Just stumbled across this in my pics of DEMF 2003.
Just stumbled across this in my pics of DEMF 2003.
Lots of pics and some video clips if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing.
…and Here’s April’s top 10:
Zero Duma – DJ Tools Volume 5: Alternative Conclusions [Ibadan]
Sam Prekop – Who’s Your New Professor [Thrill Jockey]
Orlando Voorn – Underwater [Ignitor]
Chateau Flight – Celestial Showers [Versatile]
James Duncan – Peoples Are Peoples [Real Soon]
Hieroglyphic Being – Liquid Sex EP [Spectral Sound]
Henrik Schwarz – Leave My Head Alone Brain [Sunday Music]
Dubious – Heavy Hands [Prize]
Recloose – Dust [Peacefrog]
32 Project – Rule Of Humanity [Ibadan]
It’s here! So who all is going? Remember if reading on my blog you can post comments here. This is both the lineup and my comments, and I’d love to know more about the peepz I’m asking about at the bottom:
Alden Tyrell live
Amp Fiddler live
Camp Amp DJs
Madlib and PBW ft Jay Dee
Malik Alston Painted Pictures
DJ Genesis live
Fat Freddy’s Drop
Joris Voorn live
Novamen Live dutch
Red Nose Distrikt
Rockid (DMC Champion)
Tortured Soul Live
I’m really excited about this lineup. The only fault I can see is there are quite a few repeat performers, but whatever. I don’t actually consider that a fault myself, just the only one I could sorta see. Here’s some peepz I’m really excited about:
Aardvark – Hope they put him on in the day somewhere. Could really dig that
Amp Fiddler live – the best act of last year makes his triumphant return!
Claude Young – finally!!!
Danny Krivit – duh
Derek Plaslaiko – word
Madlib and PBW ft Jay Dee – OMFG hip hop gone wild!
Malik Alston Painted Pictures – should be very tasty, anyone know what the Painted Pictures thing is all about?
Mike Geiger – impeccable selection every time I’ve seen him so far
DJ Nova –  old timer gettin’ his due. He seriously rocked a party with TP at the first DEMF and his radio shows were the bomb
Duplex Live – anyone seen Duplex live before?
Fat Freddy’s Drop – see my other post
Francois K – duh
Joris Voorn live – I hear nothing but great things
Kai Alce – Excellent. Not many other opportunities to see him yet
Kelvin Larkin – He rocked Iowa City about 5 years ago. Expect very good things
Kenny Larkin – He rocked Liverpool recently
Mike Grant – Hope he gets a chance to rock out in the sunshine for a hometown crowd
Mike Huckaby – ditto
Osunlade Live – Holy crap has he even done this before???
Recloose – Hope he gets some monitors this time
Red Nose Distrikt – Been looking forward to seeing them (or is it ‘him’ now) for quite some time
Rolando – He rocked Plzen recently
Ron Trent – One of my top 5 favorite house DJs
Sean Deason – More  timers doin’ good. 🙂
Stacey Pullen – Was much more on-form when I saw him last than he has been since ’97
Tortured Soul Live – Like Kent said
So who else should I be excited about? I know very little about Ellen Alien or Legowelt except that I trust many people who rate them. Am I imagining it or did Kevin Reynolds used to work for Transmat? Has he done something else too? Is Heiroglyhic Being at all related to Del? Is Rockid the business then? All these folks ring a loud bell too, but I dunno why.
Alden Tyrell live
Camp Amp DJs
If you’ve actually read all of this, you must be starting to get an idea of what it felt like to finally reach this Saturday morning. I was *so* ready for this festival to start. It turned out that the Omni was further away than the Lycos mapquest thingy led me to believe (yes Jambi, you were right – I was thinking it was that brick parking lot, which is apparently connected to nothing), but it was still just a 25-30 minute walk, and the rooms were even nicer than the RenCen or Ponchartrain at ½ the price. I also got to see some more of Detroit that I wouldn’t usually get to explore. This is a vacant lot on the way, with an east-of-Woodward view of the downtown area:
When I arrived at the festival I immediately wandered to the High Tech Soul Stage, not even knowing that’s where I was at first. They flipped it over the top of the concrete mountain and placed the stage at the bottom of the bowl, rather than beside the river where the old Motor stage used to be.
