As soon as the first wave of the line up announcements hit, I knew DEMF this year would be the best one yet for me. As additional acts and afterparties were announced, it only got better. I am glad to say DEMF 2013 went far beyond living up to the hype, and it was unquestionably the best time I’ve had in Detroit in my 3 years going (you can read my recaps of 2011 here and 2012 here).
It all started with my hotel situation. Not to say that I haven’t had great roommates my first two years, because I have, but this one was on another level. I stayed at the Doubletree this year and I know now that’s the place to go. Minneapolis was heavily represented there (and at the whole festival, but more on that later). Up until the start of May, it was just me in a room I booked back in November. But then someone who I had just met a few weeks earlier, Katie Spandex, called me up as she heard I had space left in my room. Then her boyfriend Andy Fargo (who was the first person to reach out to me and offer me a beer when I came to the techno bus unprepared back in 2011) switched over as he was in a crowded room. A day or two after that, the eternally wise and experienced Roger Learned posted on Facebook asking who had space in their room, and with that my room was filled up. A lot of Minneapolis people I talked to had at least a little drama in their room, but ours was filled with laughter, smiles, and snacks. I hope we can all be roommates again next year!
I am and always have been a bit of a loner, but this year I ended up sticking with my roommates most of the time, and I think that’s a main reason I had such an amazing time. I did go out on my own the day before the festival and for parts of the first day of the festival and about an hour on the second day, but for the rest of the time I was with some of my roommates or other people from Minneapolis. It’s much more meaningful if you have someone to share the memory with, and when I went back and read my previous recap posts before writing this, I see this is not the first time I have realized this. On the one hand, I did miss a few sets I wanted to hear, like Maetrik and Steve Rachmad, and left an after party a little earlier than I may have otherwise, but it was all worth it, and this is the way I will go in the future.
With that said, here’s how it all happened:
I got in to my hotel at about 5:30 Friday. We flew with a connecting flight in Chicago as the tickets were about $80 cheaper, but I learned my lesson. Next year I’m just paying whatever the direct flight costs. The way there wasn’t too bad but the way home was brutal. Anyway, I had tickets to the Twins/Tigers game with my friend Max, who lives in the suburbs of Detroit. Due to my flight getting in late, it meant I had about 15 minutes to drop off my stuff, change quick, and then head out. We ate at Slow’s BBQ, an amazing restaurant that I would recommend to anyone who visits Detroit. After that, it was off to the game. We had front row seats behind the Tigers bullpen, an amazing view in an amazing ballpark. The game turned out to be a great one, as I almost got to see a no-hitter live and in person. Anibal Sanchez made it 25 outs before giving up a hit to Joe Mauer. I was wearing my Joe Mauer jersey shirt, which had been covered by a hoodie the whole game because it was cold, but when he got that hit I ripped my hoodie off and shook my shoulders around so everyone could see the name. Felt good, man. Sanchez quickly got the next two outs to end the game. I knew at this point that this trip was going to be amazing, on a whole different level than my first two trips to Detroit. I could feel it in my bones. My bones were not wrong.
As I was only at the hotel for a few minutes before leaving, I didn’t have any time to charge my phone and so it died during the game. I made sure to check out a few afterparties while I still had power to see where I should go, and I settled on seeing Carl Craig at a wine bar as it was about halfway between Comerica Park and my hotel. When we got there, there was a huge line around the corner, but we were told that no one had been let in yet as Carl himself had just got there. Shortly after, the line moved a lot as the venue filled up, but stopped with about 10 people left in front of us. At that point it was one in, one out for the rest of the night. Several people in line in front of us left, so we only had to wait for a few people to get in before us, but we were probably in line for about an hour total. While we were in line, we were next to a bunch of people from Cleveland and we talked for a long time. This is one thing I really love about the festival, almost everyone comes from somewhere else to go, and there are a lot of lines so there’s plenty of time to get to know other people. I didn’t remember their names, but I did see them at a crazy after-after party on Monday morning, and they waved at me and said Minneapolis? To which I said CLEVELAND!
