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DEMF 2007

Thelie So, I realize that this is several weeks overdue, but I wanted to let you all know about the fabulous time that I had in Detroit over Memorial Day weekend for the annual DEMF (Detroit's Electronic Music Festival).

As you may or may not have noticed from my last two MamaPop Recommends posts, I'm a fan of the house and techno music. And as you may or may not be aware, Detroit is where techno was born. It's a pretty fascinating story and if you would like to know more about techno's birth, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Techno Rebels by Dan Sicko. In 2000, some of the founding fathers of Detroit techno decided to put together a free festival to showcase Detroit music as well as other electronic music (techno, house, disco, hip hop, rock, whatever) artists from all over the world. It's been going strong ever since, mostly due to the support of the attendees who come from as far away as Japan and New Zealand. I've been going since 2004 and it's easily the best time that I have all year. Quick and dirty review derived from my LJ after the cut. Pictures can be viewed here.

Oh, Paris Hilton has nothing to do with DEMF. I just put her picture there so that you gossip fiends will take a second look at this post. ;-)


On Friday (5/25) we had several very enticing kickoff party options, but decided to go to an event that A Guy Called Gerald was playing at. The party was in a fairly nice club and was attended by people who were getting a serious head start on their partying. It started out fairly innocently. Most people were just kind of drunk though there was one girl on e pills who was doing all kinds of scandalous things to an unsuspecting coffee table. She also tried to, like, nuzzle my sister-in-law which was really awkward.

My SIL and I decided that we needed to be drinking as well and the bartender, who felt bad for making us wait a long time, gave us red plastic cups filled nearly to the brim with vodka and a splash of Red Bull. We moved back and forth between two rooms of music, though I managed to miss A Guy Called Gerald. We did get to go nuts to Mike Clark for a good while.

When we got to the festival on Saturday, Rhythm & Sound had just started playing. I really wish that I had taken a picture of the sound system, because it was truly something to behold. And to experience the sound that came out of it was an otherworldly experience I won't soon forget. R&S's German dub wrapped me in sonic goodness that felt like the musical equivalent of a summer thunderstorm: cooling, relaxing, and startling all at the same time. And when the bass would vibrate out of the speakers nearly everyone would have to stop to collect themselves because it felt as though all of your insides were vibrating and rearranging themselves. To top things off, Jamaican vocalists Milton Henry, Willie Williams, and Lloyd Barnes performed along side R&S. They were all amazing, but Milton Henry performed for most of the six hour (yes, six hours) set. That guy is my hero.

On Saturday night, we went to a roller skating party on 8 Mile that was hosted by Kenny Dixon, Jr.

On Sunday at the festival we were treated to fantastic sets by Hardfloor and Monolake. The highlight of the evening was the electro performance by Model 500 who had special guests the X-Men come out on stage and show everyone how people dance in Detroit.

On Monday we watched a wickedly fun ghetto tech set by DJ Godfather, DJ Dick, Brian Gillespie, DJ Rashad, DJ Boogie. Ghetto tech is one of those genres of music that I probably shouldn't like since most of the songs are about asses, titties, pussies, dicks, and various acts of raunch. However, I love it. I should clarify that I am a feminist but I'm also a staunch supporter of free speech in art. I believe that artists should say whatever it is they want to say. And ghetto tech is fun in the same way that talking dirty during sex is fun. You would never, for instance, seriously call your wife or girlfriend some disgusting moniker, but in the heat of the moment? Hell yeah. Same with ghetto tech.

Around 3 p.m. we made our way to the Real Detroit tent where Alton Miller was finishing up. We were getting ready for the musical event that we had been waiting a whole year for: The 3 Chairs. I have seen these guys DJ a couple of times and each time I feel like I'm that much closer to god or infinity or something. It's truly a transcendent experience.

I just started reading Love Saves the Day which gives the history of American dance music culture starting back in the 1970s. It's like a prequel to 24 Hour Party People. In the section of the book that I'm reading now, the author is talking about the early discotheques in New York. One was a converted church and based on the experiences of the loft parties thrown by David Mancuso, was arranged so that the communal experience of dancing was best facilitated. The church setting was particularly appropriate since these dance parties were seemingly parallel to religious rituals in which people dance to music and together reach a euphoric state.

I've often compared the behavior of the crowd at a 3 Chairs performance to the tent revivals held by the very religious. People howl and moan and scream and growl. They hold their heads as their brains tell them that this music should not be coming from human beings. Sanity goes out the window. Bodies writhe and facial expressions indicate some sensual intersection of pain and pleasure.

I've never seen anything like it.

This performance was no exception. Theo Parrish took the decks first and came out swinging. There were some sound problems and I thought everyone was going to snap when the sound went out during a particularly sick track. Theo panicked and screamed, "What do I need to do? Just tell me what I need to do to get the music back on!" The sound guy was being kind of a prick and for a minute it seemed like he wasn't going to help. I thought about grabbing the guy and explaining to him that we needed Theo to play that record. It was no longer optional. Luckily the sound came back on before I got physical and would have been ejected from the festival.

Theo was merciless in his track selection, each time playing stuff that I practically couldn't comprehend. The beats were so hard and funky and soulful. I sent text messages to people telling them that Theo appeared to be on a mission from God to make people's heads explode. Theo himself seemed possessed. He was sweating profusely as he practically headbanged. He ripped his headphones off and turned around to pick out a new track. As he flipped through CDs of some of his newer tracks, he threw his hands into the air and yelled, "Oh, NAW I can't do that to 'em yet!"

Malik Pittman came on next and, much to my disappointment as I'm a huge fan of his, wasn't quite on his game. The crowd slowed down a bit. But he's humble and, sensing that he was just kind of "off" that particular afternoon, handed control of the turntables over to Rick Wilhite.

What Theo started, Rick continued. The crowd was once again worked into a frenzy. Rick went to some other place, mentally. He tore his glasses off in order to get as close to the mixer as possible and felt the music in a way that must have made his girlfriend blush as I'm pretty sure she's the only other person to regularly see that look on his face. He was drenched in sweat. Just when it seemed like we would be ready for mercy, Theo came back to join him. Rick and Theo took turns. When one would play the other would stand next to him and watch as the grooves in the records brought us ever closer to pandemonium. Rick and Theo both joined us in howling as though we were all being tortured. They were the preachers and we were the congregation and for once in my life I felt like I might be saved.

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i had a great time this year, too. thanks for the great write-up.

emily wagner

kelly, it's me, motherhoodlum...did you know i am the 'queen of house'? yes! it's true, i was anointed it back in the 90's in nyc....hahaha,,,
i am a dj as well and play all that groovy deep house ( theo parrish, guy called gerald, etc...i was even married to a super deep dj named duke of denmark back in 90's too....look him up! is that funny or what. i even gave moby his first job at a club called mars in nyc . didnt know you were a sister in house!!


hey emily, that's awesome! I'm so glad my emoting about dance music isn't falling on deaf ears!

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