To my excitement, Recloose was playing much earlier than expected. I watched him for about an hour and a half, starting out seeing Greg Earle and his friend Andy (who put these really nice pics online), then saw a constant influx of people come and go until it was time to wander over to see Ayro. Unfortunately, Recloose did not have a monitor, and it really showed. As always, his track selection was superb, but the mixing was rather impaired. However, the tracks were nice enough to keep me locked to that stage ‘til he was done, so that says something.
Ayro was not fucking around. He started out performing by himself, saying a few words, then jumping into a pounding live MPC-2000 percussion solo. This was damn-near dumbfounding. That segued seamlessly into a sequenced beat, at which point he started playing live chords on his Moog. At some point those chords fell into the sequence, and he switched to another keyboard, adding more layers, always doing something live.
Over the course of the next couple of songs he was joined by John Arnold on guitar, his girlfriend and he shared the vocal duties, there was a slew of dancers that worked their way on stage for about ½ the songs, and there was one other guy who helped with percussion duties.
Ayro is so impressive, wearing all of these hats at once – singing masterfully, running across stage to join in the drumming, playing thick keys and orchestrating it all. This was a really stunning performance, only slightly tainted by the overwhelming sub-bass that muffled the other frequencies.
By 5:00 I tried to make it over to see Niko Marks, but meeting people along the way and a gnawing hunger superceded. When Dave and I arrived at the Loco Bar & Grill we were amazed to find the entire DC contingent chewing up a long expanse of tables. There were at least 15 people there. Insane! I had fully intended to make it back in time to see Peven Everett, but opted to spend some quality time with LK and her Boston peepz back at their hotel. One thing that was absolutely non-negotiable for me was Amp Fiddler Live, so by 9:00 Dave and I were well on our way back to the High Tech Soul Stage.
Amp Fiddler was one of my two favorite shows of the festival. I’ve only got the Bassmentality 12″, his Mahogani record produced by Moodymann, and I’ve heard Love and War but don’t own it yet. I’m not sure which songs most of them were, but these songs all soothed with soul and belted with funk. These two (dark) pictures may reveal that there were four keyboards, three keyboardists, a bassist and a drummer on stage.
Amp Fiddler was singing and switching between two different keyboards. It’s hard to articulate what kind of musical dynamic three keyboardists and no guitar brings to live funk. It softens things up, while simultaneously drawing in the percussion of the keys. It’s a really amazing feel. The set was relatively short, at less than an hour, but totally fulfilling. I expect amazing things going forward.
By this point the festival had started to fill up. We headed to the Movement stage for a Kenny Larkin and Kevin Saunderson tag team, but unfortunately, my memory fades a bit at this point. However, you can witness the swarms below:
As this ended, we headed back to the hotel to meet Casey and Alexis, and let them into the room. On the way we passed a Hoopdie (sp) convention at the Speedway, one of which had this bizarre right-front wheel about three feet in the air while most of the rest of the car was relatively low. I almost grabbed a picture of it, but the dude got in his car just as I found a safe place to conceal that I was taking a picture (walking around Detroit at midnight taking pictures is fairly ill-advised). Anyway, we did the hotel crap and headed up to Portal, the old Submerge building I mentioned earlier, where Felton Howard, Rob Hood and the Suburban Knight were playing.
When we arriveds DJ Finger was playing a pretty nice GhettoTek set. Given that the last time I heard GhettoTek it was at the end of ATP, this seemed almost calm by comparison. He only played for a short time before Felton Howard came on. He started out with some house, then suddenly started to pound out the techno. It was a really tight set, and an excellent warm-up for Hood – from what I’m told, much harder than Felton Howard normally spins. This guy is definitely one of Detroit’s best kept secrets. I’m really looking forward to seeing him spin a house set sometime.
From my perspective, Hood was the most anticipated show of the festival. I knew how much my DC friends would love him, there were tons of Detroit, European and DC people all around me, and they were all there to see Hood. I knew to expect a beating, and the first 20 minutes were severe – nary a synth-line in sight, but then there was one, and then a Basic Channel track, and then a tribal techno number with a female house diva, and then he was thoroughly in-stride. I’d had about 10-20 minutes of this satisfaction when he turned down the music, a promoter appeared on stage and asked everyone to leave the building, as the cops would be there in 10 minutes. Grrr… Most dissapointing moment of the festival, but as you can see below, everyone had fun until then, and I doubt I’ll have another opportunity to see Felton Howard any time soon.