When we were almost in the door, Juan Atkins, one of the inventors of techno music, tried to get in the side that was for people who were on the list and didn’t need to wait in line. Juan was not on the list, though, and the door lady was not having any of it. To be fair, he didn’t exactly help his cause. I didn’t know it was Juan Atkins at first and I’ll be honest, I was wondering who this d-bag thought he was. Eventually Carl’s wife came out and got him in, but good lord that was a funny ten minutes.
We eventually got in, and the place was packed. Seemed like it was big enough for about 80 people and there were 150 in there. Carl played a great set, going all over the place with spacier stuff and then some more proper techno, including a bunch of classic Detroit songs. My friend Max was with me at first but he left eventually, but a little bit later a few Minneapolis people showed up. The place was packed, but for some reason not that hot and sweaty, so I was able to make it until about quarter to two, having been in there for about two and a half hours. I had to leave though, it had been a very long day without much sleep the night before. This was my first time going back to the Doubletree and I had been driven out of there so I was not sure how to get back. I knew what street it was on but that’s it, and my phone was dead so I couldn’t get directions. It was dark out and I was turned around about where we were, but eventually I found a map on a sign post, and figured out how to get to the street the hotel was on and made it back. Thank god. I took a Benadryl and dozed off, getting the last real good night of sleep I would get for almost a week.
We got off to a slow start the next day. I finally rode the People Mover, which is a little monorail thing that goes around downtown Detroit. The views from up there were pretty good, and since there is a stop right near the Doubletree and right near the festival, it made sense to take it. We met up with a few Minneapolis people and got our wristbands for the festival to avoid longer lines later. After that, we grabbed a very late breakfast on a nice little patio in a park in the middle of the city and then headed back to the hotel to get ready. We got off to a somewhat late start, but that was ok. By the time we made it to the festival at about 5, though, there was a line to get in that stretched about 3 blocks. It was probably the longest line I’ve ever been in. They were patting everyone down, which they had not done in years past. It’s understandable, as it’s essentially an anything goes drug-emporium once you get inside, but it did slow the process down a lot. The line still didn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to clear though, and I actually just walked right past the security guards who were patting people down and no one said a word to me.
The first set we caught was Detroit native Moodymann. I had heard a lot about this guy but never really heard his music. It was very…ummm…unusual. He had two guys come out and flank the sides of the DJ area. The DJ before him seemed to be ready to go off but then came back and played one more song because Moody wasn’t ready yet. Then when his set started it was just a few minutes of very chilled out funk music, with no one standing behind the decks. Eventually he came out and started playing mostly remixed funk songs. While I do like this kind of music, it was not what I wanted to see to start the festival, I needed a bit more of an energetic set to get me started, and I didn’t really feel “into” the festival when we were down here.
We headed over to the Beatport stage, which had moved over to the riverside stage where the Red Bull stage used to be and caught part of Miguel Campbell’s set who was playing some really funky house music and it was during his set that I finally got into my groove that would last the whole weekend. Ran into some Minneapolis people in the crowd, which would be a common theme the rest of the weekend. After leaving this set and walking back towards the mainstage, I was saying to one of my roommates that you can’t go five minutes without running into someone you know, and as I was saying that we literally ran into people we knew. It’s my favorite part of the festival to be honest, because we all know how to get down and it really makes me feel at home even when I am in a still mostly unfamiliar place.
At this point, I split off by myself for the rest of the night, and caught the end of Carl Craig and some of Dave Clarke’s set (I didn’t stay too long, wasn’t into it), and then went to the Underground stage for the rest of the night to see Ben Sims and Slam, who were one of the acts I was looking forward to most. Both of them delivered. It was actually decent down there this year as it was pretty cold outside, in the 60s or lower the whole weekend. Richie Hawtin was playing the main stage during Slam and I would be seeing him later at his after party so I decided to stay down in the Underground area the whole time, and I’m glad I did.
