend. All three of my friends are way more musically trained than me and much more knowledgeable about Western Classical/Art music than I. I’m just the chick who likes that rave techno shit…Anyweedle, one such mention of Steve Reich was prompted by my playing of Theo Parrish’s “Synthetic Flemm” in the hotel room we were all sharing the night before our panel. Their comments? Wow, it really develops slowly. It unfolds like a Steve Reich piece. It was so much fun sharing all our musical knowledge and learning from one another. This leads to one reason I chose to play this track. When I’m speaking to or with people who are not very familiar with any kind of electronic dance music like house or techno, I find that their sonic assumptions about the music are based on mainstream representations that they might hear in commercials, the radio, MTV, etc. And that’s cool, that’s what they know, they’re not fans of the music, they’re into other sounds, fine. But I think the Theo Parrish track has the potential to get beyond those boxed notions of what Detroit electronic music might possibly sound like. Additionally, it abandons genre boundaries so profoundly that drawing comparisons to other seemingly distinct forms of music is almost automatic. And this is Detroit all the way, crossing genre boundaries, getting beyond categories while simultaneously embracing classification as a necessary part of the culture.

And then, when I went to the RBMA radio site yesterday, I saw a new Preset show, #32, up by Todd Osborn. I had to listen right away, you see. Roxanne Shante A.N.D. Drexciya in the first 5 songs! And then the last hour of the show is all Chicano/Latino/Brazilian sounds, some bossa nova, even Tom Zé! And I’m not even going to pretend I know all the genre labels to describe these songs, because I don’t. I do however enjoy the Brazilian love songs because my knowledge of Brazilian music is one of the few good things that came out of my major college relationship with a Brazilian capoeirista (okay, no, that’s not all he was), that, the courage to make momentous life-changing decisions, and momentary almost fluency in Portuguese.

So then from #32, I navigated to #25 and just you wait and see what I come up with using that playlist as a springboard to my own life story…well maybe not life story, but I’ll draw some connections and you can just read along with my inane, I mean brilliant, musings. So the first song is a little hard to listen to at work because of the yelling. I get a little embarrassed in front of the old ladies and turn down the yelling to almost silent during that song. But they’re all very polite and just tell me that I listen to some very interesting music! Next is a great, funky, deep track by DMX KREW, also known as EMDX, Ed DMX, and Ed Upton, who is featured on Osborne “Our Definition of a Breakdown.” Then you get to hear Q-Tip’s sweet voice and then A Tribe Called Quest’s “What,” which always makes me smile and think of my husband…because he likes the song a lot. Next up is Arthur Russell “Make 1, 2” which is a beautiful song that was new to my little kitten ears. Love the melodic, rhythmic vocals and keys – has a syncopated feel, although any good ethnomusicologist would probably shame me for using the term syncopated and force me to replace it with polyrhythmic with the threat of having to transcribe a lengthy field recording of Temiar music from Maylasia. Geez, as though you don’t think my levels of self-absorption and reflexivity were enough to maim a small flock of seagulls, now I lapse into such extreme navel-gazing and solipsism with a transcription reference that potentially 8 readers might catch, if that. Because, as newbie ethnomusicology graduate students at Indiana University, we were all required to take a rigorous transcription & analysis course steeped in historically significant methods of analyzing music. One of the first listening assignments we were given was a field recording by anthropologist and ethnomusicologist Marina Roseman of Temiar music performance that she recorded while conducting research in the Malaysian rainforest. And, we were not told what the recording was, we just had to figure out what all the different sounds were and how they were produced. I actually do prefer the term polyrhythmic to syncopated, it addresses a broader, more nuanced understanding of rhythm that syncopation does not. Apparently I thought it would be fun to tell you a story about historically significant methods of music research.

So here’s a segment of the tracklisting for Preset #25:

Squarepusher - The Coathanger - Warp
Pink Floyd - Wot's Uh The Deal - Harvest
Gandalf The Grey - The Grey Wizard Am I - Gwm
Morgen - Of Dreams - Probe
Stevie Wonder - It Ain't No Use - Unreleased
Frente - Bizarre Love Triangle - Mammoth
Arto Mwambe - Btwo - Brontosaurus
A-Ha - Take On Me (Instr.) - Unreleased
The KLF - Dream Time In Lake Jackson - Wax Trax
Nine Inch Nails - March Of The Pigs - Nothing
Bee Gees - How Deep Is Your Love - Polydor

And it sounds even better than it looks, so go listen. And not only that, but it’s freaking hysterical to hear all that classic rock after Squarepusher and then Stevie Wonder, A-Ha instrumental, then Nine Inch Nails, which is the culmination of the good sounding, funny youthful reminiscing in the middle of a set that ends with Osborne and Starski & Clutch. And Frente, Frente?? Wow! I have that tape, by accident, but I have that tape, still. It’s tucked away in a Deee-Lite case for Dewdrops in the Garden. You know, “Applejuice Kissing,” “When You Told Me You Loved Me,” etc, from 1994.