Once outside, there were a swarm of people around Hood all telling him how much his music meant to them, asking for autographs, and it wasn’t like the normal fanboy stuff. These guys seriously meant it – you could hear it in the tremble in their voices. I would be hard-pressed to think of another techno artist who is able to singularly top people’s list. He captivates people in a special way. I don’t think I will miss him again as lightly as I did in April.
After that we wandered down Grand towards the Audiomatrix party. Turned out that both parties in the building scrapped both guestlists. I really wanted to check this out, but funds were already down to less than $30 for the rest of the festival, so we hopped in a cab and called it an early (4 or 5 a.m.) night.
I woke up around 11:30, but like an idiot I went back to bed. I woke up again around 12:30, rushed into the shower, got out of the hotel around 1:15, tried to scrounge up some food from a convenience store (now down to less than $20) and did all I could to make it to the Thinkbox Collective in time. Unfortunately I only caught the last 10 minutes. I feel like a complete ass about missing most of this. I hope they can forgive me. What I heard was really good though. Reviews of CDs forthcoming.
From there, the other David and I wandered over to the High Tech Soul Stage again for Dabrye and Dwele back-to-back. Dabrye played mostly stuff from his latest album, but also included a couple of his earlier Tadd Mullinix tracks. Nothing that different than the last time I saw him, but really enjoyable (if deafening) on that sound system.
Dwele was a treat. I still haven’t heard more than five of his songs, but everything he played was brilliant. Again, the multiple-keyboard approach worked wonders. The live band replicated all of the brilliant production on the recordings to a tee (no easy task). Beyond that there was an intense joy in this performance. Dwele seemed so unbelievably happy, and the feeling in his music seemed absolutely genuine in an almost tangible way. Add a great sense of humor and stage presence to that, and you have one helluva performance. What an amazing way to start a beautiful day!
From Dwele I wandered back over to the Movement stage for John Beltran. As we arrived Genesis was finishing what sounded like a storming set. I really hope to see her more often, because the two times so far have been excellent. John Beltran’s band took a while to set up. I started out saying hey to the Europeans, then tried to just say a quick hello to the DC peepz, which turned into a big techno reunion of sorts, Stewart Walker came to chat for a while, my Iowa City friends came by, and before I knew it, Beltran was done. Interestingly, his performers included Ayro, John Arnold and that percussion dude from Ayro’s set. This would not be the last instance of their cross-pollination. At any rate, I wound up hanging with Greg and his peepz while acquiring a press pass for us in the process. This press pass entitled us to free Bacardi and Red Bull. This would be my salvation and destruction for the rest of the festival.
After filling up on a few complimentary beverages, we braved the bursting seems of the High Tech Soul Stage, trying to find elbow room for the Detroit Experiment.
Things had fallen behind schedule by this point, and Vikter Duplaix was banging out a furious house set, with extremely tight mixing (to my surprise). Well done to Duplaix for getting his skills up to par for this performance. It was evident he was really excited about it, so I’m glad his DJ skills proved worthy of the honor. The crowd was in a real frenzy by the time he finished. When he was done, it was evident the Detroit Experiment was not ready yet, so we hauled-ass to get more drink and made it back just in time.
By this point, I had already witnessed four excellent funk-esque bands in Ayro, Amp Fiddler, Dwele and John Beltran, so it was no shock to the system when the first track they dropped was one of their jazzier tunes. They were even better than the album. The only complaint is that they only played four or five songs, but this was still a solid 45 minutes when factoring in the amount of jamming in each song. ‘Think Twice’ (which is predictably my favorite track on the album) was soooo nice. This was all I could’ve expected and more, but just not long enough. Lots of peepz in the place too:
When they brought out the MC’s everyone was loving it:
At this point the Raspberry Bacardi and Red Bull started to taste really good, and I met up with the rest of the Iowa Press for a whole bunch ‘o drinks:
At some point I wound up in the underground stage and snapped this shot of the  elders:
And then things descended into oblivion:
Somehow I managed to miss John Arnold Live (yet another incarnation of the incestuous bunch), and I’m fairly sure I missed Pole, Akufen, Mike Clark and Francois K, but I did catch the first and last of the 3 (5) Chairs, both of whom were excellent. This was the 5th:
I also ran into Cali and her fiancé Steve (or is it husband now???) briefly (assuming I would see them again – doh!) And finally met Minto (he doesn’t usually look this blurry):
I’m not quite sure how I got to the Tangent Gallery for Cannonball Run. I very nearly recollect it. I’m fairly certain I was in a cab with LK, and someone who was at the Cannonball party the year before (pretty sure it was her friend John), and Dave, and pretty sure I wandered over to the Ponchartrain in order to find them in order to bum the ride. Yep. That must be it.
