When it comes to getting the biggest bang out of your Detroit electronic music dollar, you can't get much better than free. Yes, artists need to be paid for their labor but whenever possible, why not take their payment out of concessions made at the liquor bar (or from the kitchen, or coffee and juice bars) and just not charge the faithful heads as they come through the door?
This, of course, wouldn't work when, say, Paxahau brings in a Michael Mayer or Superpitcher from Cologne. Or Rhythm & Sound or Zip from Berlin. But when locals establish weekly or monthly residencies at clubs, free admission is the ideal incentive to get more people inside (or better yet, outside, in the summer) and dancing to music played by some of the most seasoned, skilled and quirkiest DJs on the planet.
What good reason do you have to not spend the late afternoon and early evening in a rare groove at downtown's Campus Martius, where the Buzz Bar continues its free weekly summer music series? Bass vibrations and sweeping arpeggios bouncing off pre-Depression era and 21st century skyscrapers in a park in the middle of Woodward Avenue? Sounds like a Detroit techno and house party to us! If you hustle down today (Wednesday, Aug. 1), you'll catch Buzz Goree (Underground Resistance), Mike "Agent X" Clark, E-Spleece (who'll be part of Detroit's Blank Records showcase in Berlin next week) and, topping it all off, funky nu-soul seven-piece band Exchange Bureau. Starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 8 p.m. at the Buzz Bar (546 E. Larned St., Detroit). For the full schedule, see myspace.com/buzzdetroit. Also, outdoors and just up the road the rest of the summer is Powder Blu's patio party at La Dolce Vita (17546 Woodward Ave., Detroit). It happens every Tuesday with special guests and hundreds of house music lovers and dancing fools. It's free but dammit, only until 10 p.m., when a $5 cover takes effect.
You know good times are here again when Michael Geiger straps on his headphones and gets behind the decks. Geiger has had residencies at the old Buddha Bar, the old Panacea and at the old Oslo. God, that's a lot of "old" on a still young (30-ish) DJ's resume. He's shared the spotlight with Mike Huckaby, Osunlade, Clark and others at numerous Organic Dance Culture parties and briefly held sway at Richie Hawtin's (yeah) old 13 Below in Windsor in the late 1990s.
Geiger's new weekly happens Thursdays at the Bosco (22930 Woodward Ave., Ferndale). The classics begin dropping around 10 p.m.
Also on Thursday's, Sakana Sushi Lounge, which is just two storefronts down, runs with the excitable motto: "No cover, no pressure!" And they mean it, man. The night is run by Em-J and features Paxahau DJs and other special guests. Minimal and experimental beats roll on from 10 p.m.
On the other side of town, something even stranger appears to be brewing. It's an untitled event with politically provocative art and music held the first Sunday of each month at Atom's Java & Juice (15104 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Park). The program was conceived by Martin Anand, a self-described "technopunk," originally from Düsseldorf but living in the Detroit area since the 1990s, when he jumped into the electro scene, which was then led by groups like Adult., Dopplereffekt and Ectomorph.
He began his own Kenaob label, releasing music by Detroit's Andy Toth, Charles Preset and MANASYt, a Bulgarian producer who moved to Detroit for the music ... and then moved back to Bulgaria when making records and corned beef and pastrami sandwiches at Hamtramck's old Salvador Deli couldn't pay the bills.
Anand aims to confront standard practice. He detests label or city affiliations in parentheses after an artist's name (shouldn't we all?), wants to create musical environments sans people ("they will come later," he says) and prefers random, accidental DJ sets over carefully programmed ones.
"Who cares," Anand says, "if you have all the hot records and can match beats? I don't."
But he resists something else now considered the absolute norm in club culture: "I refuse to play anywhere that serves alcohol. I think the music I play, the music I want to hear (at Atom's) would make you dizzy if you're drunk. They don't go together at all."
So, what might you hear at Atom's? Well, an afternoon dedicated to turntablist Christian Marclay; 20-minute space jams by krautrock titans Can and Faust; or ruptured blendings of rock and avant-techno by Ekkehard Ehlers and Christian Fennesz.
Some of Anand's previous guests have included A. Garcia of Docile Recordings, People Mover's Milieu, T Linder of the Detroit Techno Militia, Greg Mudge and Paris '68 (full disclosure: the latter is the sonic art collective co-founded by your Subterraneans scribe).
Who's playing there this Sunday (Aug. 5)? Who knows? Who cares? The mystery begins around noon and goes on throughout the afternoon. Come for the food as well. The menu includes vegan baked goods, sandwiches, soups, organic coffees, teas and raw juices and, of course, wheatgrass.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.