The culture of Detroit electronic music plays out in the strangest places. From its initial beginnings as a sound track to high-school social clubs, to late-night parties at places such as Better Days, special small venues have been the places where this culture has had its most exciting moments. Yet in the past few years we’ve seen some major transformations into the overground, with the DEMF filling Hart Plaza with a million people and large clubs dedicated to electronic music in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Lansing. Culture always seems to develop outside the petri dish, so lets be thankful that small and special events still continue, such as Mixworks at Porter Street Station.
Recently Mixworks gave a special Valentine’s Day party delving into disco classics and lovers’ anthems with two of the DJs who made so many special small after-hours parties so special: Moodymann and Theo Parrish. With Theo now living in Cleveland, nights like this are rarer and rarer, so it was a special treat. The vibe of the club itself is rather basic, a box that seems like a small club with a giant bar differentiating it from nights in the past with this crew, and with a set of full lights on the dance floor. The DJs presented classics, with Moodymann doing a brief guest appearance early on, Malik Pittman filling the majority of the evening and Theo taking over for a quick closing spot, recontextualizing gems like Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved” into Ron Hardy-style disco gems. The crowd was laid-back and appreciative — it was a slow, sensual, soulful evening,
Mixworks continues every Thursday night: Coming on March 7 will be the “20/20 DJ Appreciation Awards,” an event recognizing 20 DJs from Detroit who’ve made an impact on this culture over the last 20 years. There are a number of underrecognized champions of this sound, people who helped pave the way for the techno revolution, some unsung heroes of house, some international techno icons — from James Pennington and D-Wynn to Alan Ester, Anthony “Shake” Shakir and Delano Smith — who will finally be recognized. The evening will feature Carl Craig, Mike Clark and DJ Minx, with MC Theresa Hill (of the “After School Groove” on 90.9 WDTR). Porter Street Station is at 1400 Porter St. (at Trumbull), Detroit — call 313-496-1480.
The Paxahau generation
Ever since “Jak O Lantern,” the Kooky Scientist aka Fred Gianelli has been known for floor-moving live shows, usually with him in front of a mountain of gear. Fred, the guy who brought acid house to Psychick TV, has long been a gear nut, devising small effects boxes of his own for live shows and bringing along tons of antiquated equipment. All things change, and in 2002 (Friday, Feb. 15) at the D Records release party at Motor for his upcoming Fuck Trance EP, Fred performed in front of a G4 laptop running Abelton’s Live software, with only a few homemade effects and fader boxes accompanying his usual pocket-pool routine, using maybe a few fingers throughout his whole set. Seems more and more people are finding ways to integrate Live software into their shows, to quite crowd-pleasing results, the next step beyond the decks and effects.
To say that D’s “Listen to my Hooves” party was a success would be an understatement. They had all rooms of Motor rocking in the form of a full-on party, tons of energy and perhaps the beginning of a rebirth at Motor. With D talents ReXXX rocking the crowd and Tom Numan (aka the Acid Pimp) closing the night out with solid techno, it looks like D and Paxahau might be ready for a step up. Paxahau, as always, is going strong online at paxahau.com, with more than 200 DJ sets from local talents, as well as global heroes such as Baby Ford and John Acquaviva, keeping culture accessible electronically to anyone anytime for a whole new generation.E-mail Brendan M. Gillen at firstname.lastname@example.org