Thomas Brinkman, techno-percussion expert, heard Rufus Thomas’s unifying voice on the Wattstax album (recently rereleased on DVD), a voice he would later sample liberally while growing up in Germany. For one night on Saturday, Sept. 25, Brinkman’s call to his audience — a predominantly white, young, sweaty and ready-to-be-delivered set — was another Rufus-esque call to unity, utilizing the power of the dance and the need to build utopia here amid humanity’s vulgar ecstasies.
From the street below the Paxahau Sixth Anniversary party — which besides Brinkman featured local legend Dan Bell, Perlon’s Sammy Dee and Berlin-via-Toronto wunderkind Jake Fairley — sounded more like a warehouse on the river circa 1994 than the second floor of (arguably) the best pizza place in Greektown. But passersby around Niki’s second-floor banquet rental hall — including local hip-hop legend MC Breed, who drifted past us on Beaubien Street, and reportedly lives upstairs — understood the semiotics of the scene: In Detroit, we pound the paving stones with the galloping horses of digital mayhem.
In a scene known for fashionably late appearances, the night’s ready-to-dance, no complaints-about-the-heat, yahoo-screaming crowd was an amazingly welcome sign. The Pax boys did not disappoint as Brinkman delivered an abridged but satisfying collection of African drums via German ears from his laptop of digital files. Though the Subterraneans wanted the whole city to hear the show — Ford “Hastings Street” Field would have been a nice venue — we applaud Paxahau and send out the call: Any space can be a pounding reaffirmation of our faith in the dance. The key is not fewer, more exclusive parties but more parties, everywhere. We must practice jouissance, the joy beyond judgment.
In this spirit it was a welcome sight to see a few devotees beat out the first chill of autumn and a downed Lodge Freeway to get to Corktown Tavern and enjoy a four-hour set from DJ B’lend that would have kept both Bat Lounge house-heads and Les Infants techno children happy. It was a confirmation that the right DJ can make any weekend night. Make sure you fill out the dance floor this coming weekend when Drew Maddox and Mike Clark take the Tavern’s decks.
The politics of the 12-inch
Though the Subterraneans often blame the city’s infrastructure, roads and administration priorities aren’t the only obstacles in Detroit’s dance scene’s “lack of body problem” — the skittish, shelter-obsessed working/family world as a whole is probably the biggest detriment to 24-7 sonic revolution in the streets. Who prioritizes Monday night for soirees of fantastic in-house music washed down with a “red-headed slut” (Peach Schnapps, Jäger and cranberry) served by the dreadlocked Majestic barkeep? The answer, of course: hair stylists. There they were, a healthy crowd of well-tinted and sprayed coiffeuses sparking a recent evening house/groove night of sounds.
But it wasn’t the stylists who captivated the Subterraneans — it was nu-house producer, creator and full-time WSU student Pirahnahead (aka Maurice Herd) who just stopped in for the music. Between the beats provided by Record Time vinyl slingers Vince Patricola and Mike Huckaby, Pirahnahead and friends locked sonicgeographic horns over the politics of the 12”, specifically why Pirahna’s most recent record, “Dreams” — on Kenny Dixon’s Mahogani label — at first couldn’t be bought at Record Time but only at Vibes New and Rare Music (14500 Eight Mile Road, Suite 203, Oak Park, 248-967-9904). Started by deep house Three Chairs member and 20-year retail vet Rick Wilhite, Vibes is a direct challenge to Record Time’s No. 1 status in the house vinyl underground.
“Rick is a professional,” says Pirahna, talking about his need for a record store with a genre-specific focus. He wants to know what’s hot and he appreciates how Wilhite promotes those tracks (including Pirahna’s own, natch) in a way that, according to Pirahna, white suburban kids don’t seem to need when filing through Record Time’s voluminous bins. That you might have to hunt for something makes clear Pirahna’s idea: “House is for people that want it.”
Pirahnahead also e-mailed us the new single on mp3 before heading off to New York with compatriot Minx. They’re there to push their production and remixing work, which has caught the ears of NYC legends like Danny Krivit. His last single with Diviniti, “Find A Way,” was just picked by fellow producer, DJ, friend and “house guest reviews” editor DJ Genesis (Monica Lockett) in the October issue of XLR8R. We wish all of them luck.
From our Subterranean abroad [Wasacz is on assignment in Germany] searching out the “Shrinking Cities” exhibit (shrinkingcities.com) and the whereabouts of one Richard Hawtin — “A word about Berlin punks: They hate techno, consider it haute bourgeoisie, and perhaps they are right. I have also witnessed them menace younger people in public, swilling beer in the tube station and singing drunkenly in public. It’s an effective social demonstration, however offensive and intimidating, that stands out vividly among the quiet reserved masses. … When I sense tension in the air, my Detroit social ‘training’ comes in handy. My own response to these conditions? A new tag of my own invention, quintessentially American yet to be universally applied: Gangsta-journalism. Suitable for use when venturing into hearts and minds either made from darkness or light, on either side of the ocean.”
GEIST (The spirit of becoming): Fridays w/ Delano Smith and Al Ester (Bat Lounge: 1326 Brush St., 313-964-4733), Oct. 15; Les Infants Terribles Interpol afterparty featuring Carlos D. (Corktown Tavern: 1716 Michigan Ave., 313-964-5103), Oct. 15; Jimmy Edgar (Oslo: 1456 Woodward Ave., 313-963-0300 ), Oct. 15; Miguel Migs & Aya of Naked Music (Bleu: 1540 Woodward Ave., 313-222-1900), Oct. 16; Mike Clark (Corktown Tavern), Oct. 22; Vamos A La Playa feat. Sam Consiglio + M. Kearns (Oslo), Oct. 22: Technical Freaks: Various D&B/Hip-Hop/Breaks (The Works: 1846 Michigan Ave., 313-961-1742).Send comments to Carleton S. Gholz and Walter Wasacz at firstname.lastname@example.org