"We put the 'no' in techno"
Who: Benoit + Sergio
From: Washington, D.C., Berlin
Sound: The pair shows an uncanny command of the middle register on such singles as "Everyday," so it's no wonder they describe their "New Ships" EP (on Detroit's Visionquest) as "a dream-pop tinctured confection within a dance-music wrapper."
Set: "Think Public Enemy circa 1989: Sergio channeling the manic spirit of Flavor Flav; Benoit combining the dangerous powers of Chuck D and Terminator X. Except we will be playing new dance jams with the spirit of '70s classic rock."
When: Saturday, 4:40-5:30 p.m., Beatport Stage
More: soundcloud.com/benoitandsergio, facebook.com/benoitandsergio
"If this is the prison, life is the sentence."
Who: Marcellus Pittman
Sound: Pittman came up under house demigod Theo Parrish, and his Unirhythm label has been adding to the canon of deep set floor fillers like "Chicago Nights" and "There's Somebody Out There," while his output teamed with Parrish, Rick Wilhite and Kenny Dixon's 3 Chairs collective.
Set: Pittman's promising the straightest of dope: "'80s and '90s dance classics, as well as current dance and disco edits." Double-whammy, whoa!
When: Saturday, 6:30-8 p.m., Made in Detroit Stage
"To define is to limit."
Who: Guy Gerber
Sound: The Israeli-born producer recently relocated to L.A., which make sense given his cinematic take on dance music, as heard on his new "The Mirror Game" EP for Detroit-based label Visionquest. Gerber brings high-profile chops to a dependable, progressive take on what used to be called tech-house; he's been tapped to record the June installment of the prestigious Fabric Live mix series, and is also working with Puff Daddy (!) on an album. Bad boy, indeed.
Set: Gerber is teaming with Berlin-via-Detroit prog-techster Seth Troxler for a back-to-back two-hour set. "It's always a little magical when we play together because we blend so perfectly into each other," Gerber says. "We don't practice together much, which leaves us both more space to improvise."
When: Saturday, 10 p.m.-midnight, Beatport Stage, back-to-back with Seth Troxler.
"A new world is coming, be ready"
Who: Damian Lazarus
From: L.A. via London
Sound: Lazarus' production and mixing chops extend to the bidness of dance music. He's got cred out the ass — his Crosstown Rebels label was voted '11's top label by DJ-culture bible Resident Advisor, which has released an alarmingly consistent streak of sophisticated feel-good tracks from Amirali (favorite of UK tastemaker Pete Tong and embraced by NPR music supervisors) and Jamie Jones (an Ibiza upstart who's become Resident Advisor's No. 1 DJ). Lazarus' own productions show a limitless command of the context and nuances of dance floor euphoria, ranging from main-room staples to Spiritualized-ish comedown tracks for after-afterparties.
Set: Armed with pre-release albums from Amirali and Jones, Lazarus is promising "brand-new music plucked from space, perfectly orchestrated for Detroit Earthlings."
When: Saturday, 7-8:30 p.m., Beatport Stage
More: @damianlazarus, damianlazarus.com
"I'm not a social person."
Sound: Aaron Jerome, who likes to perform behind a massive African mask, has come up with a veddy British blend of UK 2-step, garage and house that make him God's gift to Gilles Peterson and makes him maybe his generation's 4 Hero.
Set: Live, Jerome and singer-collaborator Sampha are capable of stirring, stuttering soul, including the impeccable "Right Thing to Do," last year's best single that could have been 2002's as well.
When: Saturday, 9-10:30 p.m., RBMA stage
"Always do what your peers cannot do, and will not do."
Who: Mike Huckaby, aka "Deep House King of Detroit, Serbia, Russia, Petrozavodsk, Budapest, and on and on ..."
From: "Detroit, fool. Where else?"
Sound: "Detroit deep house and techno."
Set: Huck's purism can seem as anachronistic as it is classic, but amid this year's retro-techno vibe, his promised set of "strictly vinyl, underground house, underground techno" is a perfect way to end (or start) Saturday.
When: Saturday, 9:30-11 p.m., Made in Detroit Stage
"Smile when you're dancing, it could always be worse."
Who: Wolf + Lamb, aka Gadi Mizrahi and Zev Eisenberg
From: New York City
Sound: Wolf + Lamb, ("a music community," as Mizrahi and Eisenberg call it) purposely blur lines between labels and artists, DJs and dancers, promoters and patrons, in the process creating a deep house resurgence that has embraced the likes of Nicolas Jaar, Soul Clap, Deniz Kurtel, Voices of Black, Slow Hand — and even extends to reinventing the afterparty concept with their "Marcy Hotel" project in Brooklyn. If you can make dance music less scenestery there, you can make it less scenestery anywhere.
