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Archive for May, 2010

Live from Movement/DEMF: Day Two

Posted by SP on May 31, 2010

Looking at the schedule for day two gave the impression of a start-to-finish hike between stages in a mad attempt to hear everything.  It didn’t quite turn out that way, but there were some really great moments.

Once again, one of those moments was the first set of the day at the main stage. This time that set was by New Zealander, Recloose. Recloose did an upbeat set of dance music that set a great tone for the rest of the day.  The impressive thing about it though, was that in addition to the usual disco, funk, and techno records that most DJs will play in that kind of set, Recloose played dance music from around the world, and from multiple cultures–African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern–all of that and more.  It was a very impressive, absolutely seamless mix that showed both how universal dance music is, and how contemporary dance music fits into that family.  It was great fun too, kind of like this:

Recloose was succeeded by DJ Pierre, who had a fantastic record selection, but couldn’t get anything going with the crowd, owing to a general lack of structure (in this case structure would mean the pattern of musical builds and releases that a DJ creates using effects, record changes, volume and so on– y’know, what DJs actually *do* with all that hardware up there) uses to so we decided to see what else was going on.

Turns out there wasn’t all that much going on.  A lot of the midday acts seemed to suffer from the same lack of structure that DJ Pierre’s set did, but I don’t blame him or them entirely for this.  Partly I think the squishy nature of a lot of the sets was due to the fact that they weren’t getting much feedback from the crowd.  It was unbelievably hot, and Chene Park is all concrete, making it even hotter.  Making matters worse, the festival organizers prohibit the bringing in of anything to eat or drink, including water, the general idea being to gouge festival goers who have already paid a lot of money just to get inside the gate.  When it’s hot like it was on Sunday that seems almost criminal.  Heat exhaustion is a real problem, and having to spend 3$ for a bottle of water (god forbid you want a beer) makes hydration over the course of 8-10 hours an expensive proposition. Of course you can always leave, and go to the little cooler in the trunk of your car and drink free water (like we did), but that adds to the substantial fatigue of the day.  Even if you did have the money and didn’t mind parting with it, finding shade was a principal concern of the day.

The point of all this is that the crowds really didn’t start giving the DJs much feedback on the dance floor until the sun started go down, and I think that hurt the momentum of the midday sets a little bit.

One act it didn’t hurt was the Martinez Brothers, who absolutely rocked the Beatport stage.  (This stage is also in one of the two best shaded areas in the park, so there was a huge crowd of people here–more people + less heat = more dancing = better performance?) Anyway, they were great. Here’s a sample:

The three acts we’d planned on hitting that day were Anthony “Shake” Shakir, Larry Heard, and Inner City.  Of these, we really only got to enjoy Larry Heard.  Of course “Shake”‘s a genius, and one of Detroit’s best known electronic music figures, but he was playing at that underground stage I mentioned in the Day One post and his sound was too loud.  Add heat, billowing clouds of cigarette (and funny cigarette) smoke, fatigue and a slightly crazy mood building on the pit of the dance floor and you can see why we didn’t hang out too much there.  So it was back to the main stage for Larry Heard.

He was awesome–even better than these links would suggest, and the crowd was with him but it had been a very long day. Being exhausted from the heat we did not make it to Inner City, but called it a day instead.  Probably we’ll take it a little slower for Day Three, and plan a little better for the energy-sapping effects of the heat.


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Live from Movement/DEMF: Day One

Posted by SP on May 30, 2010

Author: Shawn Wilson	This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license.Geography has its advantages.  In my case one such advantage is a location that makes it relatively painless to go to Movement/Detroit Electronic Music Festival.  This year just for the hell of it I thought I’d write little notes about each day, since I’ll be at the festival all weekend.  As usual for my posts I’ll skip all the (usually) obligatory prose about how awesome Detroit (truly) is, and how this festival is (or was) the beating heart of everything techno, and how bad its current promoter sucks/doesn’t understand the music/etc.. There are plenty of places to find that stuff online. If you’re into this music at all you have your own opinions about that, and I’m not going to gainsay them here.  I’m just going to tell you how it’s going for me.  Here’s the post for today: Saturday.