This party was sick:
It was not as crazy as last year, but just as good, if only because I made it until Traxx this year. When we arrived Jordan Zawideh was playing – I remember enjoying it, but can’t recall what it was. The one lo-light of this party was Tamion 12″ (sorry Rob, if you’re reading this). I just checked out the audio for their latest 12″ and it didn’t sound nearly as bad as they did live. The songs went on for so long (how un-punk) and were so much more tedious than on the record. It was all I could do to sit on a couch and try to block it out. It gave LK a headache. :/ However, they were followed by Carlos Souffront, who played an amazing set as always. I don’t think he pushed it above 110 bpm, and given the dancefloor disarray following Tamion 12″, it was incredibly impressive that there wasn’t a mutiny (or rather, that the mutiny was contained). His collection of ‘80s synth mayhem is so impressive. He dropped New Order, as every other time I’ve seen him. You would be hard pressed to find anyone this side of Bernard Sumner who could play it any better.
BMG of Ectomorph was up next. He played an Ableton DJ set. I don’t know if it was sequenced in advance or not, and I really don’t care, because the track selection was so astounding it couldn’t possibly matter. He went through Chicago jack trax to acid to electro, booty, disco, synth pop and everything in between. It was a truly epic set, covering at least two and a half hours, the last hour of which featured DJ Godfather scratching over the top of it. As you can see, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand, even when there was a sort-of DJ pow-wow behind the decks for ages before Derek came on:
Derek’s set was short – too short, but with Traxx up thereafter, I wasn’t going to complain. He was unbelievable. I’ve never seen a set like it. It’s probably in my top 5 now. He played all EBM and Acid. Chicago meets central Europe in 1986. But he didn’t just pull out an impressive selection of rare dance classics, he pummeled them, and his mixing of those tracks proved to me more than ever that DJing creates something greater than the sum of its parts. He gained so much from his interaction with the mixer.
I’ve seen very few DJ’s who muster half what he put into this set, and the output was storming.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around what he did to me. Somehow at 7:30 in the morning, after 6 hours of hardcore debauchery, then 7 hours of sobriety, then cracking open a new keg around 6:30 (puctuated by my Doris-purchased kegstand), I was still dancing. The 30-40 people left in that room were sharing something so compelling that only a handful left during his two hours, and most stayed for quite a while after he was done.
This set was so thrilling that Mark, Josh, Doris and I made our way to the Corktown Tavern at 8:30 to start DJing.
By the time I threw some records down around 10:30 I was completely useless. That was some truly appalling mixing. After a trip through a loft in Greektown, Mark and I headed back to his hotel at the Athenium, where I crashed on his sofa at around noon.
Woke up at 3:00, walked back to the Omni, saw Casey and Alexis who were happy I was alive. I showered, Alexis was leaving, and we caught a ride back down to Hart Plaza on her way to the airport. Let it be known that the Bacardi and Red Bull tent is still not out of alcohol!!!
Casey and I promptly bumped into Stewart and Max from Tresor.
We had drinks. It was nice. I was not in a hurry to see anything until Dan Bell came on at 8. Basically, Traxx had satisfied me, and anything after that was icing. We eventually disentangled ourselves from social ties…
…and wandered back over to the High Tech Soul stage for Aril Brikha as Time:Space live. Once again the incest was perpetuated, with Ayro on keys, Tony Drake on bass, and that percussion dude on the bongos again, while Aril Brikha was the master controller. This was really nice stuff. Departure in Time live was sick. It was really cool to hear the instrumentalist’s take on what starts out as such a synthetic project. The conversion to live instrumentation was executed very well.
