Music » Local Music

Year of rhythm



Paxahau's Jason Huvaere is looking back at the year behind him. Then he shifts to the organization's plans for the future, which already has 2008 in its sights. Reclining on a couch in his Ferndale office, he begins to weave together a story of an amazing string of hits that have put Paxahau over the top as Detroit party programmers and promoters.

How amazing? Last winter, Paxahau moved into a building that combines office and studio space, then struck a deal with the city of Detroit to take over a sputtering Memorial Day weekend electronic music festival in danger of going under. In just eight weeks, the group booked and promoted Movement '06. Innovative new sponsors like Beatport — the Web-based MP3 seller — were obtained, and the powerful Kompakt organization, based in Cologne, Germany, promised (and delivered) a stage filled with international artists who had never played in Detroit. Unlike years past, the festival broke even and all bills were paid, Huvaere says. Paxahau also threw festival afterparties that featured DJ stars Richie Hawtin and Superpitcher, put together a showcase at this summer's Comerica TasteFest and produced a party after the Target Fireworks display that featured Detroit's Stacey Pullen. For bringing in stellar performers for your dancing or chin-scratching pleasure, Paxahau stands unrivaled.

The group has also reconfigured and relaunched its own label, D Records.

In recalling the accomplishments, Huvaere is humbled.

"It's been a huge, huge year for us, but it becomes a big, crazy blur sometimes," he says. "I think we've been successful because we take a business perspective on having fun. We're in the party business, but you have to work hard to make it go right each time. You have to build relationships, earn trust and preserve your integrity. You have to be alive in the moment, because that's where the people are. That's where the party is."

This weekend, the party comes alive in two locations. On Saturday, Paxahau is bringing Steve Bug over from Hamburg, Germany (his Bugnology 2 is one of the best and funkiest minimal techno CD-mixes released this year), to the Pontiac Arts, Beats and Eats festival. There will also be an afterparty at Clutch Cargo's iLounge (15 S. Saginaw, Pontiac) with more from Bug, Andy Toth (Detroit Grand Pubahs), Eric Cloutier and Chuck Flask.

But the big to-do is Sunday, when Paxahau celebrates its eighth anniversary with a 12-hour event at Currents, a renovated 8,000-square-foot venue in a building that once housed the River Rock Café (673 Franklin St., Detroit). The party kicks off at 4 p.m. with Detroit's Clark Warner at the decks.

The lineup is filled with a half-dozen big names, but the most anticipated treat is a rare appearance by Rhythm & Sound, the mysterious Berlin-based duo made up of Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald. They've been working in a variety of guises since the 1980s, but are best-known for founding the group and label Basic Channel, which took echoes of Detroit techno, Chicago house and Jamaican dub and forged a sound that was at once pitched-down, mean and dirty on the low end — and sexy as hell. Rhythm & Sound's 2005 LP, See Mi Yah, which featured vocals by 10 different emcees, toasters and singers, is already considered an enduring studio masterwork. A CD of remixes — including Carl Craig's righteously angry version of "Poor People Must Work" — was released this summer to similar critical acclaim. Ernestus and Von Oswald perform a DJ set from 6 to 10 p.m.

The beats should pick up when Ghostly International/Spectral Sounds duo Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliott steps up to the booth. As the performer "Audion," Dear has been blowing up this summer behind his Just a Man, Just a Woman EP, a project with Berliner Ellen Allien.

At midnight, Frenchman Ark will play live. He often performs with electronic hardware and guitar, and Paxahau's Flask says the promoters hope to entice him into strapping it on. "We'll have a Fender there for him," Flask says. "I hope he plays it. He's an incredible live performer, one of the best I've ever seen." Finishing out the night will be Christian Smith, a banger from Sweden who's been a favorite on the Detroit underground party scene since the late 1990s.

When the weekend is over, Huvaere says he will prepare to travel to Ibiza, the Spanish island that hosts one seemingly continuous party all summer long, for the closing of the season, and then fly to Berlin and London for trade shows. While he's there, he says he'll be scouting for talent for next spring's electronic music festival.

"You go where you need to make it happen," Huvaere says. "I'm not saying it won't be fun. You have to keep your blood flowing and stay excited."


For more information on Paxahau's events in Pontiac on Sept. 2 and the 8th anniversary party on Sept. 3 in Detroit, go to

Walter Wasacz is a freelance writer. Send comments to

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