No Way Back in Detroit

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  • Of all the events happening in Detroit during Movement every year, none embody the city's seminal rave scene as fully as No Way Back, a party founded by the local label Interdimensional Transmissions and co-hosted by New York techno institution The Bunker. "For many of us it began in the 90s," writes Brendan Gillen, AKA BMG, in the manifesto that announces each event. "Searching through fliers at Record Time, calling info lines and buying your ticket at Zoot's only to get lost trying to find that elusive warehouse. What was inside? Something amazing…" This year that warehouse was Tangent Gallery, a multi-purpose venue just outside Downtown Detroit. This was a big improvement from 1515 Broadway, the tiny sweatbox that hosted last year's party. There was a rambling garden outside with fire performers, a softly-lit chill-out area (the Outer Space room), and a spacious main dance floor, draped in parachutes that were back-lit with eerie red light, conjuring the atmosphere of a womb or an underground nest. The same crew of old friends play No Way Back every year, but in a different order every time. Carlos Souffront wanted to start this year, and Gillen obliged. Next was Mark Verbos, who delivered an hour of lean and utilitarian techno for the night's modular live set (another cornerstone of No Way Back). Then came Mike Servito, whose performance at last year's edition was one of our favourite mixes of 2014. "Servito's supposed to be the party DJ," Gillen told me by the bar, "then he goes up there and he's fucking evil as hell!" For sure, Servito was a few shades darker than he was last year. With that creepy hand looming over his shoulder, he unleashed a relentless torrent of acid tracks, as punishing as they were funky, occasionally lightening the mood with a bit of raucous house. Gillen followed and brought us down the rabbit hole, using a cut from Neel's Phobos as a jumping off point for 90 minutes of swirling house and techno (Gesloten Cirkel's "Submit X," Asusu's "Serra") that somehow finished, in what felt like the DJ equivalent of a mic-drop, with Can's "Vitamin C." Erika, Gillen's partner in Interdimensional Transmissions, was the most destructive DJ of the night, barreling through the wee hours with cosmic warfare shit—huge, pummeling and wonderfully sinister. Patrick Russell followed suit at first, then grew more nimble and atmospheric, moving through dreamlike bits of techno, electro and what sounded like IDM. By the time Derek Plaslaiko started, amber sunlight mixed with the red glow behind the parachutes. The local hero closed the room with long and atmospheric cuts like Cobblestone Jazz's "Northern Lights." Meanwhile, a disco party had begun in Outer Space. For most of the night, this small, concrete room had been home to mind-bending ambient sets from Bryan Kasenic of The Bunker, Spectrum Spools founder (and Emeralds member) John Elliott and inspired up-and-comer Nihal Ramchandani. But sometime around dawn, local DJ Scott Zacharias, armed with a lollipop headphone and a bag of exquisitely tacky records, got started on one of his "sleaze" sets. Pastel swaths of fabric hung overhead as a sweaty, blissed-out crowd moved to tracks like Don Carlos's "Alone (Paradise)" and Ryan Paris's "Dolce Vita" (the instrumental mix). Couples kissed and lazily grooved. Flamboyant dancers flung themselves through the creamy sunlight. It was a dazzling contrast to the rave vortex next door, and enough to make this party really unforgettable.