Jan 6, 1999 at 12:00 am


Detroit proved it could party grown-up style Christmas night when Kevin Saunderson hosted his "Evolution" party at St. Andrew’s Hall highlighted by the world debut of Juan Atkins’ electro group Model 500. Well-organized but not quite well-attended, the party drew a crowd split between young white rave kids and techno producers, as if to point out and ultimately bridge the disparity between techno’s fans and its makers. Members of the older school techno elite like Alan Oldham, aka DJ T-1000, mingled with the likes of the usually-covert Underground Resistance’s Rolando and Mark Floyd, rave kids ponied up $35 a head to hear deejay sets by, among others, Kevin Saunderson and Eddie Fowlkes. While some observers noted "Evolution’"s three separate rooms of programming seemed to compete with one another &emdash; DJ Godfather’s jungle-heavy set in the Shelter was to a handful of people while a crowd lingered in St. Andrew’s Hall’s main room waiting for Model 500 &emdash; the real party seemed to be upstairs in the ambient room, where Richie "Plastikman" Hawtin took a break from a long year of aggressively marketing his new Minus label to check out sidekick Clark Warner’s set of ozone-friendly tunes. As for the Model 500 debut itself, it represented everything great and terrible about Detroit techno: A strong start and a disappointing finish. A mere three songs long, Model 500's set was indeed all-the-way live, thanks in no small part to Aux 88 founder and current Puzzlebox records electro eccentric Keith Tucker, who manned a vintage Juno 106 synthesizer to make decade-old tracks such as "Technicolor" and "No UFOs" come alive. But in the process, Atkins’ presence seemed extraneous. While his three sidemen toiled stoically like some blue collar version of Kraftwerk, Atkins strolled around center stage with a guitar-strap synthesizer looking more like a roadie looking for the instrument’s rightful owner than a frontman. After a promising opening with "Technicolor" and some too-long "how-you-all-doing Detroit?" banter from Atkins, he put his headset mike to the test with "No UFOs," which was played with flashing video screens and films projected over the band. While it’s understandably tough to play music that’s based on countless sequences live, Atkins and company did little extended jamming. Instead, after just two songs, Atkins retreated to a self-congratulatory deejay set of his own records from his various Infinit and Model 500 aliases, including "No UFOs" again, before the band took the stage for one last song which sounded like Atkins pre-Model 500 band Cybotron’s "Clear." By the time Carl Craig took to the decks, demanding the St. Andrew’s audience give it up for the history making Atkins, response was understandably underwhelming; three songs and a greatest hits deejay set just doesn’t sound like history being made, but more like a reference to history. For Craig’s part, he dug deep into his Electrifyin’ Mojo-inspired record crate to open with the B-52's "Mesopotamia," much to the delight of the handful of older partygoers if to the bewilderment of the younger rave kids, a phenomenon that pretty much summed up "Evolution’"s real impact: ambitious, (self-)important and historic to the few who could appreciate it, and to the rest of the scene, just another okay party.



Congratulations to self-ascribed superstar scenester Adriel Thornton on the continued success of his Tuesday night, ambisexual, deep house throwdown "Family," which celebrated its two-year anniversary Dec. 28, drawing more than 400 well-wishers and scenester types, and consequently leaving Brooklyn hard house phenom Frankie Bones sucking air down at the Shelter, where his last minute gig only managed to draw 100 dancin’ fools, despite an opening set of goodtime hip-hop from DJ Hannah of Planet E records.



It was a rocky year for Ann Arbor beat-friendly modern rock band Getaway Cruiser. After proving one sold-out hometown show after another that their hybrid of sampled beats and alt-rock guitar riffs could marry indie rock and BPM culture, the band waffled on its highly-anticipated debut record for Sony 550 which featured, among other promising delights, Afrika Bambatta samples and guest raps by the Fugees’ Pras and Dr. Octagon himself, Kool Keith, but ultimately sounded more like 10,000 Maniacs with a drum machine than a midwestern Massive Attack. Singer Dina Harrison was a big part of the problem, and so now is gone. The remaining quartet, led by the Peters’ brothers will continue with younger bro Drew on vocals while the elder Chris joins the ranks of Charm Farm and Warren Defever to compromise integrity and "work" with strippers-with-guitars act Stungun, Detroit rock’s best-looking and least-impressive sounding girl band hype machine since Hot Footin’ Puddin’ Pie. No wonder all the kids today go to raves.