“Where’s the jungle?” has been a question on my mind since my last jungle write-ups in 2014 (links at the end). Many have accused us junglists of being a dying breed – loving a form of electronic music that is not liked by enough people to be played… though I beg to differ. Drum N Bass has been making a comeback along with its amen-driven predecessor, jungle. Sure it will never be “popular”, but the underground scenes are where my heart lies (and I know yours does too if you’re reading this). This year, I am delighted to write, jungle has found its place close to home again. For those of you who are wondering where to find good jungle & DNB this festival season, you’ll be pleased to learn what our fair city has to offer for Movement goers and Detroiters alike. Detroit may be the birthplace of techno, and I am all about supporting our homegrown talent, but I assure you, fellow junglists and DNB-heads, your prayers have been recognized and will be answered in the coming years. Starting now!
Thursday, May 11th, at a neighborhood bar in Hamtramck called Trixie’s. Formally a place called Turtle & Inky’s, an old house turned bar/restaurant. A fat man, possibly German, stands on top of the building holding a mug that reads “City Club”. A mural depicting downtown Hamtown decorates the large wooden fence that separates the sidewalk from the backyard of the bar. A green light gleams above the front door to welcome customers. Walking inside, a foosball table is to my left, the bar ahead, and the stage is to my right. Four men and five turntables are set up and a crowd watches them in awe. This is what I came for – a monthly thrown by Steve Drones, producer, mixer, artist, and promoter. Steve is a junglist at heart, though one might catch him playing breaks, trip hop or hip hop just as often. Trixie’s is the perfect place for him. It is intimate and interesting. People I know and don’t know move about the bar – conversations, laughter, dancing, smoking out back. Everyone either there for the music, the vibes, or both, like myself – I watch the turntablists intently, then dance a bit, hear a flawless cut and my attention turns to the performers again. I get distracted by the lovely scenic slideshow on the TVs around the venue, the string of colored lights held up by coat hooks along the far wall, and the old obscure vinyl records resting on a shelf above them.
“Good Vibes & Heavy Breaks” is the name of this breakbeat show and it’s held at Trixie’s the second Thursday of every month. You can expect to hear all of the aforementioned genres with the mastery of turntables that only scratch DJs know. And that is what Steve is showcasing tonight – a scratch cypher (cypher meaning artists jamming together). He mixes beats in the background, upper stage right. Jacoby Cataclysmic is to his left with a deck, mixer, and a scratch record. Down front are Joey P and Dave Petty Cash, both with a deck, mixer, and a record each. All three take turns scratching over Steve’s mix – stabs, scribbles, and stutters. I won’t bore you with my lack of scratch terminology, though if you’re interested to learn more about their techniques, YouTube DMC World Championship videos and educate yourself. The film “Wave Twisters” with Q-Bert’s score turned me on to scratch DJing when I was younger. And I’ve been a fan since I watched my first scratch video from ’96 of the X-Men battling the Invisibl Skratch Picklz at the International Turntablist Federation world finals. They make it look easy (and incredibly fun), but believe me, it’s a skill that takes a lot of time and patience to hone and it helps to be musically trained.
Cataclysmic, Petty Cash, and Joey P rock it one after another. I can’t say who played best, but it’s all about the play anyway. Drones jumped in for a bit as his special guests had breaks on the break. After Steve’s turn, Joey P took upper right and started to mix some jungle tracks. Cataclysmic returned to his post on stage and scratched a bit over Joey P’s mix. Then, like a true music nerd, he sat down behind the drum set that is always on stage at Trixie’s. He quietly began to tap in beat, finding patterns to sync with the mix. I wanted to yell to Jacoby to play louder, but he was playing for himself, immersed in his own world where only he and the music could reside. I live for these moments – improvised, live music that will never be replicated, the artist in a world of his or her own, the crowd enjoying the hell out of it, feeling good and loving life. I watched the drummer till he stepped down, then I danced to jungle till I broke a sweat. Good Vibes & Heavy Breaks will never disappoint a junglist. I’m certain that anyone who truly loves the rhythmic complexity of this style of music loves anything Drones will play and promote. Turntablism is an art that all us junglists appreciate, not to mention percussive elements like the old school drum patterns we hear on top of heavy bass lines (drums and bass).
Drones is keeping the jungle alive this festival season by featuring Michigan jungle and DNB DJs at Trixie’s on Memorial Day for a Junglist Throwdown featuring artists from Labelless Records out of Columbus, OH. Here’s a link to the show: http://www.2ndnaturerecords.com/blog/2017/05/13/2ndnatures-junglist-throwdown-featuring-labelless-records/. Steve Drones will also be performing at a DNB show on Sunday the 28th, downtown at Checker Bar. This event will be MASSIVE! Here’s a link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dnbid-presents-dom-and-roland-uk-jamal-jaybee-chrissy-tee-renan-tickets-33758258861. Headlining is Dom & Roland, a long-time DNB producer from the UK on Moving Shadow and Metalheadz records. Jamal from San Francisco and Jaybee from Tampa are also headlining. When I saw that Dom & his Roland were coming to Detroit, I danced around my living room. This will be a treat for all junglists and I have to thank the DnBid crew from Chicago for making it happen. Plus they added two legit producers (Jamal & Jaybee) to the lineup with a handful of Detroit & Chicago talent. For those of you who don’t know the headliners, check them out (see below). They are staples. Recognize!
My favorite Dom & Roland track, “Deckard’s Theme”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3GoakO9yLw
Dom’s classic ’98 album “Industry”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vk1IIR-Z8ic
Jamal’s “Jungle Music” off DJ SS’s “Back to Jungle” album, released in 2014: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsjlCxieBBg
Jaybee’s “No Need to Worry”, released this year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kk2vjQBYDQ
Back to that question, where’s the jungle? It’s here, downtown, uptown, in my head and hopefully in yours now too. Love what you love and hopefully others will love it soon. Author Anais Nin wrote, “Music melts all the separate parts of our bodies together.” She’s right. We all love music whether it be jungle or techno, rock or hip hop. The genres that seemingly separate us actually bring us closer together. We are all parts of the same magic. If you see me this festival season, come melt with me and let’s make magic. \(^.^)/
Interested in reading more about the Detroit jungle scene? Check out these articles about Konkrete Jungle Detroit, a collective consisting of Detroit DNB/jungle DJs who had played Movement 2014-2016.
“An Evening with Konkrete Jungle Detroit”: https://www.detroittechnohouse.com/2014/05/19/an-evening-with-konkrete-jungle-detroit/
“Konkrete Jungle Detroit’s “Rewind!” with Soundmurder & SK-1”: https://www.detroittechnohouse.com/2014/04/16/konkrete-jungle-detroits-rewind-with-soundmurderer-sk-1/
Photo taken of Steve Drones spinnin’ at Trixie’s courtesy of Chelsi “Sonic Femme”.