By this point full-on delirium had set in, after three hours of sleep, constant Red Bull and Bacardi abuse, etc. Everything else is a blur. I am fairly certain I went to check out Juan Atkins, and I know I was watching D Wynn (who was superb). At some point along the line, I met a cute raver woman, Laurinda, with whom I plunged into naughty, obnoxious dancefloor romance. Obviously I thoroughly enjoyed this, but I fear for what it must’ve looked like to any who witnessed it. In fact, I think I was in some sort of music/dance/kissing/wrapped-around-each-other euphoria, and having witnessed a fair amount of this as an onlooker, I know it doesn’t look good, but I can definitely sympathize with the plight of these unfortunate souls who are completely oblivious to everything but music and mashing.
When the fog started to lift, I found myself among the DC, Detroit and European contingents, all in one central area of the Movement stage, watching Mills.
All I can recall is that it was very quiet. I think I was talking with Laurinda for a lot of the performance.
Shame I can’t remember Mills, but I have seen him three times in the last year as-is.
I was supposed to be on the guest list for the Works. On that assumption, Dave and John were kind enough to sport me a cab there with them. When we arrived and found out that not only had they cancelled the guestlist, but that the cover was $25, John and Dave kindly split my cover. Thanks guys!!! A few people bought me a couple of drinks as well before the 2:00 cut-off. The music was amazing, but I also got to hang with Mark one more time, Cheryl bought some much-needed fries, and by the time Ron Trent came on, I was running back and forth between he and KDJ in the front room. It’s hard to sum this up too precisely, but it was a pretty fantastic finale – not as intense as Ron Trent’s set to close out last year, but KDJ was almost as on as at the Sound Signature party two years earlier. He even played a bunch of Chicago jack and acid. I heard a lot of that this weekend. Sometime near 5 or 6 Mark and Pete drove me back to the Omni, once again saving my broke ass. These pics (most of them taken after 4am) ought to sum up the evening relatively well, since words and memories are failing:
When I woke up at 11:30 I found two people in bed with Casey. Turns out it was Petey and his friend who’s name I don’t think I ever caught. She was really nice though – as she drove me to the airport through nasty traffic when she just needed to get to the doctor. The Northwest check-in process was evil, the security at O’Hare was crazy (there was a third check on the ramp to the airplane where these dudes who looked like cops were interrogating anyone who looked slightly Muslim – which on Air India was quite a few people), and I refused to deal with long-term jet lag so after arriving in London at 10am (Wednesday) on almost no sleep (dude next to me was persistently coughing, snoring and elbowing), I stayed up until 11pm. I don’t think I’ve slept like I slept Wednesday night all year.
I have too much to say about this show, so strap in, pour yourself a hot chocolate, grab your best spectacles and read on!
Last night was my first trip to The Union Chapel in Islington. I got off the bus a couple of stops too early, walking up Upper Street for about 10 minutes on my way there. I passed 3 other churches on the way, each looking more magnificent than the last. When I finally arrived at Union Chapel I could hardly it would be so tall, yet there was a line of indy rockers, ready to rock out, so I made my way over. I paid my £13, spent my last £10 on 4 cans of John Smith’s and found myself a seat near the aisle with a view of the trap set. I knew I wanted to see what John McIntire was up to more than anything else. This strategy paid off. Between 7:30 and 8:00 more people filtered in, I examined the stunning church around me, and took in some amazing entrance music that sounded like the string arrangement in the last ½ of Nobekazu Takemura’s remix of Yo La Tango’s Danelectro. It probably was another Takemura I haven’t heard yet, and it played between all of the intervals. It really set the mood and made the anticipation that much sweeter. One other thing I noticed during the intermissions was that the crowd seemed to be very American. This was not nearly as bad as the Superbowl the night before, but strangely annoying. They should quit following me… 🙂 Anyway, on to the show…
Monade was up first, in what I would later find out was their first performance, when the singer of the High Llama’s pointed it out. Monade is Jim O’Rourke, who has produced everyone and everyone’s mom, including Stereolab, The Sea and Cake, Sonic Youth and Wilco. He also has a number of his own projects under his belt. Laetitia Sadier from Stereolab joined him, along with an unknown rhythm section. I imagine this was probably the first time she’s performed live without Mary Hansen since she was killed in a biking accident in London last month. Given that I’ve never heard her sing without Mary Hansen’s accompaniment, the first few songs sounded very lonely. I could’ve been reading that into it on my own, or it could have been really there. In either case, it was there for me, since I missed Mary Hansen’s voice next to Laetitia’s. It was also strange when the male bassist would sing along with her. Mary Hansen will indeed be missed.
