Music » Local Music

Dance the night away



FROM: East London

SOUNDS LIKE Cox pioneered the use of a third turntable in the late '80s, which allowed him to layer tracks into a tribal take on house music transcendent enough to levitate dancefloors without resorting to the fluttery trance bollocks of his superstar DJ brethren. Cox is literally the biggest DJ in the world — with a production history and the girth to fuel that claim to flame.

SAY WHAT?: Cox is something of a Zelig in the evolution of modern DJ club culture. He was there spinning breakbeat, electro, rare groove and hardcore in the '80s UK scene, before acid house (and the possibilities of spinning it on three turntables) that put him at every major club in the UK rave and club scene. He then brought a harder though not always darker sensibility to the mad-for-it Spanish party island of Ibiza in the '90s and has been aging gracefully ever since, helming his Intec label and becoming a global mega-club ambassador who's been playing for crowds of 15,000 — sometimes 50,000 — for the last 15 years.

OFF THE RECORD "Space, the next frontier." You betcha.

WHEN: DJ set, Saturday, May 23, 9 p.m. Vitamin Water Main Stage.




FROM: Paris, France

SOUNDS LIKE Laurent Garnier did it with Detroit techno, Daft Punk did it with disco filter house, Mr. Oizo did it with broken beat, and now Krazy Baldhead (Pierre-Antoine Grison) makes killer off-kilter (krazy even?) electro-hop that takes the tradition of Ectomorph and Detroit Grand Pubahs and turns it on its shiny dome for a headspin. Vive la France!

SAY WHAT?: Grison's breakout hit, 2004 "Bill's Break" is the one that posits him as the Stones to Justice's Beatles on the shite-hot Ed Banger label they both came from, but Grison's light touch, like Mr. Oizo before him, keeps his tracks from getting too cerebral. Like the best electro, the spacier he gets, the funkier he gets.

OFF THE RECORD "Who drank my Goddamn apple juice? Huh? C'mon, who?"

WHEN: Live set, Saturday, May 23, 10 p.m,. Red Bull Music Academy Stage




FROM: Detroit. Originally and always.

SOUNDS LIKE Detroit Techno — 'nuff said. May and Saunderson are not playing together per se, but their back-to-backsets headlining Monday's Mainstage are a fitting culmination and 20-year reunion to careers that have taken them from suburban Belleville to around the world and back again and again and again. In '89, it was Saunderson's pop-house-techno group Inner City, with the unstoppable hits "Big Fun" and "Good Life" that personified the new dance sound of Detroit, flowing future beats from downtown's New Music Institute to Manchester's Hacienda.

SAY WHAT?: May's had his share of early hits — "Strings of Life" is, as Record Times' Mike Himes famously put it, "the 'Stairway to Heaven' of dance music" — while Saunderson has amassed enough singles and remixes under his various aliases to fill a new two-CD mix, History Elevate, that includes tracks from the Pet Shop Boys, Hercules and the Love Affair and Saunderson's own Inner City (remixed by Carl Craig, no less).

OFF THE RECORD "Brother, I'm kind of at a loss for anything to say" — a first coming from Derrick May. "I'm just a football player who caught the bug to make music, man," Saunderson says.

WHEN: DJ sets Monday, May 25. Saunderson, 8 p.m.; May, 10 p.m.




FROM: New York via LA

SOUNDS LIKE Whatever you need it to be. His discography and list of collaborators makes him deep house's version of Prince, with the spirituality and universal scope to match.

SAY WHAT?: Osunlade's career spans a lifetime fulfilling a mission of destiny (f'real: he's ordained in the African Yoruba faith) making music either for, with, about or re-envisioning artists and arcs that include Sesame Street, Patti LaBelle, Musiq, Roy Ayers and Radiohead. His ultra-prolific Yoruba label, which he founded in New York over a decade ago, is dedicated to Soul music with a capital "S." Yet as a DJ, Osunlade shows a grinning appreciation for the NuYorican side of house music while working from his deep R&B and Afro-Latin sensibilities.

OFF THE RECORD "Everything in its right place."

WHEN: DJ set, Sunday, May 24, 5 p.m. Vitamin Water Main Stage




FROM: Bronx, NY

SOUNDS LIKE: What you don't expect but what you need to hear. Bam is, after all, the guy who, with a lifetime of a funk and soul records in his crates, chose to build hip-hop on two Kraftwerk records back in the day ("Trans Europe Express" and "Numbers"), inspiring the likes of Juan Atkins and a million dance hits with his and Soulsonic Force's "Planet Rock."

SAY WHAT?: Detroit Police once postponed busting a late '90s rave in Detroit's New Center area to hear what he was going to play next after they discovered that it was, indeed, the Godfather of Hip-Hop that was playing Foreigner's "Urgent" to the bemused glowstick massive.

OFF THE RECORD: "The character in Gremlins with the Mohawk was based on me." Dude, no shit!

WHEN: DJ set, Monday, May 25, 6:30 p.m., Red Bull Music Academy Stage




FROM: Far, far East L.A.

