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.