2nd Detroit Electronic Music Festival

by Tamara Harris 

Although it was rainy and cold, Detroit's Electronic Music Festival still proved good. An estimated 850,00-1.5million people attended the free three-day event in downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza. Each day was gloomy but everyone maintained his or her spirits. There was great disappointment over the cancellations of U.K. DJs Carl Cox and LTJ Bukem. Cox took ill and Bukem had problems with his passport. They were two of the biggest draws but that did not stop the homegrown talent from leaving a good impression on the mostly out-of-town audience.

DJ Genesis started things on the first day with her usual brand of sweet vocal house records. Detroit house DJ Delano Smith was considered the unsung hero of the festival for his set of deep house. Acacia Records founder/DJ/Producer Kelli Hand wowed the crowd from the Miller Genuine Draft and Motor Stage. Her segment ranged from techno to classic soulful dance music. Hand threw t-shirts out to an eager crowd that she kept alive, alert, dancing and cheering her on. D. Wynn took his turn on the main stage to play a variety of funky grooves with Craig Huckaby and Waxmaster D Smooth accompanying him on live percussion.

Rick Wilhite, Detroit DJ/producer and record storeowner played a melange of soulful dance tunes that was hampered by the wind, which made his ability to mix records nearly impossible. His turn on the decks at the very successful Sound Signature soiree more than compensated for the botched outdoors set. Those who attended the Planet E party were talking about the performance given by house producer Moodymann. The press-weary artist did his show behind a blue sheet to a crowd that could only see his shadow. Sonic insurrectionists Underground Resistance took their mind mutiny to the city's Johannson Gallery for a lively party. Clubgoers waited for hours to enter the +8 party that went till the early morning. There truly was a sense of community and family at the party for the defunct but legendary Detroit Music Institute club Reunion that featured Alton Miller, Dwanyne Jensen and others on the decks.

On the last day Inner City took the stage and did a wonderful show that had the entire plaza moving to "Big Fun" and "Good Life." Many people responded to former artistic director Carl Craig's recent firing by festival organizers. At some point a group of people in the stands watching the show pulled out a huge banner that read "Carl Craig = DEMF." His Planet E label had a booth set-up where they were handing out pink stickers that said, " I support Carl Craig." When it was over techno pioneer Juan Atkins appeared and starting spinning early classic Detroit techno records. As his energy started to build so did the rain. At one point Atkins threw his hands up and looked backstage for direction. He tried to maintain his momentum but the hail came down hard and he was forced to flee the stage and organizers immediately appeared to cover the equipment. But no one wanted to leave; everyone kept their composure with umbrellas until they were told that the show was over. Derrick May was not able to close the festival again this year due to the weather. His announcement that the festival would end early finally got the crowd to leave but not until he introduced Carl Craig to cheers. Electronics and water don't mix but it was still one of the warmest weekends in Detroit thanks to the positive energy from everyone.