Well here we go again. Another year in Detroit that leaves me fully satisfied and inspired like nothing else can. I knew this year would be a special and unique one for me. The initial line up announcements were great and my girlfriend would be coming with me, which I was both very excited and a little bit nervous about. I will explain later! If you want to read my D-cap from last year, which was my favorite year at the festival in the first 3 years, here it is. There are links there for the 2012 and 2011 editions, but I won’t post them here because let’s face it, I am lazy and so are you.
As I said, I was very excited to be going with my girlfriend Jennifer, and I was excited that it was her first time so I could show her. I was also nervous because I am a friggin crazy person and I like to have it all and then even some more while she likes to have some relaxation time and even at shows in Minneapolis doesn’t like staying on the floor that long. There were definitely some problems when we were there. Times when we were both pretty pissed off at the other one, and reasonably so. But we were both there for each other when we absolutely had to be, and I had a really great time experiencing it with her and being there for her first time. We both understand that it will be like this if we both go again, and we’ll deal with it as best we can! I can definitely credit her for pushing me to do something unique this trip that I may not have done otherwise, and there was a point at the festival, at around 9 or 9:30 Monday that I may have totally lost it if not for her. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it! So with that said, here’s the weekend in chronological order:
We got in Friday afternoon, earlier than advertised. We had been warned and warned and warned by people to not take Spirit Airlines, but not only did we not have any problem, we got there EARLY! We were delayed taking off just a little bit, and they say it takes almost 2 hours to fly there, so that’s why we got there early, but it was worth the price. I paid about $140 more after checking bags on Delta last year, and that stopped in Chicago. We get in to the hotel and we were asking if we could get on the 9th floor, the lady checking us overheard Mike Spillers say they were in 922, so they put us in the room right next to them, and we had some friends in 920 and just a bit down the hall the other way. It was pretty great. I am serious when I say I’m about ready to put in a reservation to stay there next year. People keep talking loft and that sounds nice, but I don’t wanna deal with all that. If you get a loft, you’ll get a lot of visitors who overstay their welcome. On Priceline we got the room for $760 for 4 nights, that’s a gad dang steal!
When we got in, we heard that Roger, who stayed with me last year, booked a last minute flight and needed some floor space, and luckily we had room. Roger is literally the coolest person I know and is the only person I’ve stayed with more than once in Detroit. He’s a lot of fun to be around and especially beneficial at a music festival, and I told him when we left that if he brings his air mattress with him I always have space for him somewhere! I met up with my buddy Max from the Detroit area, as we always do on Friday when I get in. We had dinner at Slows, and if you’ve never been there I recommend you try it! Had an amazing pulled pork sandwich and some local beers. Interesting huh? Wish I took some pics.
Got back to the hotel and people wanted to go to the TV Lounge, which I was not really in to cause we would be going to the Electric Deluxe party later that night, but everyone else was going and I had to get over my attempt at frugality that seems to happen every year. There’s no reason to let money stop ya in Detroit. I’m glad I went because it was pretty fun and I had never been to TV Lounge before. Really good venue, I’ll definitely be back. Unfortunately everyone we were with wanted to go back to the hotel after about an hour and the music was just starting to get pretty good in my opinion. Oh well.
We were at the hotel for a bit then went to the electric deluxe party at the works, which was thankfully not that crowded when we got there. We knew it would be a somewhat early night as we had a tour to be on at 10 the next morning, but it was great to see Zak there for the third year in a row. He’s probably the only person I would brave the back room of the works for at this point, and I was up front from when he went on until we left right around 2:30. I could’ve stayed a liiiiitle longer but not much, and Jen wanted out so we left, but Zak was crushing it, and it seems almost redundant to say stuff like that at this point. It’s always been nice seeing him in a room with people from different cities, and this was no exception. The works is a pretty good venue when its not like three times as full as it should be, and it wasn’t too bad this night, maybe because we left when we did.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to get to Hart Plaza by 10 for the Detroit Techno Tour, led by Andrew “Grimace” Virden (currently of Minneapolis, formerly of Detroit) and Carleton Gholz, which is something that Jen really pushed for and I’m glad we went. She really wanted to do some kind of tour of Detroit and I had heard about this tour but at first I was bristling, because I wanted to make sure I’d have plenty of time at the electric deluxe party the night before and to maybe go to the CLR party Saturday night, but it hit me that I’ve seen all that stuff before and i’ll have plenty of chances to see them again. Anyway, we had an awesome shuttle ride to Hart Plaza and talked Stacey Pullen and the Detroit techno documentary Hi-tech soul, and ended up there a few minutes early. The bus was not there but we met most of the rest of the people on the tour. It turned out that the driver who was supposed to drive the bus just didn’t show up to work that day, and we ended up waiting a little more than an hour for a bus. It was annoying at the time, but while we were waiting Dan Bell came out to the Detroit stage to soundcheck his live set later that night, and that wait actually pretty enjoyable, so I’m gonna call it a wash if not an advantage to the delay side.
