Ah, springtime. The time of year when Detroiters turn to fretting and bickering about the status of Memorial Day weekend's electronic music festival. Check the threads on the bilious and hilarious Detroit Luv forum (detroitluv.com) and witness the anticipation and the angst, the love and the hate, that those three days in late May have wrought.
Techno people love to talk, especially under cloaks of anonymity, and they have been talking about the day not so long ago when Carl Craig, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson had leadership roles in the famed fest. They are talking about debts still owed to artists, promoters, technicians and loyal grunts from previous events, and they wince, but still talk, about Carol Marvin's recent pitch to become the chief administrator of this year's festival. Marvin's Pop Culture Media group produced the first three events, known then as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF). Her 2001 firing of artistic director Craig, whom she claimed missed contract deadlines for musicians, riled and split the Detroit dance community just weeks before the second DEMF was to open.
But Marvin lost the festival in 2003 to a group led by May, and she also lost the domain name, popculturemedia.com, to Jason Huvaere, who was not paid for services to DEMF rendered by his Web design firm Catalyst Technology. Ironically, it is Huvaere's Paxahau Promotions that aggressively leaped over Marvin to grab the reins of this year's festival. Saunderson, May and Craig have given their blessing to Paxahau, whose promotional reach extends from Detroit to hot spots across North America and Europe. The group produced the Underground Stage at the 2005 festival that featured neu-Berliners Richie Hawtin, Luciano, Dan Bell and Montreal's Deadbeat, and organizes events large and small on a regular basis. Huvaere kept us in the loop during weeks of conversations he was having with Detroit Chief Administrative Officer Lucius Vassar. "The city was very positive with us," Huvaere says. "They really wanted to make it happen."
But where it will happen is the question of the moment. Huvaere said Paxahau presented the city with options other than Hart Plaza, where the festival has been held since 2000. The festival will be called Movement 2006, reverting back to the tag used by May's organizational team in 2003-2004, but might be shifted to other public spaces. "We're looking at two other locations that will be weather-proofed is all I can say," he says. Though artists have yet to be confirmed, Windsor native Hawtin and the Orb (the ambient techno pioneers who just happen to be touring North America this spring but do not have a Detroit date on their formal itinerary), get a nod and a wink from Huvaere when asked about possible headliners. And yes, kids, it will be a paid event, like it was last year when it was called Fuse-In. "There is just no way it can work as a free festival," Huvaere says. "Unless the city has money dropping out of the sky, which it doesn't."
But with nine weeks to go before Movement weekend, Paxahau is steadfast in its mission to bring some of the world's best talent to town. So on April 1, they are bringing Hamburg's Steve Bug to the new Motor City Live venue (1249 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-1916). Bug runs Poker Flat, a label that has released dozens of tasty, jacked-up floor-burners by people like the Märtini brös, John Tejada and the Detroit Grand Pubahs. His sub-label, Audiomatique, has released weird tech-house jams by Rob Acid, Thomas Barnett and his own Chi Chi Squad alias.
Bug also produces original material for Poker Flat and has been a DJ-in-demand since the mid-1990s. Also on the bill are the UK's Rob Hall (aka Gescom) and Paxahau resident John Johr.
Friday, March 31: Terence Parker, Keith Worthy with Painted Pictures (live) and Gorilla Funk Mob (live) at Fifth Avenue Downtown, 2100 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 313-471-2555. 9 p.m.
Sunday, April 2: Andy Rourke, former bass player of the Smiths. DJ set at Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 10 p.m. 313-963-0300.
Friday, April 7: The Vault, featuring resident Ryan Elliott with special guest Pan/Tone (Toronto/Cologne). At Oslo, 1456 Woodward Ave., Detroit. 10 p.m. See ghostly.com.
Saturday, April 8: Wild Kingdom: a benefit for the Detroit Zoological Society, featuring Derrick May vs. Thomas Barnett with special guests. At Volume, 205 W. Congress St., Detroit; VIP reception begins at 8 p.m.The Subterraneans is a twice-monthly column on Detroit dance culture. Send comments to [email protected]