SOUNDS LIKE The late, great Conant Gardens hip-hop genius J Dilla stuck in L.A. traffic in a car with an AM radio and an 8-track player.

SAY WHAT?: FlyLo (Steven Ellison) is L.A. music royalty (his aunt was Alice Coltrane) and as one of the few hip-hop acts on the Movement schedule, he couldn't be more perfect. His music has made it to the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, while his records on the Plug Research label, the UK's Warp for last year's acclaimed Los Angeles LP and remixes on Kode9 funky Hyperdub imprint draw as much on techno, house and dub as they do the usual dusty, dirty beat collages of his L.A. peeps Madlib and Gaslamp Killer. FlyLo has proved himself capable of reinvention record by record, veering somehow organically between abstract soul and living, breathing computer love. Somewhere, Mr. James (Dilla) Yancey is smiling.

OFF THE RECORD "It's all good to show love to a n****r, but stop biting my sh*t."

WHEN: Live set, Monday, May 25, 3:30 p.m., Red Bull Music Academy Stage




FROM: Colorado via Detroit

SOUNDS LIKE "Your dreams," says Copeland, and she isn't kidding: If you lived in Detroit during her decade-plus as WDET's overnight music muse, Liz probably soundtracked your REM cycle sleep with her deep, narrative sets that moved forward the Electrifyin' Mojo freeform model and imbued it with a goth preciousness that made Detroit late night radio a near-religious experience. Holy, holy. And her voice just floated.

SAY WHAT?: "A sound uttering itself from the other side, also known as the inside," as she describes her midday Movement set, but she could just as easily be describing her infant son, the greatest extended dance mix she and her husband, fellow groove-ologist Clark Warner could ever produce.

OFF THE RECORD "Some of the biggest and best of Detroit techno has been hugely influenced by radio." Say it loud and proud, sista Liz...

WHEN: DJ set, Saturday, May 23, noon, Beatport Stage.




FROM: Detroit, Detroit, Detroit ... though they sound like they could have come from Chicago. Nah, man, they are D dudes, thru and thru.

SOUNDS LIKE House music a few clicks closer to its soul, disco and R&B roots. Clark and Talley helped coin the term "Beatdown House" to describe their purist aesthetic amid the progressive house flutterings of a decade ago, and have been making the case that though Detroit Techno may have taken over the world, it's still good ol' fashioned house music, the kind live drummers and flautists flock to and gorgeous, happy people dance to right here in Detroit all night. Clark is the subject of a new documentary "Mind of a DJ."

SAY WHAT?: Mike Clark was actually a member of Underground Resistance, Detroit's first techno militia, back when they were giving peace a chance with pre-techno house a decade and a half ago, under the alias "Agent X."

OFF THE RECORD "Before it was called mixing, it was called blending."

WHEN: DJ set, Saturday May 23, 4:30 p.m., Made In Detroit Stage




FROM: Colorado via Detroit

SOUNDS LIKE "Sixty-four colors of electronic music," Clark says, and he'd know. Getting his start tour managing electro-tinged Detroit dance bands Charm Farm and Final Cut in the early '90s, Warner was secretly stocking up on Air singles and taking in Detroit Techno's second and third waves. So much so, that Warner wound up label managing Richie Hawtin's Minus fledgling minimal techno empire. He's since relocated to Colorado, where his panoramic sense of all sounds electronic have landed him at super-influential music site

SAY WHAT?: "There's so much new music that has come full circle lately. Expect a mix of that cycle, from a Detroit state of mind. I'm looking forward to another session on the riverfront." So are we, dude.

OFF THE RECORD "I play records."

WHEN: DJ set, Monday, May 25, noon, Beatport Stage




FROM: Kalamazoo/Detroit/Lake Orion now living, working and playing hard in Berlin.

SOUNDS LIKE Michael Jordan, Marilyn Monroe and Prince having a threesome on the 50-yard line during the Super Bowl. His new 12" on Wolf+Lamb is a gender-bending smackdown, a call to arms for a new feminism in techno/house.

SAY WHAT?: "I miss our research parties in our funky-ass Royal Oak basement."

OFF THE RECORD "I've shit myself."

WHEN: Monday, May 25, 5 p.m., Made in Detroit Stage




FROM: Chicago

SOUNDS LIKE Groovy Tech-house

SAY WHAT? "So many of the artists who have come out of Detroit have inspired me, so it's always an honor to play in the city. I like Detroit's keep-it-real attitude — people are more about the music, not the fads."

OFF THE RECORD "My real 'memorable time' in Detroit was the last DEMF during my (after-party) set a bunch of gang bangers started an insane bar-wide fight and the party was shut down!" Bitch, say it ain't so!

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 5:30-6:30 p.m., Pyramid Stage




FROM: San Francisco

SOUNDS LIKE Intergalactic techno-house from tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, creeping at its petty pace...

SAY WHAT?: "Detroit has an influence at all times on dance music, starting from its beginning. You cannot have a week go by in a record store without a record coming out that does not have some type of feel or vibe like the Detroit sound."