The tour eventually started and we got going quickly. The main guide Carleton is a true scholar of Detroit and its various musical movements, he seemed to have something to say about something we were passing pretty much every where we went. He was a realist about the problems facing the city, but also very optimistic, and I left the tour feeling the same way, in fact I am feeling a lot more optimistic about Detroit’s future than ever before. There’s going to be some more hardship ahead for Detroit and a lot of tough decisions made. But I see a lot of opportunity and I know I am not the only one. There’s a lot to be proud of, and a lot worth fighting for. Detroit’s not going anywhere, I can promise you that!
Anyway, our first stop was at Motown, which was a crowded tourist trap at the time we visited. It was pretty cool to see but we didn’t have time to do more than take a few pictures and move on. Our next few visits were just drive-bys, we saw the bluebird inn, a famous jazz club where all the great jazz musicians of the 30s and 40s played, sadly all that is left is the external frame and at least the sign is up still, which is more than could be said for most of the places we visited on drive-bys. The last two stops on the tour were my favorite, the first at the Underground Resistance techno museum in a totally nondescript building in the middle of the city. Inside they had all kinds of memoribilia and photos from the birth of techno, including a copy of the Techno: The New Sound Of Detroit album that started it all, as well as the original drum machines used by UR, Saunderson, May, Atkins, Fowlkes, and more. There were some people from the Berlin club Tresor on the tour (they told us they would put us on the list if we ever came!) and I was standing right behind one when he saw a picture of UR playing at Tresor in the early 90s, that was pretty cool. In the basement was an awesome record store where I hear you can hear Mike Banks spinning if you go at the right time. I definitely would like to go back some time when I have more time, as the tour started late and we only had about an hour for the last – and best – two stops, it had to be done this way. I will be back next year, I’m sure of that!
After that, we went to United Sound studios, where P-Funk recorded all their hits and a ton of other bands recorded. Granted, I didn’t go to Motown, but I think this one is more up my alley than that one would have been. We paid $5 for an abridged tour, and we got to see all the studios as well as the room where many of P-Funk’s gold/platinum records were hanging. It was pretty surreal to be there, definitely up there with the time I got to go inside Abbey Road studios in London. With that, the tour was over, and it was something I was so, so glad I did. I didn’t feel like I did anything differently other than leaving the EDLX party a little early. I’d heavily consider going again next year even if it’s pretty much the same exact itinerary, it was that good.
Went back to the hotel for a bit to recharge and then we headed down to the festival, got there around 5:45 to catch the end of Anthony Shakir’s set at the Detroit stage. Then went down to the underground for a while to catch some of Brian Sanhaji’s live set, which I was really digging. Jen really did not like it down in the underground, so we ended up going back up to Detroit and then back down several times, which was ok with me. Caught pieces of DJ Minx and Black Asteroid doing this, and also some of Simian Mobile Disco when Jen wanted to see all the stages. I was at a festival in London in 2007 that Daft Punk headlined, with LCD Soundystem opening. LCD played at the same time as Simian Mobile Disco, who I was just getting in to. I decided to watch LCD but then I saw LCD twice more in the next few months, and I’ve been trying to see SMD since then but never been close. We watched about 20 minutes of their set and it was the only time I spent at the beatport stage all weekend. Beautiful sights over there, some sets I definitely wanted to see, but it was all about the Detroit stage this year.
Every year I’ve spent more and more time at the Detroit stage, and I’ve had so many great experiences over there, Daniel Bell last year being the most memorable. Well DBX this year did not let down, definitely a new notch on the memory journal. He did some remixes of a bunch of his songs, which included some hilarious live pitched-down vocals. I’ve been thinking about doing live sets for some time, and this pretty much confirmed to me that I need some kind of mic with effects. Now I just have to actually do it….so we’ll see. It wasn’t quite the 15 person Minneapolis dance floor beat down we did last year, but it was tons of fun, all kinds of Minneapolis people up there in the mix. After DBX finished we went down to the main stage to check out some of the UR live band, Timeline. It was very good and a unique sound for the festival for sure, but I needed something a little harder, so we went back up to the Detroit stage and watched Stacey Pullen close it out, and that was a very good decision. I think that may be the first time I’ve seen him, and I’ve been sleeping on him. Definitely going to be seeking him out next year!