Headed back to the hotel for a quick recharge, didn’t need to shower or blow dry my shoes like I had in years past thank Jord! First up was the CLR party, which I had gone to each of the prior two years. It was a highlight both years, and Chris Liebing is one of my favorite DJs, so I didn’t mind going again. I also ran into my friend Reggie from Detroit who I met at the first CLR party back in 2011 there. I had tickets to Richie Hawtin’s Jak Attack party also, which I felt was something I had to do at least once in Detroit. I was not a big fan of the festival set he played in 2011 and didn’t see what all the fuss was about, but I really loved his set at The Loft last November, so I figured the darker, warehouse-ier environment would be the best place to see him. I was planning to leave the CLR party at 3, but ended up there until 3:40 because it was really hard to pull myself away. The Richie party was good, I’m glad I went, but it didn’t blow me away to the point that I feel like I’d go out of my way to go again. It seemed like the party had cleared out a little by the time I got there, as I was able to easily get up to the front and ran into Steve Centrific up there. I flew down with Steve and he had been to every DEMF with the exception of my first two. I actually met him after we got back on the bus back in 2011, he was picking up some friends, and we’ve gotten to know each other better over the years. It feels like we have been friends for a long time already, and it was really great to be able to finally share this experience with him.
The party ended at 6 and we got back to the hotel shortly after. Made it to bed by 7, and was awake by about 11:30. Laid in bed for another hour before heading out to this awesome little French restaurant called Le Petit Zinc. I had a sausage crepe and probably the best croissant I’ve ever had in my life. It was a very satisfying and filling meal, and it would be the last real meal I had until our layover in Chicago on the way home. It took a long time to get our food, but it was ok as we were sitting outside in really nice weather. We were again off to a late start, and again headed down to the festival around 5:30. Caught a little bit of the Adult set at the main stage before heading underground to catch Tommy Four Seven, who I had yet to see and played a really great set. After that, I went up to the Made in Detroit stage to catch a bit of DJ Minx’s set. The Made in Detroit stage is the only stage at the entire festival where you can walk up there any time and hear something good. There were also a lot of molly’d out bro creepers at the festival this year, worse than any year before (more on this later), and this was the only stage where I didn’t see any of them. There were a lot of real emotions going on up there, as you could tell the DJs were doing something special in front of their friends and people they have known for years. I definitely saw the biggest smiles out of DJs at this stage, no questions there.
I get really inspired by seeing the awesome dancers in Detroit. Dance circles break out all over the place, break dancers who put what we have in Minneapolis to shame. During DJ Minx’s set, a whole crew of 4 or 5 dudes got in the circle and did some dancing IN UNISON, seemingly spontaneously. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. After DJ Minx, we went back underground to catch Ben Klock and then Planetary Assault Systems, both of whom were as amazing as I would have expected. The rest of my crew headed upstairs to the Made in Detroit stage for Daniel Bell, but I stayed down by myself for a while. Figured it was time to go check out someone else, but first I went up to some porta-potties near the entrance that had the shortest lines all weekend. When I came out of the porta-potty, who did I see but Jacob Hoffman, who I had been with earlier, and who was not out there when I went in to the toilet. He was literally standing right outside the one I was in. It was a pretty crazy and I couldn’t do anything but laugh for about a minute. A lot of things seem to happen like that in Detroit, and you just have to not question it and move on.
I had Jacob lead me to the Minneapolis crew he was with at Daniel Bell, and this turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival. Not only was the music absolutely great, easily one of the best sets all weekend, but there were about 15 of us from Minneapolis putting a total BEATDOWN on the dance floor. No one around us was moving around like we were. I really like being back a little bit and having room to move around freely and dancing how I want to. We were far enough back where we all had that freedom. When the set ended at 11:30 (I got there around 10), we all had huge smiles on our faces, and we all knew how much ass we had just kicked. We walked over to the Beatport stage, but before we got too deep we found a dance circle and decided to stick around and watch. At first there was just a muscle bro with a hot pink tank top in there jumping around showing off his muscles, but he essentially got booed out of there. Despite the take over of the festival by these creepers, there were still plenty of real ass techno bros there, and despite their best efforts, the bros could not pull there shit ANYWHERE they wanted at least. Eventually some amazing break dancers took over, and there was an old guy in a robe and winter hat who was like the sensei of the dance circle, I assume he was on acid or something because he was just absolutely LOCKED IN. Maybe he’s just like that all the time. Eventually the sassiest dancer I’ve ever seen got in the circle, he did this hilarious move where he stared at the last person who was in the circle and jumped backwards away from them while moving his arms. It’s hard to describe what he actually did, but let’s just say there were a lot of people in the crowd yelling Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh! I did miss Steve Rachmad during this time, but I can’t complain at all because the Daniel Bell set and then this dance off were absolute highlights of the weekend, and I got to enjoy them all with my Minneapolis crew surrounding me!
