This past weekend I decided to seek out elements of techno music in the seemingly unlikely world of Indie Music festivals. Intrigued by the announcement of a Movement/Ghostly collaboration at the 2013 Detroit Laneway Festival, I visited it and the Ferndale DIY Street Fair afterparty as a bonus, asking myself “Is it true? Had techno found its way into this world, and if so, what the hell was it doing there?”
2013 was the inaugural year of the Laneway Festival in North America. Billed as “Laneway Detroit,” it was held almost 25 miles outside of the city limits in Oakland County’s sprawling and beautiful grounds of the Meadowbrook Music Festival. At the event El-P of Run the Jewels commented that he had been excited when he heard they were coming to Detroit but he ‘thought it would be a little more rough’ as he laughingly looked out onto a sea of suburban kids. Detroit snobbery aside, it was a well-executed festival with good sound, decent food, and excellent artists.
Having arrived too late to catch CHVRCHES (could have kicked myself), I got to see English electronic music duo AlunaGeorge perform first. They had good songs, and I really liked Aluna’s unique voice. Definitely heard some 808 drums and techno-inspired basslines in George’s production. Next I headed to the Movement/Ghostly stage to see Shigeto work his ass off moving back and forth between laptop and drums with awesome intensity. Just look at his face in the pictures. He’s an inspiring one man show of electronic music magic. I caught the beginning of Adult.‘s set which had a noticeably smaller crowd. Hmm, they certainly had the indie attitude right. In any case it was the closest thing to proper ‘techno’ or ‘electro’ that I saw at Laneway though, so I must give them respect for that. I headed off to check out Run the Jewels, the new collaboration between El-P and Killer Mike. Though their music is decidedly hip hop, I have to mention them here because they had amazing chemistry, were funny as hell, and some of the production has strong electronic music influence in the bass lines and arpeggiated synths. Lastly I saw Matthew Dear who performed his unique flavor of 80s-influenced downtempo dance music with his band. I know his music and just love this guy as a DJ but I’ve never seen his live show. I’m not a huge fan of his songs but I was very impressed with the great sound these guys got and the introspective deadpan showmanship of it all. Laneway was fun and I hope they bring it back here next year though I’m a bit unclear as to whether or not that will be the case.
The following evening I made it out to the afterparty for Ferndale’s DIY Street Fair mainly to see Jamaican Queens for the first time as they passed through Detroit while on tour. I was not expecting to hear electronic music here, but I did, and waaay more than I expected. First of all let me say that the Jamaican Queens set was the most inspired performance I saw all weekend. Edgy and confident as if fully aware they are on the brink of something bigger. I loved that they seemed to be using an MPC or something to trigger a whole backing track that they wove their way in and out of effortlessly and very musically. What surprised me (and probably most of the audience) is that the next two acts were straight up techno live PA sets complete with synths, samplers, and drum machines. I and a handful of people dug both Solid Liquid and Dakota Bones, but it appeared lost on much of the audience. At one point it was just me and one other person jamming out to the techno with a big crowd hanging far off by the bar. So there it was in a nutshell. While techno was a clear and present force at these two indie music events, the indie fans themselves seemed to have a hard time digesting it in its purest forms.