We had decided we were going to go to an afterparty, and got tickets to the CLR party while we were at the festival. This turned out to be a terrible idea. We got there around 1:10, and the line was extremely long and they weren’t letting many people in. By the time we got in at 2, it was ridiculously crowded and packed. I’m really pissed I fell for it and paid $35 a ticket. Jen is claustrophobic and couldn’t handle it, I am not claustrophobic but it was even too much for me. We left and got in a cab to go to another party cause we are dummies and didn’t realize it was right around the corner. The cabbies never start their meter so you have to ask how much a ride will be. This guy said $10. After we took off we got a call from some friends who were doing the same thing and they said DON’T GET IN THE CAB!. Too late. I gave the guy $5 anyway, my standard cab tip in Detroit. The next party was also super packed so we just went back to the hotel.
I think I may be done with afterparties from here on out. We left the Sunday night one pretty early too. I will go see some detroit people or to some bigger venues, but I’m done with all the overcrowded, hot, sweaty messes. That said, I’ll still go to Old Miami because that’s not to be missed, and it’s only $10! I did like the TV Lounge so I will go to parties there, other than that, I’m going to have to really, really, really wanna go before I buy a presale ticket. I’m sure I will end up at some but like I said, I’ve come to the realization that I will be able to see pretty much anyone if I wait a year or two, the real rarities are at the festival anyway.
We were hanging in the room next door and I went to sleep, and when I woke up at 9:30, Jen was not back in the room which was odd but I figured she had just passed out next door. It turned out that she had dropped her key card in here and slept on the floor over there. Whoops! Not a hot start on the day. I didn’t want to knock on the door over there and wake people up so I didn’t. Instead I rode around the people mover by myself and then went to lunch at Le Petit Zinc, which turned out to be a disaster. I know the service is terrible, but it’s a really nice spot and the food is great. I have had my last meal there, though. I went to eat with Jacob Hoffman and Andy Fargo who were staying at a hotel over there, and Andy noticed that they gave our food to the wrong table, and then brought their food out to us. When I told the waitress that I had the wrong crepe she said “yeah that didn’t seem right to me”. Well thanks for putting it on the table! It was actually pretty funny, Katie, Stephanie, and Aya joined us about 45 minutes after we ordered, and they got their food BEFORE WE DID! By the time ours was ready, Jen had been up and upset at me for going so far away, and I can’t really blame her, so I got mine in a box and walked back to the hotel. So yeah, never again, I say!
We went to the festival around 5:30 again, we walked past the Detroit stage but it sounded real funky so we went back. Turned out to be a full live band, not so much on the electronic music side but I wasn’t about to complain! Good stuff. After that was Kevin Reynolds, who turned out to be a highlight of day 2. Every year at the Detroit stage I find something I didn’t know about before that I really loved, last year it was Dan Bell and Ryan Elliot, this year it was Reynolds. He played a really funky/groovy (I hate using the word) live set with a live trumpet player. Jen liked sitting on the grass near the big ring and I danced by the front corner. It was a pretty good arrangement. We caught up with Andy Fargo and followed him down to the main stage to catch some of Marco Carola’s set, which was pretty awesome for a main stage set, and this wound up being the final time we would spend any amount of time at the main stage. About an hour total between the live band the night before and Marco. We checked out a bit of Speedy J and Lucy’s set but I was really not into it, so we went back up to the Detroit stage.
It was easy to stay up there because there was this crew of break dancers that were my favorite Detroit people all weekend, easily. This one guy in particular had a hat and shirt that said crew leader professor bird. We first noticed him because there was a little girl breakdancing in the circle and he was copying all of her moves and it was just about the cutest thing ever. Then he ran the circle, as people came in, some of whom were pretty good, he was constantly mocking them and sassing them back. At one point a young white girl got in the circle and he came in and snatched her phone out of her back pocket and started pretending to talk on it. We watched these guys for probably a total of two hours throughout the day, and at some point Jen just walked away and I chased her and asked her why she left, she said because we would end up staying there all day if we didn’t leave, and she was right. Even after we left I found myself continuing to peek over there and talk about them. Eventually they left. PHEW!