You could also tell there was a composed anxiousness from these performers, who have all got tons of experience on stage, but none as a unit. There were a few near-mistakes in the first few songs – nothing that leapt out as terribly bad but a few unexpected ‘errors’ fed the energy of a raw, experimentation with new material. For instance, Laetitia would be concentrating so hard on the chords she was playing on guitar she would sometimes pull away from the microphone accidentally. There was also the really silly entrance before the first song, where they all got ready to play, and then Laetitia realized she didn’t have here pick. She fumbled though her corduroy pockets in front of a full room of antsy customers who all seemed to be enjoying the humanity of the moment. Towards the end of the first song, she busted out some trombone, but it wasn’t exactly the best tromboning I’ve ever heard. Still fun though!
The music itself was splendid. It sounded like a paired-down Stereolab. I got the feeling they are still working out some of the mixing issues, because Jim O’Rourke’s Nord Electro keys often drifted into the background. Again, it didn’t detract at all for me, as all of the rawness translated into untold enthusiasm elsewhere. One thing that stood out (for all but one song) was the de-emphasized rhythm section. It seemed to be very squarely on the shoulders of Laetitia and Jim. No complaints here. More than anything else, what really made its mark on me was Laetitia’s voice. She slides in and out of French monotone to a scary, accurate range that seems to come out of nowhere. In one song, she started singing before Jim O’Rourke’s synth line crept in, which created a perfect-pitch ‘reverb’ to her words on entry, trailing off just after her voice. It was a creepy and effective technique that really took me by surprise. You expect a singer to match key to an instrument, not to be so perfect that a keyboard can join in unnoticed. Her voice simply transformed into a synthesizer, and continued to do so throughout the refrain. I was also blown away by how accurate her voice sounds live to the quality on her recordings. There is no difference at all from what I can tell, further evidenced by the sometimes-strange facial contortions she makes to hit some notes. Real singing does not usually look pretty. It was really refreshing to watch someone bare all on stage like that, rather than look good and lower their register. Her voice was given the spotlight throughout, and she seemed to take advantage of that liberty even more than she does with Stereolab. This was all I could’ve hoped for and more, especially for their first performance. Everyone at ATP should run to check this out (I hope she will be there – Jim O’Rourke is confirmed).
I must confess to knowing very little about the High Llama’s. They are Irish, and very Stereolabesque, for lack of a better word. There are six guys as follows:
-Drummer on trap set
-Percussionist on vibes and Roland drum pad with effects (playing with four mallets at once and twiddling drum pad effects)
-Keyboardist on two keyboards (sounded like a Rhodes and a Farfisa to my ears, although from what I understand the Farfisa does not travel well, so it may have been something else, or at least this is why I hear Stereolab does not travel with theirs)
-6 string Guitarist/Banjoist (about a 50/50 split between the two)
-6 string bass
-Singer/12 string guitar/keyboard (also could have been a Farfisa, not sure)
The singer was really humble and polite. Probably a weird thing to say in a music review, but it really came through. The first things he said on stage was that he really loved Monade’s debut, and that it was an honor to play with them and Stereolab. The guy just oozed ‘nice-guyness’. His singing was a bit ‘folksy’ for my taste, but I have to say his brief speeches between songs really endeared me to the authenticity of his singing. When he wasn’t singing, the songs broke out into very Stereolabesque territory, meandering everywhere, with slight variations on a theme. I enjoyed them more as the set progressed. One thing that made the biggest impression on me was how amazing the vibes sounded in that church. Wow! They rung out with the most luscious authentic reverb I’ve ever heard. Amazing…
I need to preface the rest of my comments by confessing that The Sea and Cake are my favorite band. I have easily listened to them more than anything else in my collection for the last three years solid. In my estimation, Archer Prewitt is the best guitarist since Johnny Marr and John McIntire is the best drummer ever. Add to that an uncanny musical chemistry between the two, the discordant vocals of Sam Prekop, his own excellent guitaring, bass work that knows its place, a healthy does of synths, and you have the definitive modern band. Nearly every song has vocals, but most allow at least half the song for the instruments to breath.
