With Motor dying and Panacea still trying to mark its territory, Paxahau isn’t waiting around for everyone else to work the bugs out. Instead, the internet radio station (www.paxahau.com) and promotions outfit is stepping back to refocus on its original intent: ensuring that the future lives up to how it sounds. Paxahau — which reportedly means “the power of music in this time cycle on Earth” in authentic Mayan Glyph language (in case you didn’t already know) — is hoping to stay true to its esoteric name with this weekend’s slightly less cryptic “Get yo bug on!” event, featuring Poker Flat and Minus records’ Steve Bug on the decks at Times Square.
Having recently attempted their first large scale weekly event, Volume on Fridays at Panacea, the team of Jason Huvaere, Jason Clark, Chuck Flask, Drew Maddox, Sam Fotias, and Art Handy became frustrated with lackluster attendance despite their constant promotion. Volume, which featured Detroit house music all-star D Wynn, kicked off the DEMF weekend with the PEMF (Paxahau Electronic Music Festival). It was a reaction to what Paxahau collectively considered a lack of creativity in this year’s DEMF bookings. The PEMF was a hit, packing the club every night of the long weekend with some of the world’s best talent, and focusing on newer artists who rarely, if ever, make it to Detroit. Highly influential European acts such as Vladislav Delay, Luomo, AGF, Ricardo Villalobos, and Pantytec were some of the weekend’s highlights. This holistic approach to the weekend seemed to resonate with the crowd and it separated the PEMF stylistically from countless other one-night-stand after-parties.
But the international DJs and techno tourists who packed Panacea for the PEMF didn’t stay for the summer. The local Volume niche proved narrower than expected after such a massive opening push, and the Paxahau promoters were left scratching their heads as they emptied their wallets.
“I think people really overestimate Detroit’s electronic music community as a whole,” explains Paxahau’s Chief Electronic Officer Jason Huvaere. “Not that there aren’t a lot of people listening to the music, but being a faithful, weekly partygoer gets stale, I think, to anyone. [Volume] was an exhausting experience and a real eye-opener. I’d like to concentrate on having a little more fun than just working my ass off six days a week only to stumble in on the seventh and work another six.”
Which is exactly why Paxahau is excited to get back to what it seems to do best: throwing some of the wildest one-off parties in Detroit. Having already executed some of the better events in Motor’s later years, Paxahau now plans on applying this formula to other clubs around town.
“Variables shouldn’t change with the address,” says Huvaere of Paxahau’s search for creative spontaneity. “Parties are … just more fun. And at the end of the day, it’s not just about your ideas. It’s about the hundreds of other people who show interest in going to an event. You can’t just vouch for all of those people. [Volume at] Panacea was a testament to that and Motor closing is a testament to that as well. But Detroit’s grown and shrunk so many times over the past ten years. It’s nothing new; it’s just a change of season.”
Paxahau started from the humble beginnings of a pirate Internet radio station, broadcasting live mix sessions Sunday nights. Eventually, as its backlog of local DJ sets grew, Paxahau teamed up with Motor in order to archive select nights of Paxahau’s choosing. It was a mutually beneficial collaboration. Motor got free promotion and Paxahau beefed up its catalog with touring international talent. Soon enough, Paxahau was archiving much of Detroit’s electronic music activity at club nights around the city. It has since become Motown’s answer to San Francisco’s Beta Lounge and the global Groovetech network. Today, Paxahau’s hits are in the six digits, and they get e-mails from people all over the world who use the site.
“We’ve just swallowed a T1 line and had to move to a nine-bit connection to handle the traffic,” explains Huvaere of the technical complexities inherent in running an independent Web station. “Paxahau has always been an experiment in noncommercialism. We planted a seed without any advertising or marketing and it’s grown the way it has without any of those tools.”
Eventually, Huvaere hopes to turn the site into a record label, selling Paxahau’s music exclusively over the Web. Huvaere already runs a techno label, D Records — originally a Minus offshoot — which has attained a heavy dose of underground cred in the past few years. For now, though, Paxahau is still working on building its reputation. This is perhaps why event promotion was such a natural outgrowth of their original blueprint. With their combined experience throwing parties in the past, the original Paxahau team quickly tired of merely recording DJ sets and set off to put their own spin on Detroit’s club-centered nightlife.
Paxahau’s approach is to take the post-rave formula of thoughtful booking and individual event promotion and apply it to the bigger clubs. And rather than looking to capture a club’s usual audience, Paxahau seeks to bring its own party through the doors. This is especially the case now that most clubs around Detroit feature the type of dance music inside that many try to avoid while adjusting their car radios.
“There’s never going to be any big [mainstream] crossover,” theorizes Huvaere about the differences between club music and the cutting-edge vibe that Paxahau seeks to obtain. “It’s just never gonna happen. People listen to some pretty rank stuff right now and think that it’s techno. But real Detroit techno and house is always gonna be mainly known by the people who follow it.”
The rave stigma has also been difficult for serious dance music promotion to shake. If techno and house are supposedly a forward-thinking movement, you might never know it from the way newcomers misinterpret the surrounding culture and how outsiders perceive it. Yet Huvaere and Paxahau understand these misconceptions and seem prepared to fight them as tactfully as possible.
“There was a lot of negativity washed over the entire rave scene,” he explains, “and it prevents any new generation from coming in completely open-minded. People are no longer in discovery mode. You can answer all of the questions—because of the way that the media has fed you—before you even listen to a single record.”
Probably the best way to dissipate rave’s lingering fog is to simply experience exciting, new-to-us DJs. And that’s apparently what Paxahau is all about.
Steve Bug, the newest addition to the Minus roster, electrified the dance floor during his “Touch” appearance at the Necto this past February. His set came as a huge surprise to those who didn’t know — in other words, nearly everybody. Instantly, “Touch” regulars recognized that Bug was responsible for one of the better nights in the series. Mixing feverishly between click house, minimal classics and high-style Detroit-flavored funk abstractions, Bug controlled the room with every record.
Yet, looking beyond this weekend’s frenzied forecast, Paxahau plans on burying the past in an appropriate fashion. At Motor’s “Last Dance” party Aug. 30, Paxahau will take over the lounge with a 14-DJ, four-turntable free-for-all, featuring Rex Sepulveda, Tom “Acidpimp” Newman, Carlos Souffront, Chuck Flask, Derek Plaslaiko, Keith Kemp, George Rihani, Drew Maddox, Jennifer Xerri, Clark Warner, Michael Geiger, Craig Gonzales and two surprise guests. Paxahau will also be throwing the official “Last Dance” after-party (venue TBA) with the aforementioned international guests from the PEMF.
For now, Paxahau plans on doing an event every couple of months and doing it right. As far as bigger events are concerned, Paxahau has the power to bring quality beats to this time cycle in Detroit.
Wow. For a single-word sentence, those Mayans were pretty goddamn verbose.
Steve Bug will perform Friday, Aug. 23, at Times Square (1431 Times Square St., Detroit). For information call 313-961-0232.Robert Gorell covers the beat for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org