And who has, or had, that Deee-Lite tape that I would still listen to today if I had it? My good friend K-Rock totally stole it from me and forced me to spend my adult years with Frente peaking out at me from that cassette case that I refuse to get rid of. And no, her real name is not K-Rock, but we had a very healthy obsession with the Beastie Boys in the mid-90s in high school. Michael Diamond was my boyfriend, of course. Denise Dalphond converts easily to Denny D, you see. My friend K preferred Ad Rock, thus K-Rock. She was also quite a Rock Star. And our third friend, LN, accepted MCA, but I don’t think she was too enthusiastic about it. We were way cooler in real life than it seems on this screen.

After the Bee Gees, you get to listen to the Lyman Woodard Organization play “Belle Isle Daze.” Lyman Woodard, who recently passed in February, was a local jazz musician. Here’s an article about him from the Detroit Free Press. I love that George Benson sounding funky jazz with extensive use of the organ. And then some nice old and newer hip hop, again reminded of my husband by that Method Man track; and finishing with Osborne, R. Kelley (sounded great by the way), and Starski & Clutch.

So yeah, Detroit still has good radio, it’s just way more globally available and not really on the airwaves…

And don’t forget about Crush Collision on WCBN in Ann Arbor, Carlos Souffront’s weekly show. I’ve tried listening live several times to his show on Thursday nights, but the streaming doesn’t really work. It’s frustrating. And then CJAM in Windsor, Mike Huckaby has a weekly show and Adam Francesconi does as well. Mike Huckaby’s show is on Monday nights and Adam’s show is called The Rhythm Gallery on Wednesday nights. Jerry the Cat and Minx started the show years ago and now Adam Francesconi and Tom Desmond host it.

And now for my final story of the day prompted by current happenings in Detroit. Terry Mullan is playing a party this Friday at The Works with DJ Dara and DJ Bone. Now DJ Bone, I like as an adult. But as a newly turned 18 year old living in NYC and college freshman at NYU, a mix I had by Terry Mullan was my favorite tape ever. And I think I drove my two roommates a bit nutty listening to it so much. I was handed a flyer for the party a few weeks ago at the Red Bull Music Academy info session that I went to shortly before the festival. “Terry Mullan!?” Unfortunately, I think I’m going to stay home…for a while. After the festival and then San Diego, I really need to be at home with my family. I mean come on, they need me to carry the heavy star wars ship and continually put the light sabers and little guns back in Darth Vader’s, or Anakin’s, or the clone trooper’s hands! They need me to find all the tiny, very specific lego pieces in the construction of whatever is being built. And I need to shove my nose into their necks every so often and get a good whiff of their childhood loveliness. And I need to do all the daily wonderful things that a wife gets to do! But I’ll reserve the specifics for James…

This post exemplifies the eclecticism of Detroit that I love. And I know I keep writing about Detroit’s vibrant eclectic diverse culture, but it’s really true and it’s really happening here. People are creating and embracing new and different things here all the time and that’s one of the things that is keeping Detroit’s musical life thriving.

So Todd, and doubters that Todd actually reads this, but Todd, Christopher Cross in the next Preset, K!?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Yeah, okay, nevermind.

I did all that searching, and researching, and html code figuring out and then I don't really like it. So yeah, read it, like it, yeah.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I did it.

I'm not cool enough to mess with my html...

But I do try! I thought those last bulky posts about the festival got a bit long, and from looking at my sitemeter stats, so did you...I asked James last night, "do you think my blog looks nice?" Totally not fishing for complements, but actually wanting some magical insights into making my blog look better. And he said, lovely man that he is, that it looks good, but maybe those last few posts about the festival were too long. Has he read them yet? NO. He did get walking pneumonia after the festival so I guess he's got that going for him. Yeah, that was super weird! Thank goodness he's feeling better now. So we discussed me figuring out how to shorten the visible portion of my posts on the main blog page and then include a "read more" link to the full post. It turns out that is called an "expandable post summary" in Blogger. I fooled around with multiple ways of doing it and so far am stuck with the "Continue reading..." link at the bottom of each post, which is totally unnecessary, but as of this moment in my knowledge of html, unavoidable. Sorry to muck things up, fabulous readers, but I'll keep trying to smooth this out. It's obviously possible to get around it, but I just haven't figured it out yet.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Final day of Movement 2009