Sam Prekop’s vocals were brilliant. I still don’t understand what he’s on about most of the time, but one thing that really impressed me was how many of the vocals were different now. That is a dedication to writing, and the first evidence of their commitment to endless revision and a gift-giving live show. I wish I had words to describe Archer Prewitt’s guitar, but they are failing me. I can only compare it to the diversity of Johnny Marr, never requiring the focus, always delivering when it’s given. I also never realized how much singing he does, and how well he does it. Can’t believe I missed his solo stuff until now…
What really distinguishes both Tortoise and The Sea and Cake is that every song gives John McIntire a chance to shine in some way. He drums like a man possessed. The look in his eye is of a completely immersed consciousness, pounding precisely with a funk uncommon at half his speed. He rotates, massages and lends dynamics to beats in a way that no one else has ever done before. His funk is curved at a swing that doesn’t exist in time – just in rhythm. He literally massages the snare with his stick (to what effect I’m not sure), while drumming at 160 bpm. To watch him play subtle background rhythms is engrossing – to see him gain focus in their finale is awe inspiring. I have simply seen nothing like it, and am really regretting not having paid more attention to Tortoise when they played DEMF in 2001. Later that same day IIRC, The Roots’ drummer blew me away in his DEMF 2001 15-minute finale, but this is something altogether different. You need to hear it, learn it, then witness it live, with all the added variations that slide past unnoticed unless you watch him in action. One very minor detail that explains some of what needs to be seen is that with one hand, in the middle of a song, he unscrewed a tambourine from the foot pedal to which it was attached, did it in a way that it only shook once when he grabbed it, again when he lifted it, and one last time when he plopped it on the ground (it was still mic’d throughout this process). He did all of this while drumming with his other foot and hand, and each of those shakes was not only in-time, but perfectly accented the guitars that were dueling in the foreground.
The synth-man just came along for the tour – he is not an actual member of the band (they usually do this bit after recording, or have it sequenced while playing live, I suspect). He was this bigger crew-cut-lookin’ guy who totally looked out of place, but he had some sweet tricks up his sleeve. There was some sort of pen device he was using to play all of their legato synth solos with. That was really cool to see – the guy was literally writing music (I should know better than to throw out such a horrible pun towards the end of such a long review ;).
If I have any complaint at all about the show, it’s that The Sea and cake were trying out the material from their new album ‘One Bedroom’ live for apparently one of the first times. While I was really excited to hear what I haven’t bought yet, their music is crafted with such care that it often takes about 4 or 5 listens to start to hear it, and about 20 to really get the idea. Usually after hundreds I still pick out nuances I’ve missed. So when they only played about 5 older songs, I didn’t get quite what I’d bargained for. This is not to say the new stuff wasn’t great. In one of the first songs they played, Archer Prewitt busted out a rare solo that was mind-blowing. I’ll point it out when I get the CD. In that dueling guitar song I mentioned, Sam Prekop had his own solo, which I think is really unusual, and very cool to see.
The encore came quickly, to a crowd that was very subdued (it was a church full of people sitting in pews after all). At one point in between songs, Sam Prekop even said “Shhh…”, joking about how quiet it was in there. I’d love to see them in a more animated venue, although this was good in its own reverent way. So this finale lasted for about 15 minutes, in which John McIntire got to do three show-off songs. In two of them he completely recreated the beat from the original, in a way that was still recognizable, but completely reemphasized. These were also three of my favorite songs. The end of the last song even extended into a droney drum and guitar dialogue that explained all of the chemistry between Prewitt and McIntire. After only 75 minutes I wanted more. After only 15 minutes of uptempo McIntire madness I really wanted to hear The Man Who Never See’s a Pretty Girl That He Doesn’t Love Her a Little, which is his opus and probably my favorite song by them. But I was happy to have had an introduction to them live, knowing that they will probably stop back through here in May on their European tour. With all this music, it helps so much to know the songs inside and out before you see the live performance, which inevitably breaths new life into that material, no matter how well you know it. Good musicians will reinvent it and show you some more of what you can barely keep up with through speakers alone. It is precisely what music should be. It is what inspires me more than anything else these days.