Set: "A downpour of new tracks from our family, from our upcoming album and some sexy stuff in between to hold it all together," Mizrahi says. "A set as moody as a Gemini on Mercury rising.
When: Sun, 5:30 -7 p.m., Red Bull Music Academy Stage
More: @wolflambmusic, facebook.com/wolflamb
"Just bring your dancing shoes and smile."
Who: DJ Psycho
From: Fenton, just like DJ Casey Kasem
Sound: As a member of Detroit Techno Militia and Irrational Muzikwerx, Psycho marches to the beat of that jackbooted techno drummer with a nod to the showmanship of a DMC battle DJ, combining, thrillingly, the relentless techno-mindedness of Claude Young with the scratch trickery of hip-hop's DJ P. In short, Jeff Mills playing his eponymous minimal techno through his Wizard persona.
Set: DJ Psycho might take one of his shoes off and scratch with it, mixing hard techno into ghetto tech into children's records into funk and soul oldies — using three turntables no less!
When: Monday, 3:30-5 p.m. Made in Detroit stage
"Championing the Detroit future bass-dubstep."
From: Detroit via Ortonville
Sound: The self-proclaimed "Evil Mastermind and Bass Professor of Datswopsup!" has been championing the Detroit future bass-dubstep scene by hosting acts like African High Tech, Silkie, Bombaman, Ill-Shea, 2562 out of Netherlands, at his Bass Down Low nights at the Works. Massive!
When: Sunday, 2 - 3 p.m., Underground stage
"Music can be timeless, if you take the time to live the music."
Who: Malik Alston
Sound: Alston's been the hardest-working man in Detroit's house music business for years, as seen in his steady calendar of live performances and in such signature tracks as "On My Way" and "Badeya (Pirahnahead's remix)," as well such classics as "Can You Fill Me," "Tour Detroit" and new remix of "Close to You." The veteran singer, keyboardist, DJ and producer preaches an instantly vibe-able brand of deep jazz and spiritual house channeling Kenny Dixon Jr. and Mike Huckaby for a sound as much about Sunday morning as Saturday night.
Set: Alston will be playing live keys and singing accompanied by Howard Wazeerud-Din II on trumpet, Keith Berber on percussion and Badriyyah Wazeerud-Din on vocals debuting tracks from his new album, Future, culminating with an all-DJ set of classics. Double-whammy — whoa.
When: Sunday, 4-5:30 p.m., Made in Detroit stage
"Dancing, minus the cheese whiz."
Who: Nic Fanciulli
From: West Malling, Kent, UK
Sound: For the last five years, Fanciulli and his Saved label have released consistently intelligent techno-savvy house gems as progressive as they are crowd-pleasing — from such artists as Philip Bader and Emerson Todd — while remixing and collaborating with everyone from Radio Slave to Detroit's own Stacey Pullen. In short, a man for all reasons, all of them good: dancing, minus the cheese.
Set: Fanciulli is currently touring with Joris Voorn (the pair play Movement's evil twin Electric Daisy Carnival in Vegas next month) to support his new double-disc mix, "Balance 021," so expect a set steeped in the melodic-but-not-cheesy UK house tradition that keeps spirits lifted as much as arms, full of the kind of rich bass and crispy percussion goodness you'd expect from dance music that has evolved into a sonic recipe.
When: Monday, 8-10 p.m., Beatport Stage, back-to-back with Joris Voorn
More: nicfanciulli.com, facebook.com/nicfanciulli
"Pon de floor"
Who: Major Lazer
From: Florida, Philly, UK, Jamaica,
Sound: Originally conceived sort of as a joke by superproducers Diplo and Switch (M.I.A.), the idea of two honky knob-twiddlers making a straight-up, yardier-than-thou dancehall reggae record actually turned into one of 2010's best records, Guns Don't Kill People ... Lazers Do, and has since become a kind of rolling circus of bass-daggering-dancehall for the party-kid set. That said, the new single from this "group," a somber R&B reggae track featuring pasty chanteuse Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors, belies a deeper, less cartoonish side of Major Lazer. Or at least a lighters-in-the-air ballad.
Set: DJ Switch's departure from the group has left Diplo to rely even more heavily on a traveling band of collaborators. Live, the group recalls a Jamaican sound system at its best and most hyperbolic: a stream of hypemen and emcees offering patois outbursts in between seismic farts of bass and airhorns. In other words, pure chaos. Enjoy.
When: Monday, 11 p.m.-midnight, RBMA stage