At press time, rumors have been swirling about the state of Oslo, the downtown Detroit sushi bar and lounge that's hosted the local electronic music community since opening in 2004. Oslo's restaurant portion suddenly closed two weeks ago, and last Saturday's Ghostly International holiday party was moved at the last minute to the Works. The party's organizers had no choice there were padlocks on Oslo's doors. What's really going on and why it happened is still unclear, but sources close to the situation say that Dec. 23 and 24 is likely to be Olso's last weekend of music. Visit www.metrotimes.com/blahg for up-to-the-moment scuttlebutt. -Ed.
In 2002, on the day after Christmas, a group of hungover techno kids secured the basement space in downtown's famed Scottish Hall and began a weekly bacchanal with no proper name. The party with no name became a smash hit. It came four months after the demise of Motor, the Hamtramck super-club that helped introduce Detroit-bred talents like Carl Craig, Kevin Saunderson and Stacey Pullen to younger audiences, and gave early local exposure to European stars like Thomas Brinkmann, Matthew Herbert and Miss Kittin.
The cheekily branded or anti-branded Untitled was just what was needed to fill the gap. It was co-produced by Blackbx headed by Jon Ozias, a former talent buyer at Motor and the emerging Ghostly International label. The lineup at its first event at the Shelter, on Dec. 26, 2002, could headline a festival in Holland or Spain today. Future Untitled residents Matthew Dear (aka Audion), Tadd Mullinix (aka Dabrye, James T Cotton), Mike Servito and Derek Plaslaiko (now a resident at NYC's Bunker) all played that night. Oh, and the special guest was Magda, the former Detroiter (now Berliner) who released one of 2006's funkiest minimal mix CDs, She's a Dancing Machine.
Beginning in early January 2003, the merriment and mayhem went weekly. Ghostly and its dance subsidiary Spectral Sounds rolled out the labels' DJs and invited guests like Canadians Jeremy Caulfield, Jake Fairley, Mathew Jonson and Pan/Tone. Untitled was hot and stayed hot until June 2004, when its creators gave it some badly needed rest.
Ozias says that the franchise is the result of a series of "happy accidents" and has been kept alive by "the friendship of a bunch of us enthused about the same music."
"There was no business plan," he says. "Just people doing something together we love."
This year's Untitled for the Holidays party comes full circle with a return to the Shelter (431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-6923) the day after Christmas. The event features Ryan Elliott, Greg Mudge and Servito in the front room; and Ryan Crosson and Seth Troxler in the back room. Doors 10 p.m. $5.
All in the family
But Untitled isn't the only ongoing holiday party in town. Family, hosted by the Fresh Corporation's Adriel Fantastique (or Thornton, for those who can recall the 1990s), is celebrating its 10th year of bringing danceable cheer to the season. The event began in an east side American Legion hall, then moved to Motor, where it established itself as the Detroit club scene's best-ever Tuesday fest, bar none.
The first Family night featured Rob Hood (then affiliated with Underground Resistance), Craig's Paperclip People, Plaslaiko and others. At Motor, resident DJs were Brian Gillespie, Jason Kendig, Dilemma and Jeremy Christian. Techno, house, drum 'n' bass, hip hop it didn't matter. If you could dance to it, you likely heard it at Family.
Music at the 10-year anniversary bash comes courtesy of Gillespie, Kendig and Plaslaiko; Patrick Russell, Carlos Souffront, Matthew Boynton and Dat and Jay Langa also appear. Dec. 22 at the Works, 1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-1742. Doors at 10 p.m. $10.
That same night, expect deep bass pressure and introspective beats from Houseshoes and Slum Village's DJ Dez at Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 10 p.m. (Call 313-963-0300 for cover info.) The following night (Dec. 23), Oslo hosts Coitus Interruptus residents Nathan Rapport and Servito, who present the holiday edition of Sass, their monthly gaywave dance party. (Servito, of course, is also a regular part of the Dorkwave crew, which also includes Ozias and others.) Sass starts at 10 p.m.; cover's $5. Oslo will keep the below-decks yuletide frolic going when Dethlab unleashes its ninth edition of Sex & Sedition on Friday, Dec. 29 (10 p.m., $5). Dethlab residents Mike Doyle and Bethany Shorb (aka Toybreaker) welcome New York's Ryan Brogan to their holiday bloodletting. (Oslo's schedule remained unconfirmed at press time.) Also upcoming is a night of entertainment from Urban GrooveHouse with Delano Smith and Bruce Bailey, with special guests Aaron Carl and DJ Taz, at the Rhino (1407 Randolph St., Detroit; 9 p.m.).
On New Year's Eve, you have the option of getting fucked up by drum 'n' bass in Ann Arbor, funked up with minimal house and techno in Corktown, or freaked out on a historic night with five of Detroit's electronic dance scene's top Midtowners.
Hydro DnB says hello to 2007 by presenting Infiltrata, Gremlinz, Teddy MC, Ronin Selecta, Fatcal, Exodus and Nimbus at the Necto, 516 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor; 734-994-5835. 9 p.m. ($20 presale by going to wantickets.com.)
Say goodbye to 2006 at an upstairs-downstairs program at Fi-Nite Gallery. DJs include Paxahau's John Johr and Rich Korach, Eric Cloutier, Big Joe Hix, Tyler Durden and more than a half dozen others. At 1370 Plum St., Detroit; 313-662-5787. 10 p.m. $10.
The most intriguing New Year's Eve program should appeal to kids of all ages and tastes. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is giving up the floor at the Max M. Fisher Music Center to present the Detroit Legends of Electronic Music. Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig all of whom, you'll recall, have helped shape electronic music around the world for decades headline the night.
Saunderson is fresh off his Elevator World Tour, where he's combined digital video with classic tracks to give younger fans a dance-friendly, visual history of Detroit Techno. "What I want to show is how timeless our music is," Saunderson said, speaking recently at a press conference inside the maestro's office at the DSO. He explained that he's also preparing an anthology of his own material, including E-Dancer and Inner City tracks, for an upcoming remix project. Turning to Craig sitting on a chair to his right, Saunderson added, "but this is the cat who's killing it right here ... he's on fire."
Craig is indeed scorching these days. In 2006, he released an acclaimed mix CD for the UK's Fabric series, completed a Kings of Techno double CD with his friend, Parisian Laurent Garnier, remixed Rhythm & Sound's "Poor People Must Work" and performed at Belgium's I Love Techno festival before a crowd of 10,000 people.
Among Craig's next projects is a collaboration with Detroit's Tribe Records crew, including Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison and others who recorded for the famed space-jazz label in the 1970s.
How does Craig balance all this? "There's no formula, no blueprint," he says. "I start working on the road and finish up at home. The idea behind techno is that it's futuristic music ... you always need to reinvent yourself. But you always have to steal some time for work."
See the past and future come together at the Max M. Fisher Music Box on Dec. 31. Joining Saunderson, Craig and May in the DSO's adjoining Allesee Hall are equally stellar househeads Theo Parrish and Al Ester, an underappreciated protégé of the late Ken Collier who was also inspired by the late Larry Levan of New York's Paradise Garage. 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Until Dec. 25; general admission is $55 and VIP tickets are $100. After Dec. 25, tickets are $75 and $150. Call the DSO box office at 313-576-5111 or go to detroitsymphony.com.
The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to [email protected]