The year was 1980, and John Acquaviva was just beginning his long, fruitful relationship with sound machines and records. He was a high school DJ in London, Ontario, still nine years away from his famed partnership with Richie Hawtin on their Plus 8 label. (Seven years Acquaviva’s junior, in 1980 Hawtin was still in elementary school about 120 miles down the Queen’s Highway in Windsor.)
A year later, in England, Depeche Mode, the Human League, New Order and Soft Cell were making pop music meant to be experienced in discotheques; and in Germany, Kraftwerk was intensifying its conversation with the future — and leaving an indelible mark on Detroit — with its release of Computer World, the most influential electronic-dance long player ever made.
But there’s more: At the same time in the United States, the late Larry Levan was mixing the ashes of disco with rock and soul at New York’s Paradise Garage, and Frankie Knuckles was pushing the same buttons at Chicago’s Warehouse. Musicians used samplers, synths and drum machines, then added the voices of various anonymous divas and began calling this new dance-hybrid house music (probably coined, according to John Bush in the All Music Guide to Electronica, at the Warehouse). But the creative focus of this brimming underground scene was the DJ, not the producer. No doubt the young Acquaviva was paying attention to this development as well.
Now 41, and still paying attention to nearly every thread of dance-pop and club music ever invented, Acquaviva returns to Detroit for a four-hour New Year’s Eve DJ set at Bleu (1540 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-222-1900). He uses Final Scratch, a mixing program that suits his encyclopedic range perfectly. Prepare to hear hundreds and hundreds of records, all intended to keep you in communication with the future. Or at least give you a proper push into 2005. Rave on, old John.
We’re a Happy Family
As a longtime scenester and a promoter in the days before Detroit cops and local television news crews conspired (call us touchy, call us paranoid, but what else do you call it when police and reporters, with interconnecting motives, arrive simultaneously at an illegal party? A series of coincidences, accidentally occurring in time for the 11 o’clock news?), Adriel Thorton was a key witness to the end of Detroit techno’s first revolutionary era (which inspired a global party culture now in its third decade). Thorton’s legal response was to start a weekly club night called Family, which played nearly every Tuesday from 1997 to 2000 at Motor. Thorton’s idea then was, in his words, to create a “cosmopolitan club night, where you can only define the type of crowd through its variety ... [a night intended] for Detroit’s real avant-garde.” Thorton has periodically brought back Family, which is inspired by the racially and sexually diverse Detroit club scene of the early ’90s, for reunion events. He told The Subterraneans he’s thinking about restarting the “Family franchise” in the spring, because, the self-described Prime Minister of Mischief says, “there is quality coming back into things right now. People are searching for something; they want Family again.” We know he’s right. In the meantime, check out Thorton’s annual freak-flag dream Dec. 28 at the Works (1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1742). Performing will be Family resident DJs Brian Gillespie, Jason Kendig and Derek Plaslaiko. Quality guaranteed.
The news that Detroit Art Space is closing its doors at the end of this month is bad news for performers, fans and other lovers of music that veers toward the dark, the freakish or the abstract. Sometimes you could see all in one night at DAS, where experimental house, techno and electro, noise and free jazz, space-punk and psych-folk artists all were welcome to plug in and play. We saw producers T. Raumschmiere, Dabrye, Thomas Fehlmann, Legowelt, Jan Jelinek and Pole play live; and Theo Parrish, Highfish and others play memorable DJ sets at the Art Space, a venue that will be sorely missed.
Holidazed and confuzed
Fortunately for us, John Acquaviva’s set is not the only opportunity to dance the night fantastic between now and New Year’s Day. Here are a few others:
Dec. 23: Alan Ester vs. Terrance Parker at Half Past Three, 2548 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313-965-4789.
Dec. 23: Canned food drive for the Sounds of Hope of Detroit Academy: Suburban Knight (aka James Pennington), J. Langa, T. Linder, Maijhi and Torque at Diesel, 11425 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck.
Dec. 25: BeatDown Xmas Party: DJs Mike Clark, Delano Smith, Norm Talley at Finite Gallery, Cary Building Lofts, Fifth Floor, 229 Gratiot Ave. at Broadway, Detroit.
Dec. 27: Home: Jason Kendig, Mike Perry, Christian Bloch, Greg Mudge at
Foran’s, 612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043.
Dec. 29: Broken Circuit: Greg Mudge, Israel Vines, Milieu at Foran’s.
Dec. 30: Detroit Underground and Friction present Kero, Derek Michael, CFX, Acidpimp, Ian Desmond at Foran’s.
Dec. 30: Spencer Drennan w/Mike Servito at Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-963-0300.
Dec. 31: Silver Spork: Mike Clark w/Milieu and DJ Spaceghost at Cass Cafe, 4620 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-1400.
Dec. 31: Arsenal of Democracy: Rexx, Chuck Flask, Rich Korach, Homak, Docile, A29, Takaaki, Vinnie at 35 E. Grand River, 6th Floor, Detroit.
Dec. 31: Contact: Minx, John Arnold, Teddie, Shortround, Kevin Reynolds, Cent at Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee, Detroit; 313-873-2955.
Dec. 31: The Lean Back Affair: Gary Chandler at the Blackwell Civic Center, 15840 Second Ave., Highland Park; 313-893-3284.
Dec. 31: 3 Chairs: Kenny Dixon Jr., Rick Wilhite and Marcellus Pittman at Oslo.
Jan. 1: Larry Levan/Ron Hardy Classics: Marcellus Pittman, Greensky plus guest at Finite.Contact Carleton Gholz and Walter Wasacz at firstname.lastname@example.org