Blog: Walter Wasacz

Walter Wasacz is a writer-slash-editor based in Hamtramck. He writes a column on techno culture ("The Subterraneans") for the Metro Times, is a staff writer for XLR8R mag in San Francisco, has contributed stories on danceable Detroit noise to Euro-pubs the Wire, New Musical Express and De:Bug, and is editor at large for Issue Media Group. His three-piece audio visual laptop group, nospectacle, played at the Movement festival in 2008, and performs in June at the MUTEK Festival in Montreal.   

Walter Wasacz - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: Techno Toots

Movement 2010, which hosted about 100,000 paying ravers, techno-hippies and assorted other party people, will go down as one of the best of the 11-year series. Having Carl Craig back as artistic director paid immediate dividends. All the headliners were perfectly chosen for maximum sundown shake appeal. Juan Atkins' Model 500 (whose Star Trek Next Generation outfits produced almost instantaneous and steady chatter on Twitter), Kevin Saunderson's Inner City, and Richie Hawtin's Plastikman were all as good as it gets in the electronic music universe.

But as important was the return of Berliners Scion and Mark Ernestus, who played unmixed (as is his custom) dub tracks. Ernestus performed arguably the festival's hottest, most emotive set while remaining largely expressionless wearing a T-Shirt that said "Playing it Cool." The Moritz von Oswald Trio, part of the same Kreuzberg from crew, was equally stellar.  

A host of others -- Theo Parrish, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, Recloose, Larry Heard, and Martyn -- also proved going deep, deeper, deepest was the direction most preferred.

Other highlights: Istanbul's Onur Ozer, Cassy and Claude Von Stroke rocked the Beatport Stage, as did Hawtin, who filled in for the visa-deprived Ricardo Villalobos, who was rumored to be at the festival anyway according to tweets I was following. That was never confirmed, and later exposed as a hoax.

Another highlight was the Beehive Project, a human-scale installation that declares the hive as a model for future Detroit community and resourcefulness. It was clean, green, and integrated neatly into one of only a few patches of trees and grass at over-cemented Hart Plaza. Wunderbar.
For me, highlights of the festival extend beyond the grounds. The winner is Detroit's early- to late-20th century urbanism, the impressive vertical granite canyons of downtown and its blend of 1920s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s high design architecture. There was a "wow" in every walk we took, from the riverfront to Grand Circus, up to Park Avenue for dinner at Cliff Bell's; over to Brush St. between Congress and E. Fort for more food at Jacoby's; up Broadway to Angelina's to meet friends from Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, and Detroit before going to the Music Hall and a program of films and a performance by Mike Banks and his band Timeline. Thanks to Planet E, and the Carl Craig and Detroit Techno Foundations for that beautiful idea.

This sustained buzz about the familiar is ultimately what it's all about for us who welcome the overflowing flock of techno tourists drawn to our powerful, groovy vibrations. We once again see a city as dynamic as the music it produces, something we can't experience often enough.

Post 2: Party! Party!

The actual Movement festival contains plenty of dance party fun for the average human. But this being Detroit, average simply goes out the window. It's a part of the electronic music cultural DNA to link party after party after party together to create new experiences you probably have never had before, nor will likely repeat in exactly the same way. Make some good picks, seek out new friends, drink plenty of water and you should have an appropriately weird but grand time wherever you end up. Especially if you take at least some of the following suggestions from this humble blogger, who has rocked and raved through all 10 festivals since 2000.

Something quite different and highly recommended is 2010: A Detroit Odyssey, which comes courtesy of Planet E, the Carl Craig Foundation and the newly-minted Detroit Techno Foundation. On the bill is Fritz Lang's Metropolis (with pre-recorded soundtrack by Jeff Mills); Timeless Suite for Ma Dukes, featuring the music of the late Detroit hip hop innovator James "J Dilla" Yancey; and The Drive Home: the Story of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, produced by Detroit's Pilot Pictures and Hogpath. There is also a live performance by Timeline, featuring Mike Banks of Underground Resistance. Good stuff. Best of all, it's free. It starts at 7 p.m. and goes to midnight. Friday, May 28, at the Music Hall, 350 Madison Street, Detroit.

