Paxahau—forward-thinking promoter of Movement and resource for electronic music—recently held their first party in over a year at the iconic house of the patron saint of cool in downtown Detroit, St. Andrew's Hall. As I approached the venue at 8 PM, it was still gated, but a line of boisterous twenty-something fans clustered around the perimeter of the old stone building. The crowd was buzzing with the tension of anticipation.
With three floors to play with, Paxahau utilized every square inch of the space. Both the top floor and the monitor rig for the main stage were fixed with custom VOID sound systems provided by Audio Integration Services from Chicago. Bassnectar, the night's headliner, travels with his own subs to ensure that the perfect and expected sonic intensity will be there for his devoted fans.
Photo credit: Joe Gall
Before long, the ballroom was filled with candy ravers, hipsters, hippies and beer-drinking college boys. Hula hoops were being tossed by anime pixies. One partygoer was dressed as a banana, another as a watermelon and a third as Mario from Mario Bros. Around midnight I was told the Hall had exceeded capacity. Everyone was let in. Just in time for the main event. Bassnectar. Only ten minutes into the set, and the observation deck bowed and flexed beneath the weight of hundreds of reveling nu-ravers. People were crowd surfing below. Even the walls were sweating.
For months, people in this area have been talking about Bassnectar's performance at Movement 2009. He drew Audion and Derrick May fans to his stage, enticing them with an unexpected, hypnotic, sonic adventure. He's continued apace ever since, headlining Lollapalooza's Electronic stage this year, and has been on the road and selling out shows since April 2009. In the midst of all of this, he also released Cozza Frenzy, an album that has received mixed reviews.
His live show, though, is undeniable. It's as much Nectar himself as the music that's the draw. He threw himself into the set with wild abandon, playing a punishing two-hour mash-up of hip-hop, rock, indie dance, electro and classic funk. It wasn't anything new. But Nectar is great at what he does. And it was hard to argue with it when the wobbling bass and heavy synth lines were busy bringing the whole house into a kind of manic delirium.
Photo credit: Joe Gall
When the show ended, Nectar went into the audience for a "family photo," as he called it. At that moment his appeal was much more obvious than before. From his long hair, to his mash-up style of DJing, he has an air about him that preaches a simple maxim, "Do what you like." But while the focus is clearly on the party, Nectar is also leading by example: His Cozza Connection Project donated a portion of ticket sales to four deserving non-profit organizations in the Detroit area, an initiative that he intends on setting up for every city he plays in across the country.
After the picture was taken, Nectar disappeared and the hundreds of sweat-drenched youths filed out the door. Some were missing shoes, shirts and pants. The banana had taken off the bottom of his costume, and was now half a banana in shorts. After the main hall was emptied and the house lights on, the floor could be seen. It was covered in thousands of glow sticks. What lay on the ground was total carnage ...and an implied message: "A new generation of American ravers are alive and well."