We went back to the hotel to hang out for a while and eventually made it out to the Droid/Interface party around 3 to catch Luke Slater. I saw his set as well as the start of Silent Servant’s before we left at 5:45. This was at The Works, the same place the party was last year, and thankfully it was about 30 degrees cooler outside but there are still hundreds and hundreds of people in a not so big room, and it was really hot and sweaty all night. I liked Luke’s set just fine but I was hoping for more, and I liked what I heard from Silent Servant before we left. We got in a cab that was in front of The Works and the driver was pretty drunk. We did not realize this until we were already in and on our way. It was a pretty scary ride, but we made it back and got the fuck out of there. Only in Detroit! Went back to the hotel to chill again, I was ready to go out to Old Miami at about 7, but my roommates wanted to take a little nap to recharge. I’m glad they did that because I also took a little nap and woke up around 10. The roomies didn’t end up wanting to go, but I was feeling good and headed out, finally making it to what I was told was the victory lap of victory laps.
It did not disappoint.
There was a good Minneapolis crew right in front of the speakers (as usual) and we put a hurting on the dance floor for a few hours. When I first got there around 11, it was crowded but there was plenty of room to dance around. By the time I left at 2, it was completely packed and was hard to move around. This was definitely the best people watching of the whole weekend, to say it was a shit show was an understatement. I know I wasn’t in much better shape than most of the people around me, so who am I to judge? There was a certain point at Old Miami where I thought to myself “There’s the wall. I just hit it”. I still stayed for another 20 or 30 minutes after that, but then it was back to the hotel to rest up for the big finale.
It had started sprinkling rain by the time I left Old Miami, and by the time we were ready to head to the festival around 5:30, it was raining pretty hard. We tried sticking it out at the Made in Detroit stage, but we couldn’t get quite far enough under the canopy that covered part of the dance floor to keep us dry, so we headed underground. It wasn’t really on the agenda as I’ve seen him plenty of times, but we caught some of Drumcell’s set and it was as good a set as I’d ever heard from him, it was nice to see people rising to the occasion. After that, the rain stopped and we went back up to see Ryan Elliott at the Made in Detroit stage, which ended up being another highlight for me. I could go on and on and on about how awesome this stage is, and how many of my favorite moments from my three years at the festival have come at this stage, but one thing I really liked during this set was I could feel all the hometown pride and gratefulness from Ryan during his set. He was clearly in a comfortable spot with a lot of friends around him, someone kept coming out and lifting him up in the air, and he stopped many times to just look out in the crowd in awe.
After this we got a little food (I will definitely be stopping by that gourmet hot pretzel place next year, after not eating much for about 30 hours, it was probably the best tasting piece of food I put in my mouth all weekend), we went to sit behind the Beatport stage and catch a little of Maetrik’s set before we made our final push down in the Underground to see Silent Servant and our man DVS1. Maetrik was someone I really wanted to see and I was bummed to miss a good chunk of his set, but again I could not complain as Silent Servant’s set was fantastic and I missed a lot of his set the night earlier. It was really hot down there at this point, the rain was off and on but the underground stage was packed pretty full most of the last day. I figured I would be able to stay down there the whole time, as I had a guy from the festival delivering me waters from backstage, and I was passing them around to make sure my Minneapolis people got some. I figured I would be able to sweat out all the water and not have to pee, but I was wrong. Zak started at 10:30 and he was bringing the hammer down, hard, and by 11 I knew I would need to go up and pee at some point, so I just bit the bullet and did it.