So yeah honestly spent pretty much the whole day not including Carolla and a few trips wandering around the festival at the Detroit stage to this point, and I was more than alright with that! Delano Smith was up next and he was someone I was really looking forward to. It started out very laid back, almost a bit too much laid back, but I went to the bathroom and by the time I came back he was dropping some pretty banging techno, which I was not expecting out of him, but it was great nonetheless. Definitely one of the best sets of the weekend. Caught some of Mike Huckaby which made me wish we had just gone to his afterparty the night before, and then went down to see Robert Hood, who was one of the two acts I really wanted to see at the festival. Personally I loved the set but I know a lot of people did not. There were some odd choices but most of it was great driving techno that really got me moving. At the end, a mysterious female DJ came out to help him end the set, and I found out later that night that it was his 11 year old daughter. Again, lots of people who didn’t like the music, but to me there is more to it than the music, and I liked it even more when I found out that’s who it was up there.
We went to one of the original coney island places after the festival, and it was not very good. It was better than the other coney dogs I’d had, but thanks I’ll pass! We eventually moseyed down to the droid/blank code party, which I’ve been to 3 years in a row now. They put on a great party every year, I’ll give em that, but yeah like I said I’m pretty much done at the Works. Of course I’ll probably end up there at least once next year but christ. It’s packed everywhere you go. You can’t find a place where you aren’t in someone’s way, and the back room is hot as shit. We were there for an hour or so before Jen couldn’t take it anymore, and I was pretty much ready to go anyway. We went back to the hotel and just chilled outside for a while, then went to bed. Well, Jen did, I could not sleep. I was getting real antsy about going to Old Miami.
We rounded some troops up, and it seemed like it was a better idea to wake Jen up to go rather than leave her at the hotel sleeping. And it was a good thing we did, because there was a HUGE line when we got there. Luckily some of our friends spotted us walking in and grabbed us to come up front so we only waited 10 minutes. We were shooting the shit with security, having some good laughs. Best line experience all weekend, although it would be much different if I had to actually wait. They were patting people down HARD this year. Seth Troxler was out in the front getting people in and shooting the shit with everyone up front, my opinion of that guy rose a lot this year. I was mostly indifferent before but I am a fan after this weekend for sure! His party rules, that’s for sure! Took me a few years to learn, but once I went the first time I knew I had to go every time, but I’m afraid the secret may have gotten out too far. Last year I got in at 10 and I walked right in, this year there was a huge line the whole time, because of the extra security I suppose. There are a lot of people just standing around who look cool but that’s about all they seem to have going for them. But still, it’s an awesome party and I love the general vibe. It’s some very good people watching, that’s for sure.
When we got in a cab in front of the hotel, we were about to take off and this guy runs up and says “Old Miami?” He got in and shared the ride with us. We had a glass of champagne and gave him some. Only at that time of the day on that day could you get in a cab with someone and know where they are going. I saw the guy several times later in the day and we’re all like “HEY!” Incidentally this cab driver was the only cab driver who turned on his meter (well the only one with a legit meter at least) the whole time. That happened on my way to old miami last year too. Both times I gave a $15 tip cause they deserve it! Anyway, we got in a bit before 8, and left a little after 11. I got plenty of time in, it was starting to get hot out, it was getting more and more crowded, and Jen was at the end of her rope. So we went back to the hotel to chill before the final push.
We made it down to the festival around 6:30 on Monday, a bit later than I was hoping. We were in pretty rough shape from the past 24 hours or so, so it took us a while to gather up the strength to go to the underground stage for Dustin Zahn. I was bummed that I missed any of his set, but I really wasn’t ready. What I heard was great, and I heard people from other cities saying it was one of their favorite sets, so I know it wasn’t just hometown bias! Minneapolis was represented so well this year, as always! Not just by the DJs, but by the whole crew that went. I know almost all of them by now and it’s very comforting to be able to walk around anywhere and find a group of Minneapolis people. We look out for each other, and we know how to get DOWN! I mean Zak was on the dance floor most of the weekend with us! Most of the big time DJs were watching from backstage somewhere! I won’t lie, it felt good to brag about our crew to people in other cities!
After Zahn, I had promised Jen we’d finally eat some food, we went to the pretzel stand and boy oh boy am I glad we did. Last year I ate my first food in a while at this same stand and it was one of the best dining experiences of my life. This time we saw these things called pizza rolls, which were pretzel dough filled with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. They weren’t ready, but were told they’d be ready in 5 minutes. They took more like 15 minutes, and then 10 to let them cool down, but holy shit they were good! I’m going to be dreaming of those pepperoni rolls until next year. I really don’t know how I’m gonna make it that long.