I can’t say I really felt the vibe I came to Detroit for this year @ the festival proper, but I don’t think that had much to do with festival execution. Much like last year, it was hard to find the right place for your mood. I had some issues with the schedule/stages, like Dave Clarke in an absurdly filled underground stage Sunday night, Stewart Walker and Green Velvet on so early but these are ultimately subjective things. There were a lot of things I chose not to see b/c the crowd issues were unpleasant. I spent close to an hour trying to get from MGD -> CPOP -> Underground during P-Funk. You can’t blame the organizers for that, but it’s a vibe killer. If I have any beef with the organization, it’s that the only way you can see what you want for big names is to get to a stage early, and then you need to sit through a 5-minute loop of loud commercials. I understand the funding needs to come from somewhere, but this was a bit too much. The DJ Supply room was a salvation at times. Keith Worthy played a really nice set from 9-10 Sunday during the middle of that chaos. There were only 5 people in there when I showed up and about 100 when I left. I’m not trying to take a dump on the festival, it just didn’t leave me feeling any of the intensity I felt at the parties, and the logistics of seeing what you want can get messy. I still enjoyed a good deal of my time there though.
So… I found myself seeking out parties this year, not so much because of specific acts, but b/c I thought I would enjoy myself most at those events. Maybe that seems obvious or meaningless, but it helped me guide my choices. Thursday night’s Techno Karaoke party was fun, even though we arrived late. Derrick Plaslaiko should never be given a microphone. 🙂 Dykehouse did a really nice Robert Plant impression for a minute too. It was nice to see lots of locals out for a party designed for fun. Good stuff.
Friday night was spent @ Dennis’ list party – a great chance to touch base with lots of 313ers before the weekend kicked into high gear. From there I headed to Chamillian Cafe for TP, who was in top form. I got there as he started – he captivated me throughout. Great vibe, small venue, nothing but heads in the place. Pure entertainment at its finest, with TP at his most crowd-interactive. I love seeing him in really small places for that reason. It’s just a great party.
Saturday night I checked out the OMOA Music shindig for about an hour and a half. I think this label is really gonna turn some heads. Szymanski played a brilliant broken beat set, including his new track (mmm…). Their slogan, “Good for Party”, pretty much summed it up. After that I headed to Cannonball Run for Traxx, Derek Plaslaiko, Carlos Souffront, BMG and others. They played an awful lot of ’80s tracks. Yussel et al did a great job with this event. Derek in particular made my night, doing his aggressive, no-cueing mixes for a while. He can produce so much energy when he goes at it uninhibited like that. It was a pretty stark contrast with his DJ Supply set Monday night, which was tight as hell, with some amazing glitchy tracks I’ve never heard, but not quite so energetic. He’s got to be one of the most talented and diverse DJs in Detroit.
Sunday night I was a bit fed up with fighting crowds so I headed to the Planet E party early. Rob’s set was really subtle and beautiful. I thought Carl Craig pulled out all the stops. I’ve always loved his DJing, with some *mild* reservations about his ability to capitalize on the power of mixing compared to someone like DJ Bone (not to say he isn’t usually very tight). Sunday he went-off on the decks like I’ve never heard him do. I think my entire body convulsed in one 5-minute spasm when he dropped Fix Flash. Todd Sines’ new material is really going to make a mark. He’s found a warmer sound than the colder, Monolake-esque style he played last year (not that I didn’t love that set too). The Mark Ernestus dub set was really tasty too. Unfortunately the fuel tank was empty at that point. This was all I could have expected from such a brilliant lineup. No one disappointed. Oh – and Mike Clark played a new DNH track that reminds me a lot of “deep burnt”, but expanding on that idea. I think it was called “Trackhead” – I presume it’s Nick Holder. It was a white label, so I think it might be forthcoming. Keep your eyes peeled.
Monday night was spent @ The Works. I think I checked out the main room for all of 10 minutes all night. I’m pretty sure it was D Wynn playing early in the front. He was really on, playing some uptempo house flawlessly. This really set the mood for Ron Trent, who dropped at least 4 hours of deeeeeeep house. This set really moved me. I’ve never danced that much in my life. Otto didn’t leave the dancefloor for more than 10 seconds of his entire set. I thought when I saw him in DC last Fall, it was one of those Detroit-esque moments that never happen here, that I would likely never see Ron Trent reproduce. Somehow, he surpassed it twelve-fold. This was the best set of the festival for me, only closely matched by Radio Boy. If anyone knows what the building, dueling pianos track was that he played twice about 3 hours apart, I will be forever indebted. He was playing it from track 3 on a CD, and I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt him to find out. The art of deep house mixing is often so much about laying out the tracks in a great order and making the set move conceptually. He wrote the textbook on that last night.
No matter what happens to the festival going forward, parties like these convey what the Detroit scene is capable of that can’t be found elsewhere. I had a really fabulous time. I <3 Detroit.