This year's Movement Festival in Detroit is packed with more than a delectable line-up. Over the past two weeks, it's been a frenzy of Memorial Day after parties announced and we are beginning to get a bit overwhelmed. Sunday, alone had my head spinning and wishing I could clone myself. There's just not enough time in the day to hit up every event and each one is different than the other.
The party that really caught my attention was an origin packed Detroit line up at No Party Like a Detroit Party presented by Underground Mafia and Army of Techno taking place Sunday, May 29th from 9PM - 6AM. It'll be at Bert's Warehouse on Russell Street and there will be three rooms enhanced with VOID Acoustics Sound & Lighting provided by AIS Audio. The line-up is more than noteworthy, showcasing Speedy J (Electric Deluxe), Octave One live set (Detroit Premiere Artists), John Acquaviva (Definitive Recordings) with an incredible cast joining them with Doc Martin (Sublevel Recordings), K-Hand (Trip/Acacia Recordings), Terrance Dixon (Metroplex Records), Tim Baker (Elephanthaus Records), Asher Perkins (Minus), Detroit Techno Militia (2x4 Vinyl Set), Big Joe Hix (Bang Tech 12), DJ Assault (Jefferson Ave), Army of Techno (Ann Arbor, MI), Terry James (Underground Mafia/Next Step) & John Noble (Underground Mafia/Fully Patched), MC Spacer (Underground Mafia/Team No Sleep), Chris Roxx (Traverse City / Strange Luv) & A-Tension (Underground Mafia). It's simply Techno at it's finest.
The event is more than just a techno paradise. $5 from every ticket sold will be donated to the Flint Water Fund, Bert's Warehouse's Feeding the Homeless, and the Detroit Public Schools Foundation. It has been some time since I have attended an event that did more than just give me a good time. So often promoters are busy trying to make a profit that we seem to forget the most important power of events, that they have the ability to give back to the community. As the underground, we are so warped in being outliers in our daily society that we forget that we have the ability to contribute in a way that may shine a positive light in our direction beyond the all night parties!
I took the time to hit up Underground Mafia, run by Terry James and Gabriela Alexander and Army of Techno, run by Asif Khan & Mark Rakozy. They got together and helped me get some background on the brains behind No Party Like A Detroit Party and what they want to achieve with this gargantuan event.
Underground Mafia is a production company run by Terry and Gabriela in San Diego. They have been throwing parties on and off in Mexico and in California for the last fourteen years. Their primary focus has obviouly been on Techno.
Terry James: "I’m originally from Detroit, so I pretty much bring a lot of the Detroit and Chicago style artists out to the West Coast. I’m all about educating San Diego and LA kids who are all stuck in this EDM bubble, and not many production companies are doing a lot of the proper house and techno out here. My thing is, bringing artists out here and throwing parties for everyone, not just certain groups."
Army of Techno started in Ann Arbor, Michigan 14 years ago. Just a few kids, studying at the University of Michigan, who loved Techno and began throwing house parties. Eventually, those parties became events at bars and clubs until they all graduated.
Asif Khan:"We all split up, some of us went to Texas, some of us went to California. I moved down to Houston and started playing in the underground scene there for a good two or three years. Played some raves, got a residency at this one little club in Houston. In that time, we had a DJ out here in California who was playing shows. We knew that we were going to keep doing it. I do other stuff for money, it’s just that at the end of the day you need to do something you love to stay sane, and for me that’s Army of Techno, throwing events, and playing music."
Asif is a techno producer, who uses two MC-909s and Reason in the studio. He has been making music for fifteen years, honing his craft, and has finally reached a point where he has been booked at various shows across the country. During the E3 Conference for gaming, Army of Techno held an event where they brought out Green Velvet to play a free show in downtown L.A.
Asif: "I opened for Green Velvet there, and that’s where I ran into Terry. We had invited him and Gaby to come up, and we got to talking, and we decided to start throwing events together. The first one we did was in San Diego. We had Octave One, Frankie Bones, Asher Perkins, and DJ Assault all come down to San Diego and we put on like Terry said a proper techno event. And we called it Devil’s Night Detroit Style. We’ve been working on events together since then. Terry and his experience putting together events, and I have a bankroll to finance a lot of these things, we’re kind of partners in crime right now. We’re two admittedly unknowns, or lesser-knowns, or “whatever-you-want-to-call-us-knowns,” but I think with events like this, and what I did last year with the Green Velvet event, we’re popping our heads above ground more than ever."