Got there right as things started today. I had very much been looking forward to a performance by local Patrice Scott, despite the fact that that it was scheduled to be in the notoriously bad “Made in Detroit” Stage.  (For those who don’t know, “Made in Detroit” is a local clothing label that specializes in selling T-shirts pimping Detroit to white kids from affluent suburbs who like to claim Detroit street cred but who only come to town for concerts and sporting events.  It’s okay.  Detroit loves– and desperately needs– the money that all this fake love generates, so don’t hate on ’em.) Anyway, the stage lived up to its reputation and was acoustically awful.  It was like listening to dance music with a tin washtub over your head in an empty pool somewhere deep within a network of caves.  Scott, being the day’s first act, spent the first 20 minutes of his set struggling heroically against the technical limitations of this abominable space.  Whether he succeeded or not I cannot say, as I gave up on psychically willing him to transform the laws of physics in a way that would make the set sound good.  This isn’t his fault though.  Scott is a great artist and DJ in the tried and true Detroit style of techno music, in witness of which I give you this:

Life moves on and I did too, up to the main stage where German legend Mark Ernestus of “Rhythm and Sound” and “Basic Channel” fame was starting a three hour set of dub reggae. This was unbelievably good.  It was a beautiful, warm day, the sun was shining in a bright blue sky such as is seldom seen in this part of North America, and the music was a perfect fit.  Unlike the previous stage, the sound here was perfect, allowing the strategically placed listener to be inside each song.  And I do mean “inside”.  Dub has a lot of space in it, musically and technically speaking, and vintage dub 45s played over a huge, perfectly balanced system make it possible for you to hear everything in this beautiful and deceptively complex music.

Spent a *lot* of time at this one, then wandered around and checked the other stages.  These were somewhat disappointing on the talent front, so we wandered back and watched Ernestus close his set out.  So far my rating on the festival would have been mixed.  Bad sound holding locals back, good sound doing little for acts that were only okay, and only one bright spot in Ernestus’ set.  The crowd vibe too wasn’t that great, as this year seemed to be invaded by frat-boy types, gangsta wannabes, and woo-girls in various stages of scandalous costume.  Last year seemed a lot more balanced with older people and “heads” rounding out the crowd and making it more mellow and fun to be a part of.  I broke for dinner seriously thinking about not coming back, and I wouldn’t have had it not been for the fact that Theo Parrish was headlining at the aforementioned Made in Detroit stage.  My hope was that the techs would have it together by then, so I could see some of this:

Not only was I not let down, I was floored.  Parrish did an amazing set of dance music in much the style you see in the video here, keeping the crowd moving and keeping the heads entertained and engaged too with more than just a little abstraction.  Theo Parrish is known for his creativity as a DJ as well as his creativity  as a maker of his own records, and he was “on” in both respects tonight.  The crowd was great too, as heads and locals pretty much owned the area with old-school dance offs, goodwill, and just plain appreciation for what Parrish was doing. There are easier ways to move your booty at DEMF, and most of the tourists found those ways. The rest, in true Detroit fashion, took the worst stage of the festival over and turned it into the best place to be.

There is one additional thing worth mentioning about this festival for those who haven’t been to anything like it, and that is how down to earth everyone seems to be, from the artists to the crowds.  It’s not at all uncommon to go hear a set by one DJ and be standing next to another you heard play just a couple of hours ago.  Love for the music is what drives the whole thing.

So, overall I’m calling Day One of DEMF 2010 good.  Day Two looks promising as well. With people like New Zealand’s Recloose, Chicago pillar Larry Heard, Detroit’s Anthony “Shake” Shakir and personal all-time favorite Detroiter Derrick May, Mr. Scruff from the UK and Italy’s Psycatron all on the bill, Day Two promises to be the best kind of busy day.  Stay tuned!

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