Wow, two weeks later and I’m still writing. Way to stay timely!! Sorry for the delay, again, there has been lots of stuff going on, including illness in 4 of the 5 members of our family! And I really want to get down every detail that I can remember for the purpose of my documentation of my experiences here in Detroit. I will be going back to all these notes that I take and other things that I write in order to make a full assessment of what the major themes are so that I can do Detroit justice when I write the dissertation. So that’s why these bloody posts are so long, I want to capture everything that I can remember. And writing these posts does take some effort on my part, so that’s another reason for the delay, because an exhausted, sick brain does not do well with a keyboard and computer screen!

I didn’t take notes at all during the festival weekend unfortunately, and then, Monday evening, I just jotted down a small page of ideas and thoughts. I wrote down a few major ideas that I knew would help me get into a writing mode later that week. I probably should have been taking notes all weekend had I been a dutiful fieldworker. I was just so busy listening, watching, dancing, wandering, and videotaping, that my little moleskin notebook stayed tucked away in my bag all weekend!

So Monday morning, we headed down and actually arrived in time to see Clark Warner at the Beatport stage. Before that though, when we checked in to get our Monday media patch, I signed up to interview Jason Huvaere, president of Paxahau, at 3pm that afternoon. James Canning, Paxahau’s person in charge of media for the festival, and the person who approved my request for media credentials even though it came way late, encouraged me to talk with Jason. So, I’ll come back to that later. Clark Warner played a nice set, played CDs, did some nice manipulation with the mixer and, like his wife, Liz Copeland (Warner), is a great selector. The whole Plaza was still pretty empty at that time. Clark started playing at noon and there were no other performances happening that day until 2pm. It’s always nice to arrive at the festival when things are quiet, peaceful and breezy. I videotaped a lot of his set We then skipped out for food so that we could get back to interview Jason at 3pm. I knew I wanted to see a lot of sets the whole rest of the day, so food needed to happen then. I was getting nervous about my interview because usually I get to be leisurely with my interviews and take lots of time to chat and get into history, backgrounds, music, DJing and producing, and whatever else. I start out with a few ideas of where I want the interview to go, but usually have the luxury of letting the person I’m talking with take it in whatever direction they want to go. I knew that this interview would have be short, very direct, and to the point. Over lunch, I thought up three major questions that I wanted to ask Jason about with the hopes that these would be appropriate for the rushed setting, but would provide me with enough information to be a worthwhile interview. And that is just what happened! So here were the big questions that I asked him:

Can you tell me about Paxahau’s history in Detroit, and your history with the Movement festival? And in order to prod a bit deeper, I mentioned my interview with John “Bileebob” Williams (which brought a big smile to Jason’s “business” face). Bileebob talked with me about the lofts at 1217 Griswold in downtown Detroit which were home to many electronic music producers, event promoters, and other local artists and musicians in the early 1990s. Bileebob and Jason Huvaere were both residents there and pre-Paxahau event planning/promoting got it’s start there.

Here are two posts from Famzine about 1217 Griswold:

I then asked Jason about the challenges in artist booking for the festival, representing local Detroit artists and music, while at the same time inviting national and international artists from outside of Detroit to play. I wanted to understand Paxahau’s perspective on what they do. And I didn’t want to be negative or inappropriate while talking with him during the festival weekend, AT the festival itself. Basically, their perspective is that local, Detroit electronic artists make up a third of the artists at the festival every year, which seems to be true. And not only do they invite the big names from Detroit, they also invite local DJs who are not producers or whose production catalog is very small compared to other artists at the festival. However, the treatment of some of these artists seems to be thoughtless to a certain degree, like putting so many incredible musicians and DJs into the underground area, forcing them to have terrible acoustics for their performances. And this is really disappointing. The underground area was rarely very crowded the whole weekend because the sound was so freaking scary down there!! So many people missed out on great artists because of the sound quality, because all the distinct sound levels got smashed together and muddled from bouncing around the concrete space. Honestly, next year, they should just put some speakers down there broadcasting music from the main stage and it can just be a roller skating rink. I can totally see that happening; no worries about liability or supplying skates, or any other logistical concerns like that. It would just be cool.

Okay, so none of that last part was my interview with Jason, just my mental foray into fantasy. I still need to tell you my last question:

I told him I was excited to hear about Carl Craig being the creative director for the 2010 festival. The press release was all over the web Friday before the festival began. And his response was interesting. Jason explained that this had been a long time goal for Paxahau, but they wanted to make sure they had a solid foundation for the Movement festival before approaching Carl with the offer. They wanted to make sure that the event was secured well into the future and would be something that Carl Craig would feel good about getting involved in. So yeah for next year, we’ll see what this all means!!

