Let's admit it: Summer '07 has sucked. Few visiting international artists of note have come through town since Memorial Day weekend's Movement Festival. There are a scant number of venues offering stimulating options for electronic dance music, and nothing earthshaking is being produced or played on the local level.
As a result, the kids who care are getting uptight, waiting for the love to come back home. Some are even leaving: Radio host Liz Copeland and former Plus 8/Minus label manager Clark Warner have split for Denver; Nathan Rapport has relocated to San Francisco, with Sass partner and original Dorkwaver Mike Servito soon to depart for NYC, where Ghostly International/Spectral star Matthew Dear (aka Audion, False and Jabberjaw) moved this spring. Ghostly associates Jakub Alexander (who co-founded Moodgadget (an enterprising ambient/indietronica label) and Tom Meluch (aka Kranky's Benoit Pouilard), also recently left what used to be known as "Techno City." Not to mention (but we will, again, anyway), the Tesh Club trio of Ryan Crosson, Lee Curtis and Seth Troxler, who are producing and touring Europe from their new graffiti-strewn base in Berlin. Going, going ... gone!
So, what's next for Detroit? To exist purely as an old myth and legend? Or to continue to create a vibrant living history? In other words, to be or not to be? Those are the pressing questions. Somebody stand up or sit down, if you prefer and start creating something out of nothing again.
But then there's always someone who seems ready to help us overcome the existential summertime blues, give us hope that this drought is only temporary, and make us believe that, yes, indeed, the city will rise again.
Take, for instance, Pirahnahead, the multitalented funk guitarist and house producer who, since the '80s, has been kicking against the pricks from wherever he calls home be it Detroit's lower east side, a brief period in East Lansing, or his current digs in the upper Cass Corridor.
Known as Maurice Herd to his teachers and friends at Southeastern High, the man has been working various music machines of the mind and soul since discovering Parliament-Funkadelic in 1977, before he was even 10 years old. "I took off on the Mothership and I never looked down," he says.
Herd was DJing at street parties before he started junior high, later playing Eddie Hazel-inspired psych-soul guitar in bands like Charm Farm and Enemy Squad. He listened to everything, from the Beatles and the Stones, to KISS and the Stooges, to Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. Last year, he released an LP Solid: A Moment in the Mind of Pirahnahead on Kenny Dixon Jr.'s Mahogani Music label. He also released a new EP, My Philosophy, earlier this summer on the Women on Wax label. And he's currently back in the studio, mixing tracks for Detroit singer Diviniti.
Pirahnahead joins WOW's DJ Minx, Marc Smith and special guest Josh Milan of Blaze at Northern Lights, 660 W. Baltimore in Detroit, this Friday (Aug. 24). The following weekend (Sept. 2), at Johanson-Charles Gallery (1345 Division St., in Detroit's Eastern Market), he's back at it as a duo (with Minx) called Animal Trax. Also on the bill: Aaron-Carl, Powderblu, the Blackman and the still-hot Omar S, whose latest single-sided dance 12, "Dirty Distortions," features Theo Parrish on percussion.
Bass in your face
London's Edward Upton is no stranger to Detroit. He's recorded tracks for Adult.'s Ersatz Audio, Ectomoph's Interdimensional Transmissions and Ann Arbor's Ghostly and Spectral labels. But even more notably, he's produced darkwave, shattered disco and electro trash for Aphex Twin's Rephlex imprint. Better known as DMX Krew, he's dropped singles for DJ Hell's International Deejay Gigolo and appeared on comps and mixes released by the U.K.'s Warp and Holland's Creme Organization.
Upton brings his sizable hardware back to town on Aug. 24 for a show at Detroit's Finite Gallery (1370 Plum St.). Ghetto-funk support for the gearhead will be provided by DJ Godfather, DJ Di'jital of Cratesavers, Dykehouse (Ghostly/Planet Mu) and Detroit's AVE.
And just when the summer doldrums appear to be getting the best of us, Paxahau charges back into the mix with yet another anniversary/holiday party. The Ferndale-based promotions crew kicked off their ongoing party in September 1999, so it's fitting that a celebration would be held over Labor Day weekend. Three years ago, Cologne's Thomas Brinkmann was the group's special guest; in 2005, it was Luciano from Berlin; last year, it was Rhythm & Sound (also from Berlin).
Keeping with the unofficial theme of bringing in artists from across Germany, for this ninth anniversary bash, Paxahau welcomes back Dusseldorf's Hardfloor, a duo made up of Oliver Bondzio and Ramon Zenker. Hardfloor has been active in Europe's underground acid/electro-house scene since the early 1990s, playing for the first time in Detroit at last spring's Movement festival. The bowl beneath the main stage squirmed with moshers and dancers at that event, as Bondzio and Zenker cranked out gnarly beat programming, fat basslines and, uh, euphoric synth chords from above. The group's upcoming performance which caps a full day of music at two separate venues promises to deliver a similar beating. The party is Sept. 1 and begins at Hoot's on the Avenue (1460 Michigan Ave., Detroit) at 2 p.m. and later finishes at Bleu (1540 Woodward Ave., Detroit) at 2 a.m. A shuttle bus will be available to take revelers between the two venues. Also appearing: Matthew Dear, Mike Servito, Stacey Pullen, John Arnold, Keith Kemp, Matt Clarke, Drew Maddox, Shawn Michaels, Ryan Elliott, Vacuum, Eric Johnston, Colin Zyskowski, and Andy Toth (the latter performing live as Anco Tozy).The Subterraneans is a regular column on Detroit dance culture. Send comments or bitch-slaps to firstname.lastname@example.org