Pre-DEMF 2003


…As I was saying, Thursday morning started with a trip to Detroit airport so we could return the rental car. We stopped one exit early in order to get gas. When I was walking in the building to pay for it, a guy pulled in bumping some amazing techno – I thought “Welcome to Detroit”. 🙂 Casey wandered in after me, and the guy did too. Casey asked him what he was playing and he said, “that’s me”! Wow. Turns out he’s 1/3 of Audiomatrix. We all chatted for a while, and then he guest-listed us for his Movement afterparty. More on that later, but he seemed a really nice chap.

Since we were nearly in Detroit, we’d planned to check out a free brunch and symposium at the Detroit Historical Museum, home of the new Detroit Techno exhibit that will soon be touring the world. The exhibit was a bit of a let-down, but the symposium was cool. Got to meet up with a few of the Techno Tourists early-on, and see a few of Jenn’s friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Also, the talks were really cool:

  • Got to see Lenn Swan show a video of a DMC competition from 2000 (he would later win the world championship) – also got to see him spin (whew!!!)
  • Adriel talked about promotion in Detroit
  • Felton Howard talked about a DJ’s responsibility to play for the love of spreading music and connecting with your audience. He made some really good points, like about being willing to play for free, about knowing your audience so that you can make them move, and even talked about spinning in the ‘70s before pitch-adjustable tables were around. He’s credited with teaching Jeff Mills to spin, so that sort-of speaks for itself.
  • Max from Tresor talked about the Tresor club as the first true re-joining of East and West Berlin via Detroit techno. The wall fell, techno had just arrived, and a club appeared at the center of it all.
  • There was a DJ from Detroit public radio who gave an awesome speach on the history of American radio, and the forces that would begin to tear it apart, starting in 1943, through the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the new proposed amendments that will further dilute the American market. That was really cool.
  • By far the best part was seeing the Glufactory interview footage from their upcoming documentary on Detroit techno. All of it was in a raw, unedited form, beginning with an unbelievable segment from Laura Gavoor. I was really on the verge of tears for that bit. She taught me so much, and I only spoke to her once, briefly on the phone. Her impassioned, communicative powers were astounding, and her understanding of musical/racial politics globally was unequaled in my experience. To see about 10 minutes of interview footage was simultaneously uplifting and melancholy. She meant so much to Detroit.There was also some excellent footage of Alan Oldham, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Stacey Pullen and a hillarious commentary on European clubs from Kenny Larkin.We stuck around for a few hours, then headed back to Ann Arbor. After running errands, we grabbed some Cottage Inn pizza (I’ve been jonesing for this stuff for about 12 years now) and chilled with Casey and his Moms. From there we headed to Casey’s decidedly college’d out hang out, “Dominicks”. They have these enormous (1/4 or ½ gallon) jars for drinking, but that in itself did not sell me on the place. The outdoor deck was nice though, and I got to bond a bit with Jon, my brother in Jenneration X. Evidence:

    From there we were headed to Necto (F/K/A the Nectarine Ballroom) for the Minus party feat. Clark Werner, Magda and Richie Hawtin. On the way I jumped out of the car on the corner downstairs from where Dave’s Comics used to be, and got myself a cigar at a place next door to Stairway to Heaven (can’t believe that place is still around). From there I wandered up State Street to Liberty and saw the sites and sounds that comprised my first adolescent adventures circa ‘86-‘89. Once upon a time I wandered these streets with a skateboard in hand – a few years later I would be carting loads of debate evidence on the same streets. To say the least this was a flood of memories culminating in Necto, where I had my first clubbing experience at 14. Turns out that Jeff Mills used to DJ those same nights, although I suspect he was DJing later than the midnight curfew that was the teen-night terminus.

    On entry we explored my old haunt. Everything was different. They moved the DJ booth, there was an outdoor deck, and a downstairs area I don’t remember. Magda was playing a groovy set on the main floor while the deck had yet to start. The night was so nice we mostly chilled on the deck until Clark Werner came on. Many people were seen. Many drinks were consumed. Eventually I persuaded myself to check out Hawtin, just as he was starting. As usual, I persuaded myself it was really captivating for about 10 minutes, then my patience was tested in the next ten minutes, then I got bored in the last ten minutes I allowed him. I am [] close to writing him off. I’m really getting tired of stories from Hawtin fans telling me I need to see him in the right venue. I don’t believe it. I just don’t like his flacid music. Dare I say it, he is progressifying techno, and that is pretty damn criminal. I’ll still listen to his production, but we’ve known for years that his production and DJing are very different things.

    So… it was back out to the deck, where Clark Werner was continuing to play great music as always, and then things got a bit messier, and devolved into lots of drunken banter + overblown anti-Hawtin rants. End Thursday.


    The next morning Ali and I walked up the street to the Village Kitchen, where I finally found my Belgian Waffle with Strawberries and Whipped Cream. True, it was not on a par with Maryland Diner quality, but it was 90% of the way there. On the way back I noticed we were across the street from Veteran’s park, the place where they built the skate park where I first tried out a ½-pipe. It was 32 feet wide, metal and 13 feet tall at the highest extension. I never got very good at skating ramp, but it was fun to try! It was great to see Ann Arbor again, standing in line outside the Necto, being 50 feet from the old home of Schoolkids Records, where I started my musical development, and another 50 feet from the BK where I landed my first job. It was a trip!

    That afternoon we headed to the Omni so Ali and I could check into her and Gil’s room (I was staying there that Friday night). On the way we passed Portal, the old home of Submerge at 2030 Grand River, where I played Casey’s party with Traxx in August, and where we would see Felton Howard and Rob Hood on Saturday:

    After checking in, Casey and I headed up to Dennis’s house in Southfield for his 2nd annual [313] party. Not as many familiar faces as last year, but good to see some new ones. These were the few that were familiar enough to pictorialize (or that I was smart enough to capture):

    Around midnight we headed to the Corktown Tavern to try to take in some of the 7th City Party. I actually grabbed a cab from there, but it turned out that they weren’t letting anyone in anyway, so Magda and Dennis arrived at the Detroit Contemporary around the same time as me. Very silly… I’m fairly certain that my friend Barry AKA Kataconda was playing when we arrived. He mixed a CD set, featuring a lot of his own material from CD-R. Really nice stuff! Christian Bloch followed that with a walloping minimal techno set, TJ (Wraith) followed that with another good techno set, then I came on, thoroughly inebriated at this point. If I can trust the reviews, it turned out well, although I had to mix from techno down to house, which is one of the things I find hardest to do, especially when really drunk. At one point I was manually winding one record up to +10 while in the mix – that was just stupid, although I think it actually worked! I think I recognized my limits fairly soon though, since Mike (who was on after me) allowed me to play a ½-hour into his set, at which point the cops came and shut us down. ‘Twas a shame, but good that we got to go as late as we did, given that some of the other parties got crushed much earlier. It was a fun night, great to see all those peepz who I wouldn’t get to see for long throughout the rest of the festival, and always a treat to play in Detroit. Also great to finally meet John Shipman, who I’ve been chatting with online for ages. Great chap. We got to spend a lot of time together over the weekend, which was long overdue.

    This is getting really long, so I’m going to split it into two posts. On to the festival. ->