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Where’s the Jungle?

Laura Bailey —  May 16, 2017 — 2 Comments

“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”.

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Detroit was the star again for day 2 of Movement Electronic Music Festival, presented by Paxahau. The long lines of day 1 had died down quite a bit, and other than a little wait for general admission at the main gate, the day went off proper.  The weather was beautiful, 75 degree and partly sunny, Techno christmas was in full swing. A record number of people showed out for all the amazing talent to be seen across 6 stages. The crowds made me think of a few things… 1 : Techno is alive and well, and so are festivals. The familiarity of festivals with this generation of music lovers has created a loyal and fervent stock of people who use vacation time, and every penny they could save to party and dance with thousands of others for 3 days straight. 2: It is quite remarkable how well organized a group of 50,000 neo-hippies can be when faced with the challenge. I surmise that only the technocrat could weave the delicate and tumultuous terrain of Hart plaza whilst managing a beer in one hand, and a friend on the other. It certainly isn’t without chaos, but that’s kind-of part of the ambience, and for so much chaos, I have to say we do it pretty well.

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My day started off with Todd Osborn (live) at the Made in Detroit stage.  It was a sight to behold with Todd bringing out the gear for this one.  A unique blend,  as expected with Mr Osborn, laden with pounding kicks, snappy snares,  and 303 lines galore.  He pleased the crowd as Detroit’s iconic building, the Renaissance Center, played a perfect background.  The stages seem very well set up this year, with the next artist already hooked up and ready to go, on a separate table, with connectors to patch power and audio. When Osborn was done, they simply unhooked his rig and rolled the entire thing away as JTC took over to continue the Ghostly showcase on the Made in Detroit stage on Sunday.

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Next I caught a bit of JTC, who did not disappoint. Playing a mix of vinyl and digital,  he kept driving rhythms and plush bass the whole way through. There’s something extra classy about a JTC set that is hard to describe, but palpable in person. James T Cotton is the man. His track selection is a treasure trove of classics and new heat, all of which incinerate the dance floor.

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I saw people under the stairs next, and I was blown away by the true hip hop showmanship I experienced. These guys tore the place down. Real lyrics, dope beats, and style for days. These guys had timing, they had charisma, and they had content. It was a performance that reminded me of what hip hop was, and what it can be. It doesn’t have to be a boring braggadocios pile of drivel, it can be a real show, and it can rock the party right. Bravo, People Under the Stairs, Bravo.

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I caught Art Department for a short while on the Main Stage, and it was rumbling for sure. What was billed as their “last set ever”, seemed to have a very jovial feel. Traditional Art Department style with deep tracks, and bass for days, the duo seemed to be really enjoying the moment. I often caught them smiling to one and other, and that attitude really poured over into the crowd. These guys command respect with their production, and their DJ sets, and whatever they move on to next, I’m sure will be a plus for us music fans.

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Danny Brown would be my next attraction, and his persona cannot be mistaken. Bold, and outspoken, Detroit’s alt rapper had the crowd buzzing and bouncing with skywlkr providing his unique blend of hip hop and electronic beats. Danny’s high pitched barks were a bit muffled, but the crowd sang along to most of his tracks, and the energy was incredible. He was wearing some kind of Kool-aid man shirt with an American flag on the front and a British flag on the back, perhaps a nod to his recent UK tour. I caught some great shots of Danny and his crew.

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I Managed to sneak away to the underground stage for Rodhad, and it was an amazing scene. So much dancing, mesmerizing lights, and aggressive Techno pounding. I will say that the sound was far better than in years past underground, and that’s probably due to the significant amount of deadening they did to dampen the extremely echo-ey space. They had it dialed in proper, and that made for great sets all around.

