Gone are the days of local electronic music’s blind optimism — that certain feeling that Detroit circa 1994 embodied more than many of us would like to admit to today’s high school kids. It’s a good thing too, because, around this time ten years ago, things looked pretty embarrassing. There’s no shortage of ridiculous “What was I wearing?” pictures circulating, keeping those who lived through all the craziness out of public office.
Now that rave has become a four-letter word — unless you’re from Ohio, Pennsylvania, assorted spots in Michigan, or wherever else people tip cows and milk goats — things are much smaller, yes, but a lot more fun than they used to be. Many of those who comprised the big techno crowds of the ’90s are career- and family-focused these days. Additionally, it seems fewer students are driving to Detroit on the weekends to party. Still, the younger twentysomethings of today are working hard to keep Detroit’s brand of misbehavior on the international radar (see CPM, or City People Music) while those who weathered the ’90s in full with their minds, ears and wallets mostly intact are busy importing much of the world’s best electronic talent (see Paxahau).
One is still left to wonder, however, whether or not Detroit’s electronic music culture is considered as relevant these days as it once was, especially when just a few production companies are doing nearly all of the booking. All we can know right now is that — at face value at least — even the Canadians are kicking our asses. Call it cold frontin’, call it a phase, but there’s good reason that local promoters are bringing home the Canadian bacon this week.
Some hosers in this house …
Canada’s biggest techno stars (many of whom live in Germany now) are going to be in town this weekend, and on the same night.
This Saturday at Centre Street Multimedia Lounge (311 E. Grand River, 313-965-3691), Paxahau presents Quadratic with Akufen, Kooky Scientist, Deadbeat, and Crackhaus doing live programming sets. DJs Clark Warner, Ryan Elliot, Chuck Flask, and Drew Maddox will set the tone while Kero presents a live video and music installation (Centre Street is the ideal venue for Kero to blow up considering that it’s full of plasma screens that can all be controlled by a single laptop). It’s rare to see this much talent at such an intimate venue.
Unfortunately, Monolake — who was originally scheduled to headline Quadratic — was forced to head back to Germany due to illness. Within 24 hours, Paxahau had already scheduled Stephen Beaupre to perform live with Deadbeat. Last year’s Deadbeat vs. Stephen Beaupre release, It’s a Crackhaus Thing, on Onitor records has been spotted on myriad Top Ten lists as one of the sleeper hits of last year, so suddenly, this event has taken a different shape. Also added to the roster was Kooky Scientist, who’s remained busy in the lab concocting deranged beats ever since he switched to a laptop format a couple years ago. At any rate, that’s one hell of a save at the buzzer for such a high-end event. (Visit www.paxhau.com for details and tickets.)
Meanwhile, City People Music’s Shaun Reeves and Matt Abbot celebrate CPM’s 2nd anniversary as Detroit’s premier techno sleaze promotions outfit by bringing Jake Fairley and Pan/tone to Untitled (Saturdays at The Shelter, 431 E. Congress, 313-961-MELT). The two up-and-comers took the time out of their busy tour schedule — they’re hitting the states via Greyhound (really) — to chat with Guerrilla Nights in hopes of explaining why and how Canadian techno is taking over.
Jake Fairley and Pan/tone (born Sid LeRock, or so he says — we’ll get to that later) are breaking artists these days. They may be pissing off to Germany like everyone else who’s making electronic music that actually sells now, but they’re still clearly Canadian all the way, fer-sher, ya-know. That’s why they’ve entitled their trek across the states the Strange Brew tour — named, of course, after the cult classic film that brought the SCTV pilsner-swilling lexicon into fair play for comedians and smartasses everywhere.
“Our views on good times (i.e., beer, beer, and misadventures with friends) fit accordingly with those of the McKenzie Brothers [of Strange Brew],” explains Pan/tone (aka Shelbono del Monte — we’ll get to that later). “Besides, we felt that it would be a good way to brand our tour in a way that would be recognized by our brothers below. We’re off to Japan soon and they don’t get it. They probably assume that Strange Brew is a reference to skunk beer.”
The successes of newer Canadian contemporaries — including the massive press attention given to Akufen, Deadbeat and Stephen Beaupre — as well as Montreal’s Mutek festival, has brought a lot of focused hype to Montreal and Toronto. Fairley and Pan/tone (aka Gringo Grinder — but we’ll get to that later) joke that Montreal’s success can be credited to Toronto natives who’ve set up shop in Montreal. And, unbeknownst to President Bush, the Canadians have even begun invading other countries. Mr. LeRock explains the Canadian expansion plan:
“I think that it’s probably because we fuckin’ hate the cold winters, so we focus all of our attention on getting our asses where we can defrost them. Europe has been the common place for us to move on to in order to remedy that situation. This is also the exact reason why Mutek festivals are now worldwide. [Mutek] just did a major event in South America that went off with good reviews. This only proves my theory of Canadians looking for warmth.”
“Mutek is a bit of an anomaly,” adds Fairley. “It’s run by nice people and it has definitely gotten famous. I haven’t been to it or even Montreal for that matter in a few years, but when I was there it seemed like a cool scene. Toronto is a bit of an underdog still, but we’re getting there. I think Sheldon [LeRock/Pan/tone … oh, to hell with it], Jeremy Caulfield, myself and others are really cultivating the next thing out of Canada. It’s all about giving the sound some balls and putting it in more of a pop context rather than an arty one.”
Pan/tone is a man of many styles, a man of many names, many gimmicks, and yes, a man with a bullfighting past. According to his Web site (www.techno.ca/pantone), the artist known as Pan/tone was once a great matador named Shelbono “Barracuda” del Monte who was fajita-sliced by an especially fierce toro (“El Grinder”). As it’s told, this fateful mishap sent the barracuda into a deep depression until the day when he would regain his passion in a nightclub. On that day, Pan/tone was born so that he might play his signature “rockno” across many lands and for many peoples. “I was once bad,” says a recovering Pan/tone, “but I have left this lifestyle to embark on a life that gives rather than takes. I am reborn to undo and to seek forgiveness. Do you forgive?”
You still there? Good, because there’s plenty more bullshit yet.
When asked about his various pseudonyms, Sr. del Monte breaks it down as follows:
Pan/Tone: “Good guy … needs to get laid.”
Gringo Grinder: “He’s sleazy — the guy always hangin’ out at the bar — but unlike Pan/tone, he actually does get laid.”
Sid LeRock: “That’s my real name, but since age 11, I decided to go with Shelbono del Monte. This is all a true story and I’ll even show you all my passport to prove this once I get to Detroit!”
Shelbono del Monte: see above.
Regardless, his friends call him Sheldon, so there you go. As for “rockno,” that’s pretty easy for even the gringos among us to decipher. Fairley and “Sheldon” are all about bringing song and rock energy to techno, making them the perfect choice for the second anniversary of a production company that’s built its name on hair band DJ nights (see “Ride the Snake” at Foran’s), and raucous, techno-as-backdrop-to-getting-wasted after-parties.
El Tour-o grande
True to form, the Strange Brew crew has forsaken the traditional techno artist, “I only fly United” crap to ’hound it around the United States for a month.
“The Mckenzie Brothers would only smile upon us,” the two concur. Adds Sr. Sheldon: “Ha! And you thought Detroit was ghetto? Try riding on Greyhounds for a month — then we’ll talk about what’s ghetto!”
It seems the Canadians have it all figured out. Clearly, these laptop-toting hosers must be stopped, so nab one this weekend before it’s too late for techno.Robert Gorell skips beats for MetroTimes. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org