Another party worth your time (and for a reasonable amount of money: $10.) is Yel3, the official Movement pre-party also on Friday featuring high-flying dutchman Speedy J, Windsor-Berlin's Matthew Hawtin's and Ann Arbor-based Spectral Sound's 10-year anniversary bash with Matthew Dear, Ryan Elliott, Seth Troxler, Lee Curtiss (live) and Birds & Souls. It's at St. Andrew's Hall, where they used to call this three floors of fun. That would be a gross understatement this time around. 431 E. Congress Street, Detroit. It kicks off around 10 p.m.

Last year's cruise on the Detroit Princess was one of the highlights of the 2009 after-party scene. Unless you couldn't get a ticket, that is. This year's riverboat hullabaloo could be even better with Chilean-German superstar Ricardo Villalobos on board. Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen, and Berlin's Cassy are also on deck. Boat leaves the dock just south of Hart Plaza at 1 a.m. Sunday, and gets back around 6 a.m. Get details here.

Later the same night on the other side of town is Moodymann's Soul Skate at the Northland Roller Skating Center (22311 W. 8 Mile Road, Detroit). Free soul food with $15 admission. It's a winner, guaranteed. It goes from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.  

Also at Detroit Threads in Hamtramck (10238 Jos. Campau), special in-store DJ guests expected include Pirahnahead, Aaron-Carl and Andy Garcia; plus Jennifer Paull and yours truly of the ambient-disco-dub project nospectacle. We play records Monday, 3-6 p.m., but talent is spread out over five days, beginning Thursday, May 27. It's all free and clothes and record shopping (owner Mikel Smith has sweet stuff, some real gems) are encouraged.  

Expect me to be back in a week or two with a roundup of this extraordinary festival weekend in Detroit. I trust you'll go out there and experience some of it for yourselves. It's regional danceable art in the form of a gift to us all, not to be missed, if at all possible. That goes for all you people heading up north or visiting hipster friends in Williamsburg or Wicker Park. We're staying home, getting physical with ears and eyes wide open, enjoying the best years of our lives in our own backyard. Beat that.

Post 1: Get Ready to Techno!

I'm up to my neck in techno these days, getting ready for the impressively massive Movement Festival weekend that beckons. And when I say massive, I mean it. On top of three full days and nights (up to midnightish) filling up downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza with electronically-produced rhythms and sounds, there are enough pre-, after- and other off-site events to keep us dancing all summer if they were to be stretched out over the next three months.

Detroit has long enjoyed a reputation for maximizing the fun of its partygoers. If you add them all up, starting this Friday and ending at some point next Tuesday, it's all jam-packed into around 100 hours, give or take. Do I hear a "wow?" Parties featuring Detroit Techno artists blur into parties featuring Chicago House music legends blur into parties offering up international talent from Germany, France and the UK. Excessive use of the word "blur," you say? Nope. Underline and repeat often. It's perfectly descriptive of the wonderfully wild weekend ahead.    

But quality matters, right, not quantity? Agreed. This year's festival lineup is quality-rich, featuring headliners Model 500 -- fronted by Juan Atkins, the eldest of the famed Belleville Three who first began attaching the word "techno" to his productions in the first half of the 1980s; Inner City, the Kevin Saunderson-led group that broke the music wide open with the international club smash "Big Fun" in the late-1980s; and Plastikman, the minimal-acid alter ego of Windsor's Richie Hawtin (now based in Berlin), the prime mover of the Midwest rave scene of the 1990s.

Other artists from Detroit or with Detroit roots performing at Movement 2010 include Derrick May (who, along with Saunderson, completes the Belleville Three), former Underground Resistance member Robert Hood, Anthony "Shake" Shakir, Jennifer Xerri, Kenny Larkin Jr., K-Hand, John Johr, Kyle Hall (an 18-year-old recent grad of the High School of Performing Arts with sudden huge global buzz), Magda, Monty Luke, Niko Marks, Punisher and, well, more, more, more.    

A coup for festival promoters and producers Paxahau is the snagging of trippy tech-house producer/DJ Ricardo Villalobos, who has not played in Detroit (or the U.S. since 2002), largely seen as a protest against this country's military presence in the Middle East. We're still at war, but we're glad he's back. The full Movement schedule is here.

Villalobos also performs at one of the mostly highly anticipated after-parties, a floating cruise of the Detroit River that sets sail early Sunday morning. More on that, plus the best of the rest of the off-site party scene, in my next blog entry.     
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