OFF THE RECORD "I mean at least a quarter of the records in my crate at all times stem from the Detroit sound..." You get an A+ for that answer, dude.

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 2-4 p.m., Beatport Stage




FROM: Originally Windsor across the river but now lives in Berlin and London, where she started Phonica, one of the world's top record shops.

SOUNDS LIKE: Indie rocker born again as a tech-house goddess spinning good old fashioned bouncy butt-jigglin' jams for hours on end.

SAY WHAT?: "Music is the glue that keeps us together."

OFF THE RECORD: "I'm an obsessive cheese lover."

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 4 p.m., Beatport Stage




FROM: L.A. via Phoenix

SOUNDS LIKE "A real DJ mixing records," which, if you needed more proof, is exactly what Z-Trip did in the 2002 movie Scratch, which chronicled the ascendance of DJ culture, a sometimes slippery slope (DJ Perry Farrell anyone? Didn't think so ... ) that Z has been able to navigate swimmingly.

SAY WHAT?: When he says "Asia was dope," he could be referring literally to his one night in Bangkok playing a show, eating Thai food on its home turf and seeing an elephant on the street — or the '80s band of the same name he's dropping on vinyl live. Whatever. We dig it.

OFF THE RECORD "Everything is better with an 808."

WHEN: DJ set, Sunday, May 24, [8 p.m.???] 10 p.m., Red Bull Music Academy Stage




FROM: Cooley High, Detroit's west side

SOUNDS LIKE One of the guys who got there first, mixing house and dub techno, Detroit with Berlin styles, in the mid-1990s. One of the best there is on the planet, finally getting his just due. Period.

SAY WHAT?: "OK, I got an apartment in Berlin, but no, I didn't leave Detroit, man."

OFF THE RECORD "Check out all these white labels these dubstep kids in the UK are laying on me. This Apple Pips shit and this Hessle Audio shit is the shit."

WHEN: Saturday, May 23, 9-11 p.m., Made in Detroit Stage




FROM: A clusterfuck from Detroit, Chicago Japan, Uranus.

SOUNDS LIKE For those of you who thought micro-genres were only for more sober electronic music, well, as Brian "Starski" Gillespie puts, this four-hour clusterfunk has within its rotating DJ sets, "juke tracks, booty boogie Detroit funk , Detroit techno, electro and ghetto tech party music." Where's the threecy – classical, comedy and classical? There's always next year.

SAY WHAT?: "Where the party gonna be at? Its all starts here!" Gillespie says. And as far as parties go, he's right. The Electrobounce crew threw the locals-only Po'Boy raves back in the back in the day at the Packard, not to mention being founding entities of the still great Family Funktion, and of course DJ Godfather was a Detroit radio staple with his on-air mixes live on WJLB.

OFF THE RECORD "Get Yo Jit On. Let Me Bang, L.A.M.F!"

WHEN: DJ set, Sunday May 24, 2-6 p.m. Red Bull Music Academy Stage.




FROM: New Jersey via Bronx, NY

SOUNDS LIKE: Carl Craig meets Kerri Chandler meets MAW meets Ten City meets Radiohead.

LOOKS LIKE: A rising star of the underground with stunning brown eyes. Girls love him, guys want to be him. Say what? "I hope it doesn't rain when I play."

OFF THE RECORD: "I am a gear slut."

WHEN: Sunday, May 24, 7:30 p.m, Main Stage




FROM: Detroit's west side, now based in Atlanta.


SAY WHAT?: "The Detroit festival is like an annual techno class reunion." Bad Boy Bill: "I wish people would wear name tags, because my memory ain't as good as it use to be."

WHEN: 430 West presents Techno City (Detroit Stage), Sunday, May 24, 7:30 p.m.




FROM: Cooley High, Detroit's west side

SOUNDS LIKE The history of future music rolled into one elegant electro-acoustic package, increasingly expanding his focus to include collabs with modern classical and rootsy jazz and funk players. Techno's wonderboy, forever and forever.

SAY WHAT?: "The future of our fair city is in our ability to keep open minds." C2, have you ever thought of running for mayor?

OFF THE RECORD "I wear red shoes."

WHEN: Monday, May 25, 5:30 p.m., Main Stage




FROM: Chicago

SOUNDS LIKE He's long been a rave favorite embracing the hard, boingy stuff and dropping the occasional hip-hop track, yet for all his crowd-whipping and -pleasing, BBB has his debut artist album dropping on the impressively artist-driven Nettwerk label (Skinny Puppy, Sara McLaughlin) in July. Huh? Go figure.

SAY WHAT?: Expect Bill's headlining set Saturday to include liberal doses of tracks that update the house, electro and hip-hop mish-mash of beat culture he came up on in Chicago. His "Falling Angel" single out now is surprisingly vocal driven, thanks to chanteuse Alyssa Palmer, who channels Bjork and Sia at once.

OFF THE RECORD "I have a secret weapon to murder the dancefloor every time. But I'm not telling WTF it is."

WHEN: DJ set, Monday, May 25, 9 p.m. Beatport Stage


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.