Terry and Asif's desire to contribute to Detroit's local community comes from their experience with the city. Asif went to school in Ann Arbor for four years and fell in love with Michigan and the city of Detroit. Aside from contributing a portion of ticket sales to local Michigan charities, No Party Like A Detroit Party is also providing free water and earplugs at their event. Free water is something, I myself, have advocated for on many occasions and it was such a great thing to hear being done at a warehouse event.
Asif: "The one thing I see going on right now at a lot of these events—and not just in Michigan, but everywhere—you have these party kids, they show up, they have their party, and then they leave, and the community is left with nothing. Michigan is a state that really needs help right now, and I think it’d be cool to have a message of positivity that we’re going to donate some money to charity, but also at the same time we treat the people at our parties differently than I think people at other raves or events do. We’re providing free water and we’re providing free earplugs. I don’t want someone to pass out on our dancefloor because they can’t afford a six dollar bottle of water. "
Underground Mafia and Army of Techno are large advocates against treating patrons like commodities. They strongly dislike watching patrons keel over or be carted out because they were dehydrated at an event. They even encourage the organization, DanceSafe, to attend their events and set up shop. The overall goal is to increase patron safety and provide a safe environment to allow everyone to have a good time.
Asif: "If you’re charging a hefty fee at the door, is that really a big hit for a promoter to take? I don’t think it is."
Terry: "Out here on the West Coast, I’m going into my 9th year of production with our event called 'Eternal,' the three-day campout that we host twice a year in San Diego, we’re actually expanding out to Mexico in September, maybe other places in the United States. I’m a strong advocate for Dance Safe, I’m sure you know them. We have them out to all our events. Free water, free testing, it’s all about keeping people safe. All of my experiences back in the 90’s, we all looked out for each other. We all had families that we’d go to the parties with and we’d educate each other on safe party etiquette. A lot of that is lost nowadays."
Providing free water may not seem like such a huge feet, however these guys have received their fair share of backlash because of it. Renting space from a bar or club can mean that you aren't allowed to provide free water. For one of their parties, the venue they rented from saw their flyers advertise free water and charged them $4 for every water bottle they handed out.
Terry: "Because we were 'undermining their business.' They were worried about taking a hit on beverage sales. I was like “are you serious right now?”
Standing as their own personal middle finger to big conglomerate events, Underground Mafia and Army of Techno reminisce on the premise of the cheesy, however, genius meaning behind the acronym, PLUR. Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect is commonly spoken in the Raver community amongst the "Kandi Kids" today. However, for these veterans, it is a reminder as to why they fell in love with raves and techno to begin with.
Asif: "Yeah, Detroit might not be the safest city in the world, but god, a Detroit rave? One of the best vibes you’ll ever feel. It’s that sense of community, that sense of caring, and that lack of judgment that I think is missing at a lot of clubs these days, and a lot of parties these days. I think the music industry is really struggling because events are the only way you can really generate profit anymore, so they’re not thinking about the customer. They’re just thinking about the bottom line, the revenue."
Terry is originally from Detroit and Asif is from Canton, Ohio. Both guys share a strong passion for cultivating the scene in Detroit and the rest of the midwest. Their charitable notions extend past just giving back to the community, they seek a brighter future for the once living metropolis.
Asif: "It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind, that maybe we could show people a better way. And maybe that’ll be our competitive advantage. That we’re willing to do this. So I think that’s one major thing that I’m proud of, of all of our events that we’ve thrown. I think going forward this is going to be a trend at all of our parties, not just in Detroit. The money that went to charity, not only do we care about the people coming to the event and paying for tickets, we care about Michigan. We care about what’s going on in Flint. We care about what’s going on in Detroit public schools. Terry being from Detroit, I’m from a small town in Ohio called Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Michigan and Ohio are not very different. They’re two states that have been on a 50-year decline from their peak. And both cities were dependent on the steel, oil, car industry. If you’re in Cleveland or Detroit now, there are skyscrapers with no lights on. 60 percent of the people who lived in Detroit at its peak have left. I want to bring some sense of hope back to that area. I think there can be another renaissance in the Mid-West of the United States."
Out of over 17 after parties happening on Sunday during Movement, No Party Like A Detroit Party, truly stands out. Far from the typical large label after hours, these guys really put their effort into delivering a true Detroit party experience, from their venue selection and all the way down their origin focused line up. If you are still undecided, then I highly recommend putting all your eggs into their basket as your chosen Sunday night DEMF after party.