Thursday, June 4, 2009

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…

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