The interview went really well. He is clearly a seasoned public speaker and knows how to provide tons of information in a limited amount of time. So I’m really glad I had the opportunity to talk to him.

After the interview, I quickly packed up…oh wait, one little story from the interview lawn…There were these two dudes who were there to interview Afrika Bambaataa. They said they saw something about him on VH1 and wanted to interview him, but couldn't even remember his full name. They asked about him as “Afrika …I don’t remember his last name.” And then again when they started interviewing Jason Huvaere. I over heard as I was packing up my equipment. Are you kidding me? How are you going to try and interview someone, but don’t even know their name and then admit that to the main man in charge of the whole festival?? Please. And how often does that happen, they either get ignored completely, or get interviewed by people who don’t know what they are talking about! Well, at least there’s a few folks out there providing good journalistic coverage.

Alright, finally packed up, heading over to see Flying Lotus. This was one of the best sets of the entire weekend. I had so much fun and got to videotape most of his set. When I got there, the crowd was packed and James got up on stage to photograph while I just looked around for a bit. Then, I almost plowed down some dude in the crowd with my giant tripod (because my monopod broke the day before) trying to say hi to Todd Osborn as he passed by on his way to the stage. Sorry dude! And then I ended up totally interrupting Todd on his way to get some tracks up to Flying Lotus. Total nerd is me! After looking around a bit, I decided it was time for me to get on up there and get some video. Music was so hot, I could barely walk straight. I got myself set up on stage and this was probably one of the four most fun moments of the weekend for me; the other three being Osborne at the Blank Artists Afterglow party, Octave One, and DJ Seoul & T. Linder, which I will get to soon. Shortly after I got set up, FlyLo dropped Osborne’s “Wait A Minute.” I mean everything sounded so great, I could barely stand up, let alone hold my camera up pretending that my tripod was a monopod so that I could move it around easily. In addition to wearing a Dilla t-shirt, he played some J Dilla beats, like the “Takin’ What’s Mine” instrumental with the lyric “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” from a folk song from 1950 by The Weevers (or possibly Peter, Paul, & Mary). Then he gave another nod to Soundmurderer (Todd Osborn) on the mic as he played a jungle track. Don’t know what it was, but it sounded great, and he said something like “Soundmurderer turned me on to this!” He was super active with his equipment, he had a laptop going and an MPC, and it was really fun to watch him. He would turn down the music occasionally to speak to the crowd. It was just really fun.

And here's a photo by Chaircrusher, aka Kent Williams of me smiling at Flying Lotus!

We then bounced around for the rest of the night. Seth Troxler was surprisingly good. Kyle Hall made sure that we went down there to hear him and it was really a sweet set that suited the disco ball lighting and brought a pretty chill atmosphere to the room. He started off with a 45 of the Twinpeaks themesong which was a dramatic switch from the harder sounds that I caught right at the end of Lee Curtiss’ set. He used Serato along with a green tote bag of non-Serato vinyl.

On to Carl Craig which was a bit disappointing, like I mentioned earlier. Seoul vs. T. Linder with four turntables was fantastic! They were ripping through that vinyl and even though the sound was bad, I still enjoyed they’re set. It was cool to watch them trainwreck and then really quickly fix the mistakes and just keep on going. Not that there were lots of mistakes, I just caught a few because I was right there on stage and could see and hear what was happening, and they got things back on track really smoothly each time. Then to Los Hermanos with Pirahnahead on guitar. They sounded expectedly nice, although by this point my feet were about to crumble and it was all I could do to finish that last tape off. And I was done, I could not stick around for another minute. And I know, I missed an excellent Derrick May set and Buzz Goree’s set, but I just couldn’t hang one more second. So we left, got some pizza and ended our weekend with that.

It was a really great time, and I felt nourished by all the music. I’ll look forward to upcoming festivals in Detroit the rest of the summer and I’ll keep you tuned in to what’s going on here the rest of the year.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More photos

All photos by "my man"

Me and Carelton Gohlz

Stacey "Hotwaxx" Hale

Norm Talley & Delano Smith

Mike Huckaby
Oooh yeah, look at that vinyl...

