Electro Anthropology 101

Your techno-typology

The tribes drawn to Detroit's annual orgy of electronica — those looking to get lost in a hypnotic overdose of BPMs travel to the Motor City from as far away as, say, rural Iowa, Montreal, the Netherlands, Japan and ... oh, who knows? ... Frenchlick, Ind. And Flint and Kalamazoo and Chicago (house kids) and WMU (hippie-wannabes with bubblers) and Lake Michigan (a couple of meth-heads) and ... and ... they all merge with an amped-up cross-section of Detroit's hip-hop and electronic music producers and DJs, promoters, club kids, ravers and average schmoes come out to remind the world why Detroit is still ground zero for this scene.

But to help discern who's who, we offer this preliminary anthropological survey.

Old-School Detroit Techno/Rave Set

PROFILE: They're those folks lingering backstage, sometimes wandering on stage to whisper something into a DJ's ear, or mix one cut, or just take some pics of the crowd from the front of the stage. Laminated things hang around their necks. They might seem in deep thought to the passer-by, but that's just how their face rests now. Unless you catch 'em on Day 1, they're generally worn-out from having just traveled from somewhere. Seemingly sober — at least during the day.

HAILING FROM: Detroit, Mich.

ATTIRE: Simple. Jeans and a black T, sunglasses, clean sneakers or nice leather shoes. If it's cold, a hoodie will suffice.

THERE TO: Work, network, reminisce, party.

DRUG OF CHOICE: If they still party, then a little bit of everything over the course of the weekend.


Kandi Kids

PROFILE: That dazed and confused, harmless Rainbow Brite bunch of kids congregating to bask in all of their glowing glory? That tattoo? Oh, it's supposed to look like that? Kandi ravers, often the central subject of the age-old "How young?" "Too young." exchange.

HAILING FROM: Southern Ohio, Port Huron, Pinckney, Downriver, most places where you can find a Wal-Mart, a Bass Pro Shop and an overgrown field. Often born where agriculture meets industry, like out by the airport ...

ATTIRE: Visors, baggy-ass mid-'90s pants, wife-beaters, bracelets, backpacks, pigtails, marker, neon, black eyes.

THERE TO: Take drugs, glow-stick-dance, shimmy, massage, chew on shit, dehydrate and contract something.

DRUG OF CHOICE: Ecstasy, pot, Marlboro Golds.


Goth Ravers

PROFILE: Sure, they look depressed ... till the X kicks in! There's nothing quite like seeing a cutter from the sticks with neon-green dreads and more chains on their pants than a Gitmo detainee get a groove on while chowing down on baby bro's pacifier.

HAILING FROM: Blue-collar basements and Spencer Gifts' blacklight poster sections.

ATTIRE: Everything black. Black eyeliner, studded black leather bracelets and black nail polish.

THERE TO: Provide punch lines, frown, instigate with passers-by, complain about all the electronic music.

DRUG OF CHOICE: Cough syrup, downtown brown, Five O'Clock vodka and Kool-Aid.


Hippie/Rasta Raver

PROFILE: Nothin' beats white-boy dreads. Know why? They have the best buds and attract generally hot chicks. Watch out for the girls in olive-green tank tops 'cause they might be juggling glass orbs, like Bowie in Labyrinth. Girls generally dressed like the guys but tie their tie-dyed T-shirts just above the piercing in their belly button.

HAILING FROM: College towns — originally from burbs like Rochester Hills, Shelby Township, Bloomfield and Ferndale.

ATTIRE: Dreads with beads and dread nets or baseball caps, dashikis, baggy khakis with Birkenstocks and hemp bracelets.

THERE TO: Get lost (or just look like it), use their iPhones, hacky sack.

DRUG OF CHOICE: 'Shrooms, ganja, morning glory seeds.


Rap Scene

PROFILE: With turntables, mixers and sequencers in abundance, Detroit's rap aficionados come out to scope the scene and talk on wireless headsets ... a lot!

HAILING FROM: East side! West side! Southwest!

ATTIRE: Polo shirts or super-huge white T's and baggy shorts, gold chains and fitted Detroit Tigers baseball caps. Custom kicks and designer jeans. Almost forgot the hipster shades — thanks, Kanye.

THERE TO: Dig beats, network, question what the hell those goth kids are doing chewing on. Pacifiers?

DRUG OF CHOICE: Blunts and Henny.


Backpackers & Break Dancers

PROFILE: Backpackers and break dancers are all about circles. They travel in packs, stopping to talk in semicircles, while circling around Hart Plaza. In the event that circle is closed, more likely than not, someone's gonna start poppin' and lockin' in the center. A mild-mannered crew ... unless you step into the circle.

HAILING FROM: Everywhere.

THERE TO: Dig tunes, get numbers, dance.

ATTIRE: Backpacks, tilted caps, over-the-ear headphones, bandanas tied around wrists, fatigues, jerseys and tightly laced kicks.

DRUG OF CHOICE: Somethin' you could pass around a circle.


Hipster Set

PROFILE: Frequenting the city's trendiest monthly dance parties and can't-miss concerts, the hipsters are just trying to have a good time ... while looking cooler than you.

THERE TO: Take pictures for Facebook.

HAILING FROM: Vice, Pitchfork, latfh.com, Ferndale and Woodbridge

ATTIRE: Pencil jeans, American Apparel short shorts and calf to thigh-high striped socks. Custom kicks and worn Converse. Oversized shades. Dudes in open flannel short sleeves, cut-off jean shorts (ironically cut just below the scrotum) headbands and Aviators.

DRUG OF CHOICE: Whatever they're doing in Berlin ...


Cops, Wanderers & Squares

PROFILE: Uniform cops smile and undercover cops show no emotion, so if you see some dude in ill-fitting jean shorts, a buzz cut and shades that people who own speedboats wear, he's a cop. And thus can get you the best drugs in town. Not to be confused with undercover coppers, those stray, creepy-looking and middle-aged guys wandering about. Maybe they're looking for their daughters, who've run away with some kandi clique, or maybe they just like to see people sweat, but either way they stick out like a sore on a hot chick's lip. Some have mullets, others have fanny packs, but none look like they're ready to let loose to a Derrick May set.

HAILING FROM: Air-conditioned living rooms and golf-themed cubicles

THERE TO: Still trying to figure this one out.

ATTIRE: See your dad.

DRUG OF CHOICE: Twelve hours away from the wife?

Travis R. Wright is arts and culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

Scroll to read more Local Music articles
Join the Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.