March 1, 2010

TechYes. Life After Unsound. ~ Claire Flannery

One month ago today I wrote a short piece about the UNSOUND Music Festival in New York. I was privileged to have been a part of such a progressive festival and am still wrapping my head around that whirlwind of a weekend. I’ve been remembering and reflecting and procrastinating on writing this piece in order to organize my thoughts. Heres what I’ve got:

I arrived in Manhattan Friday afternoon, a bit lost, (there was an ongoing joke that I was “just a simple Midwestern girl in a big city”). After making it to the city, walking blocks up Lexington and five failed attempts at hailing a cab that would take me to where I needed to go I finally made my way from mid-town to downtown to settle down from the chaos of travel. A few drinks laters, I was headed to the venue Public Assembly for UNSOUND via The Bunker. The Bunker is a series of forward-thinking parties that bring innovative, progressive techno and house music to the people. Its safe to say that The Bunker knows how to throw a party (or two in my case). Held at Public Assembly, The Bunker welcomed some of the finest American and European DJs The front room experienced Anthony “Shake” Shakir (Detroit), Mike Huckaby (Detroit/New York) and Berlin –based Barbara Preisinger; while the back room was bouncing with Romanian based DJ Petre Inspirescu, DJ Qu (New Jersey) and Brooklyn’s own Eric Cloutier.

It was the perfect sensory overload to say the least. For the duration of the party, 10pm-6am I bounced back and forth in between the front room, back room and merch table (yes I was one of four resident merchandise volunteers!). The back room was dark and crowded while the front room was better lit and had slow-motion visual screen test shots throughout the sets. I spent all of my dancing energy in the back room, not as if the front was bad (in fact Mike Huckaby later shocked my dancing nerves Sunday Night) but once I was in the back I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Petre Inspirescu spun some genre-bending beats, with soothing down-tempo sounds and he was my favorite of the evening.

Aside from Petre’s set, I couldn’t distinguish much between the rest of the DJs.I became so utterly absorbed by the music and just danced. If it is not already obvious, I am little bit of a tech head and geek out about danceable electronic music-not the obnoxious trancey s*** played at dingey nightclubs. [insert sarcastic “oh you’re so underground” here]

Around 6 am I stumbled home as the sun was rising dumbfounded and a little inebriated by the drinks and the beats. To think that this was just the first night.

Saturday afternoon offered me a hangover and the chance to do a little city exploring and recuperation for the upcoming Bunker festivities held yet again at Public Assembly. It was the Bunker’s big finale of UNSOUND, presenting Bass Mutations. It was a brilliant and beautiful collaboration with dubstep, deep house,  and eccentric techno. Arriving shortly before the doors opened I was informed that this party was going to be twice the size. It was- there was a line out of both doors for most of the night. My hangover from Friday night quickly diminished, as the energy was high and plenty of friendly faces to chat with. I’ve never schmoozed so much in my life.

The Bunker welcomed Pole (Berlin), 2562 (a personal favorite via the Netherlands), Untold (UK), TRG (Romania), Dave Q (NYC), FaltyDL (NYC), Pavel Ambiont (Belarus), Sepalcure (NYC) and Konque (Brooklyn). In comparison to Friday night, I stayed close to the doors and merchandise table. For a about an hour I snuck away to get down to Konque’s set. [Shout out to David Last and Sasha Kaline!] Needless to say it was yet again a wonderul night with killer dubstep, minimal, groove, funk and bass to shake the house. Heres a great review of the night.

It is commonly misperceived that UNSOUND is simply a music festival that is strictly shows. The organizations involved in putting on UNSOUND worked to create an all encompassing ten day event that not only involved performances, but also included panel discussions, workshops and art exhibitions. I was lucky enough to spend Sunday afternoon at Devotion gallery in Williamsburg. Devotion is a small, unassuming gallery space that put on the Sound Postcards exhibition (co-presented by the Polish Cultural Institute). In 1970s communist Poland it was extremely difficult to obtain vinyl, so sound postcards were the next best option. Sound postcards are exactly what they seem like, any style postcard with an analogue recording engraved in a thin layer of laminate. These cards, over 400, can be played on any record player, are generally lower quality with a single track and the images range from kittens to flowers to people to stylin’ seventies graphic art. It was a slow afternoon with only a few visitors but the space is super sleek and it was unlike any exhibit I’ve ever experienced. Until that afternoon I had never heard or even conceived of postcards that are records (now quite rare to come across) and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to 70s Polish superstar ballads, Michael Jackson covers and swing songs.

I then made my way to ROSE Bar only a few blocks away from Devotion to decorate for The Kiss & Tell party (Queen of Hearts).  Fabulous hostess and Bunker photographer Seze Devres has been throwing Kiss & Tell (themed) parties monthly for the past four years. The space was small and intimate and Seze and I, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day decked out ROSE bar in hundreds of playing cards and hearts. Kiss & Tell welcomed Barbara Preisinger, Spinoza, Mike Servito and Mike Huckaby. All the dj’s killed it and I stayed until the doors closed. Mike Huckaby (for president!) was the most memorable of all sets and his remixing of classic dance songs with deep house beats melted my face.

All in all UNSOUND was an incredible experience that I am grateful to have been apart of, if only in the smallest way. I was able to particpate in something biger than myself. [I think I put off writing this post because I feel as if there are no words to express my experience] UNSOUND may not be that known, or receive hype like other national festivals but Unsound is quite epic. It  is collaboration, innovation, creation, art, culture and progression and I can’t wait until the next one.

images below thanks to dear friends Sam Campbell and Seze Devres. please check out their amazing photographs.

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