More words, Movement 2009 Part 3

On to day 2 of the fest. After a few hours sleep, we got up and hung out with our boys for a few hours. I missed them so much over the weekend, it was nice to be able to spend a bit of extra time at home with them on Sunday and not get down to the festival until after 2pm. I wanted to see Starski & Clutch and Minx. I wasn’t sure what time the dudes were going on, but Electrobounce took up a time block from 2-6pm. When we got there, we headed straight for the Red Bull stage. I love that corner of Hart Plaza during the festival. It’s so close to the water, so there’s always a nice soft breeze. Windsor’s skyline is right there and there’s also a nice view of Detroit facing the other way. Of course, the view of the sky is huge there and sunsets are gorgeous, especially this past festival weekend! Oh, it’s just so romantic, let’s go hang out over there honey…and here’s where my nature as a delicate flower rears up again.

Delicate flower meets booty and bass, ass and titties. We got there shortly after Starski & Clutch (Brian Gillespie & Todd Osborn) started their set, and they play records together! Records! It was great to watch them up there with their vinyl. They were tag teaming it pretty quick and smooth, Brian got on the mic quite a bit getting the crowd going and talking about Detroit.

UR baby, UR.
Photograph by James M. Rotz

So the “Ass and Titties” song seems to be the anthem of Sunday afternoon, and I say that with a big smile on my face. The Electrobounce crew is so much fun! Whenever I hear the “Ass and Titties” song, I envision a guy with big thick black glasses and a serious lisp saying “ass and titties, ass and titties.” And needless to say, James got to hear my version of that all weekend. Lucky him.

In addition, the Electrobounce crew sported their very own ass and titties dancers. That’s not their official name, but instead of dancers with Paxahau panties on all over Hart Plaza all weekend like in 2008, the special dancers were only to be found at the Electrobounce stage. However, you could also see plenty of that style of dress all over Hart Plaza on festival goers – fishnet stockings, sometimes ripped, sometimes in the form of gloves. Tiny ass-cheek baring shorts and fuzzy leg coverings that go from the knee down that James calls cave girl boots. Lots of chains and spikes and piercings paired with this rave girl-slash-stripper style all over the festival. It was a bit strange, I don’t remember so much sexuality on display at raves in the 1990s when I was a teenager and going to parties around Chicago and New York/New Jersey. And maybe that’s because I was super shy about it and not tuned into some of what was going on around me. But I remember a lot more androgyny, more sporty girls with big pants and sun visors on, and more distinct costumes that were not automatically sexual. I’m not saying that open performance/display of sexuality is bad. It’s totally awesome! If you can dress that way and look good and feel comfortable, then do it, baby. And, I’m a stone cold feminist, so chew on that. Maybe next year, Paxahau will have a vaudeville tent, or sexy roller derby, or something funky like that! Wouldn’t booty music or some nice disco and house go well with busty vaudeville and roller derby?! That’s what the underground area should be next year! Okay, stream of consciousness here, Soulskate and DEMF team up on Hart Plaza. I know, Soulskate is not exactly roller derby or vaudeville, but take all those ideas and bring them together and I think that would make for an awesome party!

Anyway, with regards to the overtly sexual style of dress, I’m trying to keep an open mind to self-expression and creativity. When I see so much compliance to a particular public identity along with lots of drug use primarily by teenagers and young adults, I just feel sad for these kids who are trying to find themselves and seem to sort of latch onto an identity and practices that fulfill the confines of this identity in ways that are pretty conventional and played out. And I know that this is not a totally fair assessment of identity, and I’m sure that anyone who has thought about, written about, studied drug cultures in association with electronic music could potentially have a much more nuanced understanding of all this. I just saw a lot of excessive drug use all over the place all weekend by a lot of young people and I missed the regular atmosphere in Detroit that is much more low key: pot smoking and beer, for the most part.

Okay, so since the Electrobounce DJs showed so much love to females on Sunday afternoon, I thought I might return the love. Insert your caption here:

Starski & Clutch
Photograph by James M. Rotz

So during Starski & Clutch’s set, the time kept inching toward 3pm, which also marked the end of Minx’s set. I really wanted to see her play. Last year, when she played the underground stage, I asked her before hand if I could videotape her. She asked me to meet her down there right before her set and she would ask the stage manager, who, it turns out, was Kevin Reynolds, but I didn’t know that then. He came down in front of the stage a few moments later with a “Worker” lanyard that I could wear to get up on stage to videotape her whole set. I used my not so high quality digital8 Sony camcorder with no monopod or anything and recorded her entire hour long set. And, even though the visual is great, I unfortunately forgot to adjust the audio input on the internal mic (no external) from 12-bit to 16-bit. So the sound is all in the red and I cannot really do anything about it. I was excited to be able to videotape her again this year with a much better camera. The intensity of last year’s set was not matched this year, and that didn’t really have anything to do with Minx. In 2008, Minx played the underground stage at around 4 or 5pm, so it was much more crowded than at 2pm at the main stage. Last year, she also seemed to play more vinyl. She actively used both CDJs and both turntables in 2008 and her set was excellent. I could barely hold the camera straight and not dance. This year, and I only caught about the last 15 minutes of her set, so I’m not sure what she used for the first 45 minutes, but one turntable was empty of vinyl and she was going back and forth between one CDJ and one turntable. I adore Minx and think she’s a great DJ and producer and label owner/manager, I’m just sorry I have bad audio from her 2008 set and didn’t get to see much this year.