When I turned around to head up, there were even more people down there than before, it was honestly the most packed I had ever seen the Underground. When I got to the ramp, I figured out why, it was completely down pouring rain, people were crammed in anywhere there was cover. Even after I got up the ramp it was pretty hard to get around. I went to the bathroom and begrudgingly accepted the fact that I would probably have to watch the rest of the set from the back, where I couldn’t even see the stage. It was made a little easier because I found a bunch of Minneapolis people up there and I really just wanted to be with some people I knew to close out the festival. But by 11:30, I decided I did not want to end my festival that way. When I had left the front, it was largely populated by molly-ed out bros with big muscles who were only down there to try to find someone to rub their boner on. The festival was sadly overrun by these types this year, and it was pretty disheartening at times. I felt like I had to watch over any girls we were with if we were ever up front at a stage, the way some of these guys stare at girls made ME uncomfortable. I honestly can’t tell if they realize how dumb they look. I don’t think they do, but I also like to think people wouldn’t be that stupid. They probably would though. ANYWAY, as I was walking up the ramp to pee, seeing all these bros going towards the front, I’m thinking “they’re going to be up front at the end and I’m not, and that doesn’t feel right”. Well I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen. Techno never has and never will belong to these kind of people, it belongs to the people who get down, who have had made some meaningful connections on the dance floor., who have been given a second, third, or fourth wind from the music. So I walked down the ramp, walked straight to the center of the crowd and just blazed my way through, shoving people out of my way. As I got close to the front I spotted the people I was with earlier (Andy Fargo, Katie Spandex, Jacob Hoffman, Stephie, Fiona, and more) and was determined to go stand right next to them. Not near them, but right next to them. And that’s what I did.
As soon as I got up there, all my aches and pains and exhaustion from the weekend disappeared. I danced harder than I had all day, and just smiled and celebrated with my crew up front. It felt very good for me, to take the end of my festival into my own hands and end it on my terms, surrounded by people I care about and who I’d want to share these memories with. It reminded me a lot of what I did during the end of my first trip to DEMF, seeing Claude Young at the Made in Detroit stage. After Zak finished crushing it, we were all still hanging out up front, floating from what had just happened. From the booth, Zak yell’s out MINNEAPOLIS! and man oh man did that feel good. I was wearing a Minneapolis shirt so I just pointed at it and strutted around like a goof. This last half hour was undoubtedly the highlight of the weekend for me, in a weekend that was filled with many of them.
We took the people mover home, and I’m glad we did, we were all pretty beat at that point and it offered some great views of the festival and the river on the way back. There are always a lot of funny hotel elevator experiences because you are in a small little space with people who have been going through the same exact thing you have. My favorite one of these encounters happened on the way up after the festival. We were talking to two guys about our respective after party plans, when we said we were going to the Klockworks party to support our guy DVS1. Then they asked if we had seen his festival set, which we said he had, and then they said “he was hammering! hammer hammer hammer hammer!” while fist pumping. Then we started doing the same thing. Then they turned around to walk away as they were at their stop, but then they turned back and we hammered a few more times. It’s little stupid things like this that I will remember forever, and the weekend is FULL of em.
We made our way to Klockworks by about 2, and surprise, surprise, it was steaming hot in the back. I watched my friend Dee play in the front room for a minute but Ben Klock was tearing it up in the back. I tried to hang, I really did. I was swaying around with my eyes closed. Eventually Zak started tag teaming with Ben, and the music was some of the best I heard all weekend, but I was hanging outside on the patio, where we could at least still hear the music. At about 4, it started downpouring rain, as hard as it had all day. I could have stuck it out in something lighter, but I was already starting to feel sick and I couldn’t do it. I stuck it out for a little while longer, and it was during this time that it really started hitting me that this amazing journey was ending. The past couple of years I didn’t do anything after the festival and had a chance to sit in my hotel room and reflect, but this one wasn’t like that. Everything moved by so fast, which is a sign of how much fun I was having, but it also meant there wasn’t much time to take a step back and think about what was going on.
I slept for a few hours, jammed all my stuff in my bag, and it was on our way back home. Zak was on a different flight back home but we hung out with him at the airport for a bit and shared some war stories. We also had a good Minneapolis crew on the flight home. We stopped in Chicago and next year I am just going to pay extra for the direct flight. It sucks but it’s so worth it, I was very very jealous of the other people in the Detroit airport going straight to Minneapolis.
My first two visits to Detroit are very important to me and always will be, but I feel like they were just getting me ready for this year. The music was better, I had better relationships with the people I was there with, and while there were plenty of great memories from the first two, this weekend was literally chock full of them, from the very start with me almost witnessing a no-hitter right through to the klockworks party and hanging out with Zak and Steve at the airport. And as good as it was, I feel like it still gets better, and so I am looking very forward to next year, hope to see you there!