Saturday was a day for festival attendees and event coordinators to get their feet wet. First day jitters were evident. No one knew what the turn out was going to be or if the event would run smoothly. Everyone worked hard and hoped for the best.
Though the festivities began at noon, everyone seemed to be just recovering from the late night of preparations and pre-parties. Initially, the crowd was sparse, but enthusiastic, and as the day progressed, the numbers exploded into the thousands. The event included clothing vendors like Detroit Motor Company (creators of the Made In Detroit logo) and Triple 5 to record labels like Carl Craig`s Planet-E and Richie Hawtin`s M-nus as well as DJ-favorite music vendor, Record Time.
Day one included performances from the groundbreaking instrumentation of Space Time Continuum to the recognizable intricate turntable beats of NY native DJ Spooky. The climax of the day was Stacey Pullen`s set. It officially marked the success of the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival and made the pre-event jitters a distant memory. From the moment he took center stage and dropped the needle, everyone was captivated. In the background was the looping voice of Martin Luther King Jr., declaring "I had a dream." and for many that day that dream was realized. Down below, people were united as one under a spectacular universe of electronic music whose center began in Detroit. With the sky cascaded in a beautiful blend of blue, pink and orange, the night was indeed a dream. The feeling of Detroit Techno pride not only overcame all the artists/performers, but the entire community of music lovers. Many left with the feeling that this festival could only get better and the setting couldn`t have been more perfect than in Detroit.
Sunday on the DEMF stage continued the success. John Arnold performed with members of Carl Craig`s Innerzone Orchestra while Swede, Aril Brikha, showed why he is one of the Transmat label`s bright members, fusing techno and avante garde jazz. Detroit techno father, Juan Atkins, was scheduled for the late afternoon, but canceled when he was delayed in Los Angeles. Even this setback could not dampen the crowd`s enthusiasm for Detroit hip-hop artists, Slum Village. They tore it up and brought everyone to their feet, including Detroit`s Mayor Dennis Archer, who stopped by the festivies to show his support. Up next was Philadelphia`s The Roots with their unique hip-hop blend. Member Scratch, also known as the Human Turntable, imitated mixing and scratching sounds on the mike and astounded the crowd with his insane skills. NY born Mos Def, although exhausted and delayed by his incoming flight, managed to play the last half hour of day two, closing the night out in grand style.
Day three was reserved for the true-blooded techno fan. The line-up featured artists from the most internationally known electronic music labels of M-nus, Planet E, and Transmat. Clark Warner, Sean Deason, and Theorem opened the day with their unique blend of abstract, funky, and minimal techno sounds. Mid-afternoon brought a barrage of Detroit sounds, beginning with founding father, Kevin Saunderson, followed by the one true Aztec Mystic, DJ Rolando, whose "Knights of the Jaguar" is a staple of many DJs. When the Innovator, Derrick May, took the stage, the excitement was electrifying as the crowd grew in size and intensity. Once May dropped Model 500`s "No UFOs" everyone was charged and singing along in unison. As twilight fast approached, Windsor`s Richie Hawtin (Plastikman), continued the excitement in what would be a mind-blowing, show-stopping finale for the festival. Taking cue from his successful "Decks, EFX, & 909" CD, his set was percussion-heavy and featured his hit "Orange", a re-work of Yello`s "Oh Yeah." Immersed in smoke and flashing lights, Hawtin brought the party level to new heights and riveting techno beats.
"There ain`t no party like a Detroit party, `cause a Detroit party never stops!" This anthem ran true for the entire Memorial Day weekend with pre- and post- parties scattered throughout the metro area. The Motor Lounge was the official location for the DEMF post-parties with performers such as Josh Wink and John Acquaviva. Other popular night spots in Detroit and across the river in Windsor (Canada) also promoted many events that lasted into the early morning hours.
One of the best parties was at the Johanson Charles Gallery, in the midst of Detroit`s Eastern Market. Packed wall to wall, Detroit label 430 West celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a huge party that featured label artists Direct Beat Assassins (DJ Diji`tal and Lorne Burden), Octave One with Lorne Burden, and Random Noise Generation. On Sunday evening, the Planet-E Studio party welcomed performances by Theo Parrish, Mike Clark, and Hanna. Many of these post-party goers were the same faces seen six hours later back out in front of the stages. Truly, the weekend was one non-stop dance festival.
By any measures, the first DEMF was a resounding success. The 1.5 million in attendance, verified by the Detroit Police department, confirmed what organizers Carol Marvin and Carl Craig felt: that techno music, born in Detroit, would come back home to celebrate its history and bring a community together in pride. Not only did the festival expose electronic music to a wide variety of people, but also, in the process, broke down barriers of background or race under a universal message of electronic music. --Emily & Roberto Ty