Minx & Al Ester
Photograph by James M. Rotz

After she finished, Al Ester danced over to the equipment and started his set. I wanted to see him, but I also wanted to see if Starski & Clutch were still playing. We bounced back to Red Bull and Todd was playing their last song which was “Glow of Love” by Change…oh Luther, you have quite a voice…Luther Vandross! Love that song. We hung out there a bit longer. There were some technical difficulties as DJ Sluggo got on the decks. So what did James do? Got his camera right in there to document it! I laughed, it really is interesting to watch people handle the mistakes or complications that happen during live performances, like a skipping record, or a bad sound system, or equipment that is not connecting or loading up properly. All that in the moment messiness is just all part of it.

We caught most of Al Ester’s set, he was really fun to watch. He clearly loves DJing and loves the music that he plays. He was dancing all over that stage. Played a Detroit style house set, with some funk, disco, and Latin rhythms coming in there. The music he played and the way he danced was emblematic of Detroit’s local house music scene, which is comprised mostly of older African Americans, many of whom have known each other for decades, and even went to high school together in the early 1980s; listened to Mojo and The Wizard on local radio in the 80s; and still party together well into their 40s and 50s at specific weekly events around Detroit.

We went to check out DJ Godfather for a while. I videotaped him from the pyramid because the stage was just too crowded. Then, I finally got to meet up with some other folks that I wanted to meet this weekend. DJ Count Zero of New York texted me to come over and hear Osunlade play – deepest festival moment yet, he said. So I got to meet him and Tom Cox, who has been writing about music for a really long time, and writes great stuff on the Infinite State Machine blog. He also just launched his own all vinyl, all the time record label with an inaugural release by Disco Nihilist. I gladly picked up a copy from Tom at the festival. It was great to meet these guys in person after communicating with them through the 313 email listserv and then through our respective blogs. Tom and I had a nice, but short, chat about our experiences of the weekend up to that point. It is clear that he has a great affection for Detroit and for the people making music who are dedicated to keeping the local musical culture thriving. And, Tom is really tuned in to issues of racial, ethic, and economic struggle and oppression, meaning he doesn’t ignore history or present reality. So that’s always nice.

After taking a break to rest the feet and then eat, we got ready for Octave One…who were amazing! One of my favorite sets of the weekend. And I got to videotape them onstage, so seeing their equipment set up was really cool. Now I’m not skilled enough to be able to identify specific types of analog equipment or computer software at first sight, but I know generally what things are. So as long as I have video and photos, I can figure it out later. The music was extremely intense and somehow sounded great down in that concrete box. I could really distinguish the sounds, tones, melodies, and funkiness that they were creating. They bounced their whole bodies together in unison. And this is when I was sonically reminded of how funky Detroit electronic musicians can really get. It wasn't just boom boom boom boom, or even just boom tschlak, boom tschlak. It was real funky. They’re brothers just in case you don’t know, Lawrence and Lenny Burden. They’re from Detroit, started 430 West Records, and now live in Atlanta. Lenny repeatedly picked up his Korg drum machine and danced with it, showing it off to the crowd. And we all loved it, of course! At one point, he slowly danced it up swaying it from side to side and then punctuating the end of a phrase in the music, he slammed it up in the air with one hand. And it wasn’t some little plastic trinket of a machine, it was a solid Korg machine and he held it up in the air with one hand. It was pretty rockin.

Octave One
Photographs by James M. Rotz

We then walked around a bit, bumped into Rick Wilhite, strolled past Dennis Ferrer and onto the Wignomy Brothers, who were excellent. Played all vinyl, licking it before putting it to spin. I really want to check out more of their music. Their set was really interesting. James wanted to photograph RJD2, so we headed back over to the romantic stage. It was super crowded, but of course the back corner, which took a lot of work to get to, was wide open. After squeezing through with all our equipment, James hung out on stage for a while and got some nice shots. I stood on the sidelines and watched boats creep by and enjoyed watching the more hippie inclined crowd groove to the music.