After that, back to the Detroit Stage to check out Kevin Saunderson, who had curated the whole day. I thought that was a really good idea and hope he does it again. What I saw, I loved, and I wish I had a bit more energy to go earlier. It was also amazing to see Saunderson at the small stage. I caught a bit of a second wind during Dustin’s set but this is really where I got it. I found a little pocket right up front where I could sneak in from the side, and I was up there dancing while Jen sat. She really wanted me to be with her but I couldn’t end the weekend sitting in the grass, I needed to dance. Around 9:15 I texted my friend Nick, who lived in Minneapolis but moved to Chicago, to see if he was coming because he is friends with Dantiez Saunderson, Kevin’s son. He said he was not because his dad is in poor health and that he’s not sure he’d be around next year. I had already been starting to get sad that the festival was ending, with a few tears coming while I was dancing, but I just started to lose it when I heard this news from Nick. I had to leave the dance floor, I walked over to where Jen was sitting and just starting crying my eyes out. I get sad thinking about it now even still, I knew I would be ok I just really didn’t want it to be over and I was feeling for Nick. She put my head in her lap and just let me get it all out and comforted me and encouraged me to get back up. And I did, but I would not have been able to rebound without her comforting me and making me feel better.
This always happens to me, I always get really sad that the festival is ending and then I get a serious second wind and close out the festival how I’m supposed to, dancing around like it’s my first day there! It happened with Claude Young in 2011, Jeff Mills in 2012, DVS1 in 2013, and it was while Kevin was playing b2b with Seth Troxler, which was definitely a highlight of the weekend. Like I said, my opinion of Troxler rose quite a bit this year and this set was a big part of it. It was really nice to see the old school and new school playing together.
After that, we met up with one of Jen’s friends, who used to live in Columbus and was hanging with her friends from there. I really wanted to see Jeff Mills to finish it out again, and luckily Jen’s friends did too and they helped convince her come down with us. It must have been because it was pouring rain last year, but the underground stage was about 3 times more crowded for Zak’s set there at that time last year, but I didn’t mind! It was easy to get up close and find the Minneapolis crew, as it was very important for me to be around as many of them as I could at the very end of the festival….it’s tradition for me! We caught the last hour of Jeff’s set and it was the perfect send off for an amazing weekend.
We were thinking about maybe going to the TV Lounge but it was sleepytimes once we got back to the hotel. Woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep so I went downstairs and found some Minneapolis people to share some war stories with. When we were ready to go we got in a cab who pulled up outside the hotel. Jen was inside going to the bathroom so we told him we’d have to wait a minute before we’re ready but he still told us to come in. Normally the first thing I do is ask a cabbie what they are charging for a ride when I get in, because most don’t have their meter on. But he had his meter on, which made sense cause we were waiting for Jen, so I didn’t ask. As we went on our ride, it seemed like it was taking longer than it should to get to the airport. We also noticed that his meter was moving very quickly, and what should be a $45-50 ride was going up to 80…90…100. We knew something wasn’t right and had been kinda whispering to each other about what we would do, which was all get out at the same place and get our bags out of the cab before we gave him a dollar. We get there and ask him what he wants us to pay, he says what the meter says. We all start getting out and I had collected $60 between us and told him to open the trunk so we can get our bags out. He was getting a little angry but saw Roger going to talk to someone at the airport, and he said ok give me $50. I waited till all the bags were gone and then gave him $60, I probably should have just waited until an airport dude came over, he would have left and we would have got a free ride. Oh well. We had a drunk cab driver once this trip, also had a drunk one last year, but this was the worst cab experience for sure! Gotta be careful out there, my friends! Thankfully we were going to the airport and not some place in an unsafe neighborhood.
Well there you have it, another great year in the books! I’m not going to try to rank them anymore, but I will just say I feel very satisfied with what I did and wouldn’t have changed very much. It was certainly tough at times with Jennifer, like I said we both pissed each other off more than once. But it was definitely worth it, it was great having her around. We had a talk at the airport on the way back home, I apologized for leaving her on her own several times but also explained that it would always be this way. I need this, and I need to do it surrounded by my friends. The memories we get here will last a life time and then some.
As usual, I have a few people to thank for making this trip so great:
Andrew Virden and Carleton Gholz, our amazing tour guides who really made this a unique trip to Detroit. I am interested in coming back to the D a different weekend and hopefully having Carleton show us around! You can donate to the organization he runs, The Detroit Sound Conservancy which I certainly plan to do, at least after the next pay day (cause hoo boy Detroit!).
Michael Dietl and Naketa Willis, for essentially babysitting a bunch of grown-ass adult babies. They were the glue all weekend long!
The whole Minneapolis techno family, yes this is cheesy, but dang, you all make me so happy to be a part of you! I consider Detroit to be like the Olympics, and we are all over the medal podium.