Paxahau and its Detroit-Berlin dream team brought the underground back to life Labor Day weekend with two parties. And thats as difficult to imagine as the parties are to actually execute: a BBQ Saturday at the Maltese-American Benevolent Society featured Chilean-Swiss super-producer/DJ Luciano, Clark Warner and Mike Clark; a huge event the next night at the Masonic Temple saw Richie Hawtin, Monolake and the tireless Luciano trip 1,000 dancers, throwing bass vibrations and crunchy synth lines through the blue, red and green strips of light that pierced the darkness of the gorgeous Fountain Ballroom. The sound provided by the massive Funktion One system approached, dare we say, a holy state. Outside, the entire corner of Second and Temple shook and hummed, while inside the sound was dispersed so deftly that hints of ear pain were rare. When it was finally unplugged at the Masonic, the hardcore some of whom came with Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and Ontario license plates danced until it was Monday afternoon, when speckles of September sunshine found the remaining members of Hawtins tribe at an after-party at the nearby 2500 Club.
This is the kind of inspired lunacy that a hungry global dance scene needs to remain vital, to push the limits of sound higher and deeper. Hawtin, 35, fits perfectly into the role as ambassador of such weird and purely sonic environments. He attacks you and the night until each one disappears. At its best it becomes total confusion punctuated with moments of absolute clarity. It sounds illicit and druggy, but it isnt necessarily so. Its a participation sport akin to a marathon, with water and stamina critical to sustaining hours and hours of the bass, bombast and bliss that are part of the Hawtin live experience.
Club highlights of late summer were scant leading up to the holiday weekend. One of the most unique was Free, a night of modern dance, digital video and disco at Oslo, featuring Mare Costello, Jan D. and Chris McNamara of audio-visual experimentalists Thinkbox. Detroit Luvs Bandwidth at the Works was fierce and sweaty, courtesy of Spectral Sounds big-system tag team, Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliott. Dear performed in his maximal acid/minimal trance guise as Audion, and makes a return appearance with Berliner Ellen Allien on Sept. 28 at Oslo (1456 Woodward, Detroit; 313-963-0300). A night that may express this story best comes from one Thursday in early August at Detroits Half Past 3, where 1980s dance princes Bruce Bailey and Earl McKinney played elegant house and jazzy disco to a near-empty room. Attendance was also slim for the launch of Play at the Majestic Theatre. That it went off on a Wednesday didnt help bring in bodies for a lineup that likely made old skool techno heads around the world salivate: Blake Baxter, Anthony Shake Shakir and Eddie Flashin Fowlkes deserve much more local support than the 60 or 70 faithful who shuffled wearily in and out of the theater. Catch up to Fowlkes at the Hub (1344 Broadway, Detroit; 313-961-2000) for his weekly Deep Groove Fridays.
With cooler weather comes the promise of more heat. Expect flames to rise from a live performance by Steve Barnes, who began carving out a dry, minimalist musical identity in the late 90s as Process. He comes to Detroit reborn as Cosmic Sandwich, with a string of trippy European club hits that blend elements of techno, house, electro, Italian disco and trance (yes, kids, trance) into a bigger, fresher new sound: lets call it bubblegum acid-pop. Barnes, who calls the U.K. home, has recorded with some of Colognes best producers, including Traum/Trapez/My Best Friend label boss Riley Reinhold. Cosmic Sandwich appears this Friday, Sept. 16, at Corktown Tavern (1716 Michigan, Detroit; 313-964-5103) with Lee Curtiss, Shaun Reeves and Luke Hess, and Retale of up-and-coming Detroit-San Diego production crew, Baretta Grey.
Sept. 24: Isolee and Thomas Fehlmann at Alvins. 5756 Cass, Detroit; http://www.paxahau.com.
Sept. 24: T. Raumschmiere and Ectomorph, with Dethlab, at the Magic Stick. 4120 Woodward, Detroit; 313-833-9700.The Subterraneans is a column devoted to Detroit dance and club culture. Send comments to [email protected].