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I need to make a separate ode to Mike Servito here… His set at Movement was as expected, a great time. He pleased the locals with his signature style of House and Techno, but the after party was where I really saw him shine last night. He played at the Interdimensional Transmissions show at Tangent Gallery for an annual party entitled “No Way Back”, and that was indeed a statement to heed. His 3am set right after Mark Verbos – live (also amazing), was nothing short of an ass-beating. He came like a bull dog to those turntables and relentlessly dropped fire for an hour and a half. I don’t know that I’ve seen kids dance that hard outside of a Canadian Gabber Core party in 1993. Ha. Really though, he played slamming Techno with Jim Gibbons AVS Sound rig hitting on all cylinders. It felt as underground and old school as you could get in 2015. The energy from that set is still with me now, and I can’t even explain it properly. It was one of those times when all the colors of the night fade into one blur of beautiful madness, a watercolor canvas of art and culture high-fiving in a worm-hole. Yeah, that’s what it was.

Matthew Dear was my surprise of the night, he did an exquisite job. Weaving techno rhythms and House basslines with his signature brooding style, and the occasional abstract vocal to jar your consciousness a bit.  He kept the crowd moving the entire time, and he was really playing to the Detroit community with his track selection.  I found my crew of people specifically got down to his set.  It seemed everyone busted out the techno they had in their bags today, but Matthew Dear did so with a grace that was subtle and organic.  It didn’t feel like he was trying to do anything he wasn’t completely comfortable with, he was in the moment.  Grooving.

Ben Klock would be my final experience of day 2, and my goodness what a treat. A saturated underground stage stood witness to hard Techno, in epic proportion.  Ben did what he does, destroy the fucking room, and he did it with reckless abandon. Every track seemed harder than the last, even though that didn’t seem possible.  He used acid-like break downs to mark the valleys of his set, and would just as quickly bring it back up to an even higher peak than the last time. A true professional with patience and a vision for his sets. This was a journey, and the time was just right for Ben Klock. Props to Blank Code for programming an amazing Underground stage all weekend.

Detroit was captured beautifully in between a crazy scene at Hart plaza. The crowds were overwhelming,  for everyone involved,  but that didn’t stop amazing music from beaming out of the speakers nonstop.  The crowd seemed decidedly underground in their tastes, and the attitude of respect and moderation seemed consistent.  This I enjoyed. The EDM scene seemed heavily deterred by the lack of mainstream names, and it was a welcome sight for a festival such as Detroit’s. It was it’s largest crowds I’ve seen since going to a pay format, and the music was top notch. The crowds were hindered by long lines, but once inside were sufficiently rewarded.  The lesson we learned this year. Have your bracelet mailed to you, no matter what.  Detroiters cannot wait with the common folk. JK JK  😉

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It usually takes me a day to process the madness and joy of throwing events. This one was no different. Huge thanks to the great crowd of people who came to support Wednesday at Asher Perkins show. From top to bottom the night was awesome. I got to warm up the rig with some Techno (which is rare) and I really enjoyed it. Lauren Vellucci then brought serious heat, she is really an amazing talent. Ernie Guerra then kept the crowd enthralled and vibrant with a great mixture of House and Techno that really had the dance floor popping. Aside from being a really nice dude, he’s a great artist too. Asher Perkins closed with a straight-up fire set of live Techno (reminiscent of the legendary live sets by another one of his label-mates, if you know what I mean). We even discussed after the show how rare it is to hear Techno at The Grasshopper, and to see people respond so well is truly a testament to Asher’s skill, and to this area’s dedication to real artistry.

Our Wednesday night monthly has been a true labor of love these past few month’s. Detroit Techno House started doing first Wednesday’s with Jared WilsonDustin Alexander and Jerry Downey Jr. …And then last month was the amazing Tadd Mullinix + Todd Osborn and Erika show. Now that the Asher show is in the books I’m reflecting and looking to the future, while still trying to embrace the continually changing present moment, which has been fueling this wonderful fire. What doing these events has taught me is that good music pervades stigma, and that the Detroit community will support something strongly if it is done with genuine passion. Thanks to everyone who does what they love and supports what they believe in. There’s much more to come.