We slowly bounced around a bit after RJD2 and then decided to head home. We tried to go to the No Way Back party at the Bohemian National Home, but we were way too tired. Unfortunately we missed that party and the Mills party, which I also wanted to go to. We chose sleep and some time in the morning at home with our three little dudes over massive party time. Oh well…

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Long Friken Post, Movement Part 2

Sorry for the delay in writing. I was in San Diego for the weekend presenting with some friends from Indiana University at a conference on popular music. As I sat in the Detroit Metro airport Friday afternoon wondering why I was on a flight to Phili and then on to San Diego, I heard this dude blow a bunch of snot behind me. I thought, oh, that’s what I sound like! ...cause I was sick too. I got up and turned around because we were boarding and realized it was Theo Parrish. I said, “Theo?!” He looked at me and laughed. We greeted each other and I told him I was using his thoughts and sounds about genre for the conference. He was very gracious. So that must have been why I was on the flight to Phili!

Anyway, the four of us did a roundtable discussion on genre, using each of our areas of research as a springboard to wax theoretic. It felt so great to be immersed in rigorous academic thought and talk for a few days. We roomed together and spent a lot of time all weekend making sure we had all our theory bases covered, which we did and then some. So, even though I am usually pretty self-conscious about my competency in academic settings, I must say that we kicked ass! I played an audio clip from my interview with Carlos Souffront where he talks in detail about genre. I brought a clip from my interview with Theo Parrish to play, but didn’t have time to play it and just ended up talking about it. And then I played a segment of Synthetic Flemm. Sadly, we were scheduled for Sunday morning at 9am, and at the same time as 5 other panel sessions, which meant that only 3 people showed up to our session. But, they were all very active in the discussion with excellent ideas, and one of them was one of my dissertation committee co-chairs. She seemed to enjoy our presentation and told us at the end, that we should all write an article together on genre…but only after we all finish our dissertations! That felt great to be complemented in that way from a senior scholar who we all respect.

Okay, so on to Saturday, day one of the festival. We drove down trying to get to see Liz Copeland. I’ve never met her, but really dig her impressive background as a disc jockey for WDET playing a Detroit electronic music focused radio show for ten years. James and I sometimes like to park down a ways from the RenCen during the festival and take the river walk path toward Hart Plaza. It’s such a nice walk along the Detroit river, but it’s at least a mile walk, so it can get time consuming. We found closer parking the rest of the weekend, but missed the nice breezy walk. Liz’s set was good. Her husband (Clark Warner) and their baby were there. The babe had big head phones on to block the noise – very cute! Liz made some nice selections and the set was great to hang out and listen to on a breezy, fresh Saturday afternoon. We then headed over to see Stacey Hale play in the underground Made in Detroit stage. James and I were on stage, he with his photo camera and me with my video camera. It was really incredible to be up on stage with all the performers this weekend getting video of them. It is so fascinating to me to watch people perform on turntables, drum machines, laptops, and other types of equipment. Although, I must say that from the video perspective, it’s way more fun to get footage of people playing records or using other kinds of analog equipment as opposed to videotaping someone stand at two CDJs or stand with one hand on the mousepad of a laptop. If I were on the floor listening and dancing, however, my ears would not necessarily be categorizing the sets in that strict of a way. Stacey Hale’s set was interesting and fun. Parts of it were surprisingly hard. I liked the mixture of hard techno and funky, soulful house sounds.

I then got a text from a person I hoped to meet that weekend, a fellow academic studying and writing about Detroit electronic music, Carleton Gohlz. We headed over to the Beatport lawn to meet and chat. We “compared notes” and found that we each are taking really different and equally interesting approaches to our research and writing. Very nice to meet in person someone with whom I had been communicating for about a year now!

