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Bringing the techno scene back to its hometown, Detroit

May 22, 2015

 

This weekend, the electronic musical festival called Movement will bring in more than 100,000 people from around the globe to the birthplace of techno: Detroit.  

Techno is actually a much bigger deal in Europe than it is here. A lot of Detroit techno artists still live in the city, they just have to travel overseas in order to make a living, but changes to Detroit's techno scene might change that. 

Detroit Techno artists have to travel overseas to make a living

When Detroit techno artist Kevin Reynolds performed in London for the first time, he got stopped on the subway by a stranger.

“A guy grabbed me and asked if I was Kevin Reynolds, and I’m like, ‘yeah, are you the police?’” Reynolds says, “[In Detroit], I’m just a regular guy.”

Like a lot of Detroit techno artists, Reynolds still lives in the city, but in order to make a living he has to travel to Europe or Tokyo to perform every other month or so. Overseas he plays shows for thousands of people.

“Here in Detroit I play for 50 people, 100 people, maybe a couple hundred if I’m lucky,” Reynolds says.

But that might change.

A big idea from Berlin to bring techno back to its hometown

Dimitri Hegemann is the owner of one of the first electronic clubs in Berlin. He wants to bring the scene back to the hometown of techno. He has his eye on the abandoned and run-down Fisher Body Plant in Detroit.

Hegemann is full of big ideas.

Not only does he want to have an electronic dance club in the Fisher Body Plant, he also wants to have a hostel, a pop up restaurant, and another space that could be used for art exhibits, dance, or even opera performances.  

“I think people would come from all over the world to see what’s happening, and this is what Detroit needs,” Hegemann says.

There are talks of having an electronic dance club in the old Fisher Body Plant in Detroit
Credit User: Nitram242 / flickr

Detroit vs. Berlin

But Detroit isn’t Berlin. Berlin gets a ton of funding to support the arts. It’s also easier to use old buildings there.

If you want to open up a creative space in a vacant building, and the city doesn’t know who owns it, they’ll let you use it temporarily until the owner is tracked down.

And Berlin doesn’t have a curfew. Electronic clubs start hopping around 1 am Friday and the party does not stop until Monday morning.

A less ambitious idea so Detroit can embrace its techno artists

Meanwhile, a less ambitious electronic club recently opened up in Detroit’s Midtown. Amir Daiza is the owner of the new club, called Populux.

I went to the club on a Friday night, and by 10:30 there were only about 30-50 people there, and no one was dancing.

Daiza says business could always be better, but he says he has “confidence enough that this is going to be a great place, [but] it takes a while to build a business.”

Why techno artists stay in Detroit

In the meantime, Detroit artists like Reynolds will keep traveling overseas to find work to perform, but as Reynolds says, there’s just something about Detroit that keeps this city his home base.

“I don’t know what it is. There is something in the air. There’s something in the water. There is something in the ground. There is an energy here,” Reynolds says. “That struggle of living in Detroit -- I like that struggle.”

Support for arts & cultural reporting on Michigan Radio comes in part from a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the arts.