In the mid-'80s The Wizard, AKA Jeff Mills, took to the airwaves via WJLB in Detroit. The start of the show was a collage of sound bites from old radio shows about superheroes and, of course, The Wizard of Oz that introduced audiences to Mills' childhood influences. Earlier this month, he played for the children, as part of Techno & House for a Cause, which raised money for school supplies for Detroit-area kids.
That said, The Works was the last place I expected a benefit for children to take place. Past experiences have served some bad drinks and horrible sound; but I've also had my fair share of fun there. And, considering the cause, there was no question: We set out to experience "The Wiz." On the night, there was the House Room, which featured a modest sound system and sets by DJ Jenny LaFemme, DJ John Jammin' Collins, Greg Gow and Dan Bain. In the second room—The Techno Room—Sporeprint got the crowd going before Mills took over. When we arrived, the room was already filled with good vibes.
Photo credit: Samir Johnson
Mills soon took over on a pair of Technics 1200's and three CDJ's, and while it looked similar to a set-up that he might use under his name, the sound was much different this night. Minimal techno and hard techno made brief interludes, but it was largely '80s hip-hop, early techno, early Detroit electro and classic dance tracks that have been in rotation on the radio for years that composed his set. He played Whodini's "The Freaks Come Out at Night," cuts from Boogie Down Productions, "Planet Rock" and Cybotron's "Clear." Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" even got a spin in a set that was obviously catering to a crowd that had come to hear old school tunes.
The track selection may not have meant as much to a younger, less informed crowd, but Mills knew the occasion demanded something special. Charity should bring a community together, and that is exactly what he did as The Wizard. Techno heads, industry heads, every head was bobbing as a legendary figure of Detroit radio and techno reveled in the sounds of yesterday in support of a brighter tomorrow.
This event was presented by the non-profit organization SCP Michigan. You can visit their website at www.scpmichigan.org.