One nation grooves

Mar 30, 2001 at 12:00 am

On Saturday it was geist over weather. Sunday, at DEMF 2001, it was raw talent, filled with legendary figures, young electronic-lions, and expert mixing, that kept the festival demons in check.

In the legendary corner, the early-afternoon showing of Keith Tucker's Optic Nerve electro-covers extravaganza, with P-Funk All-Stars, Members of the House, A Number of Names and men wearing diapers (for "One Nation Under a Groove," of course), featured significant technical delays and false starts. Frustration, even for the energetic and uplifting Optic-crew, seemed to spill over after a final blown computer soundcard. Keith Tucker himself, behind a top hat and keyboard, nebulously cried out, "Sabotage." But the show continued and techno-originators A Number of Names played its 1981 classic, "Sharevari." Tucker said it best: "'81 always beats '83."

Despite this, the obnoxious unseasonable weather, and Pop Culture Media's ever evolving schedule, talent and taste (specifically Carl Craig's) saved the day. DEMF's bread and butter stage (aka CPOP) continued to produce the most consistent sets, including moments of tribal genius by noon kick-off DJ Michael Geiger and, later, quality rhythm knowledge from Detroit-house veteran Alton Miller. Despite the mud on the crowd's dancing shoes, there were, as the classic track goes, "stars in their eyes."

Deft performances also seemed to creep out of the cold, dark reaches of the plaza with Columbus' Todd Sines filling up the Underground stage in the mid-afternoon. The 7th City-affiliated Sines created a driving set of minimal-beat pyrotechnics, wowing the Detroit-electro-intelligentsia (Adult., Ectomorph, Maersk, Ibex, Brian Gillespie just to name a few), coupling volume with technology in a stirring hourlong set.

The lineup's ability to answer the day's stone-cold demeanor and scheduling musical chairs seemed inevitable, with crowd favorites John Acquaviva and De La Soul taking charge of the Main Stage. De La Soul, sensing the crowd's weather-resilience, played across their catalog with humor and fire. Later, cutting-edge national hip-hop from Kid Koala and Mixmaster Mike, as well as the visceral spoken-word power of Saul Williams, continued the Main Stage-crowd domination.

But as has become the custom here, when the festival seems a bit too top-heavy, the heads find and honor the music's true innovators. So when the Main Stage crowd seemed to swell in the afternoon the hardcore found local-hip-hop powerhouse Binary Star (Motor Stage) and in the evening M.S.-stricken Anthony Shakir (Underground) in the middle of a unreal jams. The black/ white Binary Star, with pot-holders and microphones in their hands, paralleling Shake's later display of techno-futurism, played punks to the Main Stage's posterings, summing up the festival with a demanded call-and-response: "The place is here, the time is now!"


E-mail Carleton S. Gholz at [email protected]