At its best, Detroit dance music simplifies and purifies as it, at the same time, blazes new trails in pop culture history. We can take it all the way back to the '30s, '40s and '50s, when big band jazz, swing and jump blues bands ruled clubs in the city's long-gone Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods. Motown then filled dance floors around the world with the tracks of our tears in the '60s and early '70s. Then it got stranger. Try this on for size: a mutant blend of punk, disco (from this country), electronically processed beats (from the UK and Germany) was recombined with local strains of raw black power from the Parliament-Funkadelic camp to forge newer, much sicker inspirations. Add seasoning and sweat from House DJ pioneer Frankie Knuckles and Chicago's famed Warehouse Club and ... voilà! Detroit Techno was born! And it's been building, crashing and rebuilding its crazy sonic platform from about 1981 to the ever-growing, pulsating now, man.
How simple and pure is the music? So simple that you can drag a P.A. onto the street, turn it on and get dancers corkscrewing and shuffling to 140 BPMs in no time. And so pure, in fact, that you'll see mothers hopping around with their babies to the 4/4 beats. And yet it's all still strange and getting stranger, you say? Oh, yes. All of that should be apparent at the Urban Electronic Stage during this Saturday's (Sept. 8) Dally in the Alley ... although the dance stage is actually located on Second Avenue, appropriately situated at the outer limits of the festival.
Mike Woo, one of the organizers of the stage, says he's been putting talent together since Memorial Day weekend's Movement Festival. The diligence shows. This Saturday's lineup packs a punch from noon to midnight, about the time headliner Gary Martin is expected to finish his two-hour set. Highlights abound in between. Come early (1 p.m.) for Frank Raines & Brad Hales, the DJ duo behind the original Funk Night that began at the old detroit contemporary, continued on in the same building when it became the permanent home of the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID) and now rolls on soulfully on the last Friday of every month at the Bohemian National Home. Also appearing Saturday afternoon: MC and soul-jazz producer Dial81 (1:45); Szymanski (2:45), the Detroiter whose LP on Omoa, Ghost Notes and Jazz Standards, was one of 2006's most underappreciated releases; and Mike Huckaby, who's been spinning tech-house way before journalists like us invented the term. Huckaby is scheduled for a 5:45 p.m. DJ set.
The evening lineup includes a live performance by Justin Ivey, who under the Adjust moniker has been busting up hard electro beats and putting them back together again as breakcore on the local Low Res label since the late 1990s; DJs supplied by Family impresario Adriel Fantastique; and Detroit veterans K-Hand (that's Kelli Hand, to her friends in Detroit and at Berlin's Tresor) and Martin, who combined have more techno and house experience than all the freshmen enrolling at WSU this fall. The Dally in the Alley is a free event. For more info go to www.dallyinthealley.com/index.html
That's not all, folks!
But a festival in Detroit without an afterparty yikes! make that the plural four afterparties can't be really be a festival, can it?
Can't get enough Huckaby? Then head for some more enlightenment upstairs at the Corktown Tavern (1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit), where his frequent DJ partner, Michael Geiger, joins him. Geoff Johnson and Jeff Comer spin downstairs. Cover is $5 before midnight; $10 after that.
Around the corner from Corktown Tavern and on the other side of the old Tiger Stadium, you'll find the combo Ghostly International/CPM party, "Love on the Rocks," at Finite Gallery (1370 Plum St., Detroit). It's another upstairs/downstairs affair and features Ghostly's Tadd Mullinix (the man with some of the best "akas" in the biz including Dabrye, James T. Cotton and SK-1); Todd Osborn (whose new "Outta Sight" 12-inch, released under his cheeky Osborne tag, ha-ha, is blowing up in Europe); and label founder Sam Valenti IV (DJing as SV4). Also performing: Danner, E-Spleece, John Johr and Vacuum. Admission is $10.
Up the street in Woodbridge, Woo (in his DJ guise as Milieu) joins Colin Zyskowski and Andy Toth all associated with Detroit's Peoplemover productions along with Kevin Reynolds (Todhchai) and Israel Vines at the Harris Mansion (1419 Alexandrine St. at Trumbull). Cover is $5.
Also in Woodbridge the same night, um, morning is Fusion III, an audio-visual event put on semiregularly by the Detroit Paranormal Society. The show features live action from Toronto's Careless Memory and Teste, Woody McBride (performing as DJ ESP) from Minneapolis, and Detroit's SCAN 7 and Ultradyne. DJ support will be provided by the Suburban Knight (aka James Pennington/Submerge Recordings), T Linder (Detroit Techno Militia), DJ Seoul, DJ Psycho and others. Kero also spins and provides visuals along with Disassembly. At CAID, 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd, Detroit. Cover is $15 before midnight; $20 after that.
So, Dally weekend is over and you still want to get physical? No worries! Your family Fantastique's Fresh Corps monthly party called Family, that is is there to keep the good times coming.
On Sept. 14, the suddenly ubiquitous Huckaby appears as the featured guest DJ along with Family residents Carlos Souffront, Patrick Russell, Brian Gillespie and Jay Langa. At the Works, 1846 Michigan Ave., Detroit. Cover is $7 until midnight; $10 after that.
The next night, Sept. 15, Detroit-based Hej Records and Volatl TM present Spain's Alex Under (who produced one scorching club smash after another in 2005 and 2006 for Cologne's Trapez), Madrid's Apnea, and Windsor ex-pat Richie Hawtin's Plus 8 LTD imprints. If you like saucy basslines running beneath sexy synthlines in your techno stew, then you'll eat up Under's music. Also performing: Punisher (Detroit's Michelle Hermann), Norm Talley (Detroit's Beatdown Sounds), Docile Recording's Andy Garcia, Chicago's Dave Powers/Cyborg K and Genna "DB" Greene/Dirtybird and more. At Corktown Tavern, 1716 Michigan Ave., Detroit. For ticket info, go to www.hejrecords.com.The Subterraneans is a regular column dedicated to Detroit dance culture. Send comments to Send comments or bitch-slaps to [email protected]