Detroit isn’t typically a city one assocites with giddiness, though immediately upon seeing the skyline, I’m almost overcome with joy .
No kidding, I literally holler aloud at the sight of Gratiot, Grand River, Woodward, and nearly every other street I see until I reach my hotel, where I’m checked in by young lion dressed like he just stepped off the label of an old Transmat record.
There’s music in the park up the street, a bunch of Detroiters I’ve never heard of spinning surprisingly banging techno for each other and a handful of homeless. Smoking a cigarette in the sunshine, I feel more fantastic than I have in ages.
As most of you are likely aware, Wayne County was once home to thousands of Eastern Europeans, and in few places is this more evident than Hamtramck, City of Friendship .
Was intending to supper on pierogis and beer, but spent way too much time being astounded by Detroit Threads’ techno selection, and instead wind up having lamb vindaloo at one of the neighborhood’s numerous Bangladeshi restaurants. GO GO NEW WAVE IMMIGRES.
Always meant to check out legendary Chene St. blues bar The Raven Lounge, and as fate would have it, they were actually open when I drove by. The house band’s first set was drawing to a close as I sat down, though it scarcely matters, as the vibe in there was pure sorcery.
The only other caucasian in attendance is so shocked to see my nerd self, he immediately buys me a drink and demands to know how I found the place. After introducing me to half the people in the bar, he reckons we should head to Jumbo’s, a venerable Cass Corridor watering hole.
Upon arrival, I’m welcomed by a diverse group of geniuses even older than I am, all of whom recommend I move into the neighborhood post-haste.
Feels good, man.
Awaken Saturday to marching bands, complementary waffles, and rain.
There’s some sort of breast cancer walk taking place near Comerica Park, white folks in pink looking strange against downtown’s nimbus grey backdrop.
Felt compelled to visit the Nortown Bakery after reading Detroit Blog’s piece on their struggles. No idea what was going on, but DPD were out in force, stopping every third car on Seven Mile. The resigned looks on people’s faces suggested this was anything but extraordinary.
Norwood’s super friendly proprietor seems downright surprised to receive a customer interested in Romanian coldcuts. For twenty dollars, I left with more meat, cheese, and bread than I’ll be able to eat in a week! Please stop by if you’re ever in the area, as they could really use the business!
Greeted by the deeply proper house sounds of Earl Mixxin McKinney immediately upon arriving at Hart Plaza. Didn’t stick around long, but hot damn, he is astounding!
Find myself at the Red Bull stage after a few minutes of meandering, where Salva basses in a decidedly non-atavistic fashion. DEMF is rife with middle aged rave divas, though I encountered few more frabjous than the buff, red-booted goddess with whom I shared Merce Cunningham moves throughout his set.
Actress is an odd cod. The massive sunglasses and high buttoned shirt he was wearing might’ve suggested as much, though even if he were attired in Hollister from head to toe , his innate strangeness would still’ve shined more brightly than a million alien suns.
Part of me wants to suggest he sounded like Moritz remixing Mover, as viewed on Youtube from the mouth of a mile wide warehouse constructed from sentient gas, but goddamn, that’s a really shitty comparison.
Palpably nervous as he performs, his Eleusinian mysterycore has me jitting eyes closed, mouth agape, mind laboring like Sisyphus to take in all the grandeur he’s summoning. Without question, the festival’s very freshest set.
Wandering aimlessly afterward, I see Mr. C and Jimmy Edgar rinse much loved house and techno with devastating panache. In addition: loads of steampunk coeds.
From the DJs to the dancers who came to see them, everyone appears to be on their A game today, not leastly Greg Wilson whose selection of golden age nightclub diamonds sounds posilutely revelatory on Paxahau’s precision tuned system.
Gravitate back to the Red Bull stage, where Bok Bok is Tearing Shit The Fuck Up. Everything I’ve ever loved about UK bass is present in his set: exotic syncopation, melancholy goodtime energy, deadly deep subs, all stitched together with vigorous yay enthusiasm, a fact not lost on the neon clad teens raging all around me.
Just as I thought it impossible for my personal hype-o-meter’s needle to go further into the red, Bok drops E-Dancer’s Pump the Move, one of my favorite ever jams, followed by several other obscuro D-town tracks whose names I was gurning far too hard to remember.
The next several hours are a blur.
Photek and Roni Size play intensely well appreciated, uncharacteristically testosterone drenched sets, consisting largely of bog-standard brostep.
Make the main stage as Lil Louis drops French Kiss, followed by I Feel Love, inspiring the entire front of the amphitheatre to sing along. Anyone else would have kept the bacchanalian vibe alive with another big, huge tune, but not Louis. Instead, our shirtless headliner presents an old track of his own, a stark, Pan Sonic-esque distortion electro epic, confusing the crowd completely for the several minutes he lets it play. Some guy walks up to me and says “It’s really happening. All of it. Right now.” I cannot help but concur.
An abandoned hotel burns on Woodward Sunday morning .
A group of hipsters and I take pictures. The locals seem unconcerned.
Back in Paradise Valley, the Detroit Mini Music Festival is again in full swing. Guy on the mic announces open decks, and being the retard
I am, decide it’d be a lovely idea to attempt spinning the pile of vinyl I just purchased for Eowyn and Doc. Unfamiliar with the music and mixer, I suck abominably, but hey, I PLAYED IN DETROIT!1!
Reach DEMF late in the day, because, like, WATEVER. The city in the rain and the electro mix I’m listening to as I drive feel fucking incredible.
Seem to be a greater number of youngsters in attendance today. Music seems somewhat less adventurous, as well.
Basking in whatever house wonderment is happening on the Made In Detroit stage, I meet a fellow Indiana techno dork, who tells me Dopplereffekt is about to happen, and that I absolutely must come see.
HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK, THIS, THIS, THIS IS WHY THE UNDERGROUND STAGE EXISTS!!!!!
Bemasked and using genuine keyboards, these occasional Drexciyans conjure thickly ominous doom funk tension, reminding me as much of Goblin as it did Juan Atkins.
I pop, lock, run into Dr. Butcher, am so overcome with emotions electric that I shake random people’s hands, grateful they were there to share in the moment.
Everything else at the festival feels blah in comparison. I tell a terrible joke to a woman in an awesome dress, then head to Foran’s for beer with cool creeps. Give the Yamaha QY22 I’m carrying with me to a kid I meet, take a cab to TV Bar for Chez Damier’s A Story Narrated By Us. Superlative rhythms, scant few dancers.
Finally catch wind of where No Way Back is being held. Nearly get robbed en route, but who cares? The space is pitch dark, the acid is jacking, and everyone present is Feeling It. I dance until I all but vomit,
watch the sunrise with techno legends, hug a pretty girl. 1515 Broadway and Elysium are suddenly the
very same place.
Monday, it’s as if the entire festival has a hangover.
Lots of uninspired oontz and wobble on every single stage.
In the five minutes of his set I’m able to catch, DJ Psycho spins four of my favorite ever tracks with more grace, humor, and ingenuity than I would have ever imagined possible.
Weary after several days of hardcore wow, I fool around with an Animoog for awhile, marvel at a bunch of old synths on display near the underground stage, discuss the modern rave zeitgeist with a producer from Grand Rapids, watch a bit of Mills and Major Lazer, just to be able to say I’d done so.
Heading hotelward after an obligatory coney at Lafayette, I’m mournful it’s over. For a few days, everything shimmered, and the fact that I’ve dedicated the past twenty years of my life to dance music did not seem at all bizarre.
Thank you Michigan for enabling me to feel so impossibly real!