It was my first time at the Whiskey Disco the night of Thursday, September 25th, 2014. I took the discreet side entrance off John R, downstairs, beneath a new bar on Woodward called the Cornerstone Barrel House. It had been a year (give or take) since I had been in the basement of the former Oslo, a sushi restaurant and popular Detroit electronic music venue which had met a gritty end and closed permanently in November, 2011. Familiar feelings came to me suddenly – those memories, emotions and sensations of dancing in a chill, underground, dark and acoustically superb setting. I was struck by a feeling of surreal-ity: I was entering this place that appeared the same as how I’d seen it last, though I knew it had changed. And I, seemingly the same as I had been, was there as a changed person.
“We are not the same person this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” – W. Somerset Maugham
It’s hard to imagine how different we become over time – we change so slowly and our changing is slight. We experience life on a small scale. Those slight variations in character and being are nearly invisible. One may never notice the difference between the past and present self… until one night in an old place with a new name, with old friends and a new brain. That Thursday night at the Whiskey Disco, I was surrounded by those friends (and plenty of strangers) and the sound that brought us there. We were gradually changing people in a gradually changing place.
I did a B-line to the small stage in the back corner of the venue, sandwiched by tall stacks of speakers. Resident artist, DJ Form, was on deck spinning heavy trip-hop, beats and breaks. My craving for quality electronic was immediately soothed as I made my space on the dance floor. I hadn’t been on many since Movement, perhaps just one or two. I missed the all-encompassing rhythm and bass of electronic music, rattling my body, pushing my heart to pound faster, pulling me blindly into a dance trance. I was a rippling surface absorbed by the porous speakers in that room.
Soon other energies gathered and began to flow and disperse in the pool of sound around me. This liquid broth of vibe and pleasure and laughter, swelling and shaking into droplets and circles over the floor and walls of this place we could feel was still alive with the same feelings we had left in it. We were supported by that place. Loud and low music supported by speakers and wires, sound equipment fed by a needle vibrating over grooves in a record, fingers nudging one track into the next. This supported by soul, by passion for the music that makes one hungry to hear it again – a desire supported by energy, vibe, smiles, dancing and booze. All this cyclic, supported by one another, like an arch, curves pressed inward and holding tall pillars against a solid keystone of sound.
I went to the Whiskey Disco to support my friends, Jyarsch and Teej, former members and founders (2/3) of Comfort Food. The two have this insatiable, uncontainable need to share the music they love with the people they love and they do so by throwing shows at the Whiskey Disco. I went to the show that night to support my friends and the quality music they brought: DJ Form, SuperDre, and the talented producer, Michna. Though as soon as I was overcome by the music and the atmosphere, I realized that what I wanted most was the support it gave me. Each friendly social reunion reminds me that we, as changed people, still love a particular kind of music. And that music will always be there for us – whether it’s in a venue or in our headphones, we always have that foundation to stand on.
DJ Form handed the reins to SuperDre, a former Grand Rapids icon turned Detroiter. I’ve admired this woman for years. I first met her while working with the Wub Tribe in GR, late 2009. Months later, I grabbed a copy of Revue when her picture on the cover caught my eye – big curly hair and a fist raised high in her Superwoman costume. She’s been all over the map, playing countless shows and festivals throughout Michigan. Early this year, I began to notice her unmistakable face around the city of Detroit. At the Whiskey Disco, I saw that face fixed and lit by a laptop in the back corner of the venue, bass-infused minimal breaking the air between us.
Check out SuperDre’s mix “Detroitosphere” on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/superdre/sets/superdre-detroitosphere-ep
On the dance floor, bodies, rocking and bouncing to deep house beats, leaked a liquid energy. In that pool of energy, like little waves lapping at the shore, I danced against my boyfriend’s side. Our hips locked against and supporting one another, least we fall to the floor together. Movement ebbed and flowed from me to mine, from note to body, shifting – this shifting, an act of change, yet held upright we remained. The spell was broken when SuperDre turned our ears over to the headliner, Michna. Much to my surprise, Michna, who I’ve known for mostly playing electronic hip-hop, pulled out the booty. This was the club DJ from NYC I had never seen nor heard before. You’d probably recognize this one:
Michna “Swiss Glide”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ss2mPH2Cw
The Ghostly International producer’s latest release, an EP called “Moving Mountains,” is a sort of dark instrumental hip hop meets happy house-y jam. The word “futuristic” has been used accurately to describe it (http://www.ghostly.com/releases/moving-mountains), though I’d make the argument that most electronic music sounds “futuristic”. I believe the impression that Ghostly is trying to make with that message can be taken in the form of an image (also a web reference): “soundtracking a ride through a city in some distant unknowable future”.
The show ended around two, though I didn’t want it to. My friends and I collected our senses and left our good-byes, leisurely returning to our personal realities. Riding through dark city streets towards some distant unknowable future, I felt, for once, that I would always have the ground beneath my feet. That one night at the Whiskey Disco, I was reminded that one thing would never change: the human urge to hold on tight to whatever feels right.