We then took a break for some food and beer at Jackoby’s in Greektown. Really good food and lots of German and other international beer choices, which I like I like. We hadn’t really planned out where we wanted to have meals, but we knew we needed cheap and energizing. It was a nice surprise. We made our way back to the Red Bull stage for Kate Simko’s set. It was interesting music, I like Kate Simko, but I felt like I was videotaping her just for the sake of documentation because my footage is basically her swaying in front of her laptop moving her fingers around on the mousepad. Which is fine, documentation is part of the reason I wanted to video the festival. So we headed back downstairs for the Beatdown crew. All three were on the stage, they had moved the monitors around, it was getting crowded. Every time I was down on that stage over the weekend, there was a different set up with the tables and monitors – interesting to note how things morph and adapt. Caught most of Norm Talley’s set – it was intense and the bass rattled my brain multiple times. My feet and knees kept rumbling on stage from the bass – it was disturbingly intense. Delano Smith got on the mic multiple times. Mike Clark was hanging out on stage looking at CDs. That underground stage was very confusing for me that first day. During Stacey Hale’s set, it took me some time to really figure out in my head what was going on with the set up…”wait, what now??” The stage was set up in the center of the dance space – it was huge, gigantic, enormous, and yet on the stage itself, things got crowded really easily. When I first went down there, of course I needed ear plugs. It was very dark and I didn’t want to take off my prescription sunglasses because I’m pretty blind and would have to switch to my regular glasses. So I made it even darker for myself down there. When I first looked around, I thought, “oh, Paxahau wanted to make this like a club.” It was dark; they put large Made in Detroit metallic emblems on all four sides of the stage; there were purple and green lights flashing around and a disco ball hanging above it all which was lit or not lit during the various sets of the weekend. So going down there was stressful and scary sometimes…because I’m such a delicate flower…

And, I should mention, the sound was not good down there. There have been lots of critiquing of that fact by DJs and fans alike about the bad sound quality that came out of the platform of bass speakers that lined all four sides of the stage and the speakers that were hanging from the ceiling bringing the highs; it then bounced around the concrete “garbage compactor” as it has been called.

After Beatdown, we walked around for a bit, passed by the main stage for Steve Bug, sounded good. Bumped into John Johr and Minx – we walked into the VIP area that actually wasn’t for press, but we didn’t know that and no one stopped us, he he. Minx laughed at me when she saw us. I really wasn’t trying to get in anywhere I wasn’t “allowed,” and having a press pass this year was quite weird. Last year, I volunteered, so the jump in position was a strange one. And walking through the VIP entrance area outside near Cobo was weird, too. I often felt out of place among all the other people back there who seemed to have a confident sense of belonging. And not that I really wanted to fit in anywhere anyway, I’m quite comfortable with my lack of sophistication, I embrace it! I just didn’t want to piss anyone off on the stages. And I don’t think I did. Almost all the photographers and the few videographers that were there were very polite and I had a great experience sharing the stages with all of them.

Anyway, talking with John Johr and Minx, John, who assisted me in getting in touch with the media person when I asked him about videotaping, was very happy to hear that things had worked out for the press pass. He’s just a good guy. We talked about our interview, I told him I had a disc for him with our interview on it, but I forgot it at home.

We then walked back over to the Red Bull Stage for Ryan Elliot’s set. It was excellent. He was really into it, the sounds were totally different and distinct from what I was hearing elsewhere at the festival at that time. It was just a great set and fun to videotape too. Then we passed by Francois K – hadn’t see him play before. He played some interesting things. He had a small rectangular piece of equipment with four large knobs on it that was attached to the table right in front of his belly. I don’t know what it was, but it was interesting to see the manipulations he could make in the sound with those big old knobs. Anyone have any suggestions as to what it could have been?

Our final sets of the day were Rick Wade and Mike Huckaby down below. Both of them really slowed things down, which I liked a lot. Rick Wade started off the evening slowing things down immediately. Even his hands moved slowly, he was super chill and serious. It was intense and deep, but nice and slow. Mike Huckaby was back there hanging out and getting his records set up. Oh yeah, both played records, which was refreshing from a day of laptops, a bit of vinyl, and a lot of CDs. It was great to zoom in with my lovely camera to some long fingers touching shiny black vinyl with the lights bouncing off of it and the little technics dots spinning around the platter. Both Rick and Mike’s sets were great and a nice way to end the day.

After that, James and I went home, sat for a bit and tried to let our feet heal, and then headed back out for the Blank Artists party at the Bohemian National Home. I had never been to that space before and I loved it. Really different from a lot of other locations for partytime in Detroit, not that the other spaces aren’t good, I just really liked this old building with lots of rooms and its darkness. And they had pretty good beer, Two Hearted Ale, we’ve already established that that’s a plus for me. So we arrived kind of early during Trent Abbe’s set. He played some nice disco-y house. It was nice and dark in the dance room with barely two lights on the back wall. When Osborne started his set, I got ready to dance, and I was right because he sailed us all through the whole set, it was so much fun. And we were all dancing…like it was a party! He played Nasty Boys (love that), Prince (of course), Theo Parrish’s Synthetic Flemm, and of course many other beauties. Midway through his set, someone turned all the lights off and there was only the light from the laptop and equipment. It was just a really fun party. It felt youthful and vibrant, something that is always good for Detroit!

Oooh, I better put up some photos as well of my travels…more tomorrow.