Images courtesy of Adult Contemporary
I am a humble resident of 1217 Griswold Street, but not for much longer. 1217 Griswold is peraps the most infamous artists' loft space in all of Detroit, and everyone in this building has received a 30-day eviction notice, right in the middle of this warm and sunshine-y February—psyche! It's unbelievably miserable here. We are the victims of a yuppification assault led by the multi-billionaireDan Gilbert, who, over the last couple of years, has invested heavily in the “revitalization” of our fair city. This has effectively resulted in a back-handed cleanse of the artists, musicians, weirdos and freaks out here—you know, the nutcases who will always have my undying love.
1217 Griswold, a conglomeration of ten sprawling lofts on the west side of Capitol Park, has been incubated city’s electronic music culture for decades. It was here that Paxahau
, the company you can thank for sustaining Movement, the festival formerly known as DEMF
, got its start. But this building’s seminal years date back to the early 90s, when a close-knit community of aspiring DJs, promoters, and high-tech malcontents threw parties here that became cornerstones of Detroit’s early rave scene and kicked off the city’s third-wave techno movement. At one point—well, at many points—1217 Griswold became an orgiastic quasi-brothel… but I won't bore you with the details of that one.
Today, the six-story building remains a vicious assembly of some seriously cool-ass neighbors, including a photographer, a super burly rock band, a taxidermist, a master videographer, and the most brutal prog/metal band in Detroit. My loft is on the fourth floor, and it carries the pseudonym Adult Contemporary
. My roommates and I run the place as a DIY venue, a bike repair shop, a screen printing business, and the general headquarters for the galaxy of our musical operations. Across the hall is a brewery and another super swell (yet considerably less burly) rock band. A homemade skate park and a professional printmaker round out the lot. In a few weeks, this big, fat, juicy wad of creativity and human expression will be disemboweled, and the remains will have new homes in nearby dumpsters, storage units and friends’ basements.
Eviction and gentrification happen all the time, but it is a particularly hard blow to Detroit, a city that’s been the final refuge for the people who lead broken lives in order to dedicate themselves to what they do. Like, fuck, I eat ramen so I can have enough money to fix my synths. We invest in a worthy PA system so that when DJ Dez, Kyle Hall, Laurel Halo, Magic Touch, Lord Scrummage, Young Prisms, Northlake, BMG, Coyote Clean up, DakotaBones, Nate Young, FIT, Jay Daniel, Bobby Browser, Ital, MGUN, or any motherfucker who plays here can be as loud as they damn well please. We don't have enough cash to hire a bouncer, so our security is a masonic ceremonial dagger I got off eBay and a can of bear mace I keep on my hip at shows.
There’s no other place like this gruesome paradise, where you can pay $500 a month for a 2500-square-foot loft just outside the Financial District and run a boisterous-ass venue out of it. There's no other place where you can take acid on a Friday, go run around in an apocalyptic world, come down, do shitty coke, drink shitty coffee, ride a snowmobile downtown to go see Carl Craig, or Erika, or someone cool like that, then come to again, get chased by a pack of stray dogs, die, take a vitamin B supplement, eat a taco in your sleep, have your shoelaces come untied, keep on partying, do a line of Ambien, and finally realize it’s 3PM on a Tuesday and you're late for work.
Another layer of sorrow is that when we are gone, Dan Gilbert plans to turn this building
and the entire Capitol Park area into a “new arts district,” so that the trophy wives of Bloomfield Hills' computer industry moguls can make friggin clay cups on pottery wheels every other weekend.
The irony is unbearable; kick people like us out to make room for people "like us."
Our greatest fear is the complete sterilization of downtown Detroit, that this city should be so overrun by monied interests with so little sense of the true soul of this place that every existing institution that reflects the singular character of Detroit will be replaced by some McRetail franchise, and our great city ends up looking like a damn airport cafeteria.
Detroit deserves better. During times of plenty, this city provided the world with some of the greatest innovations it had ever seen. During times of lean, this city's innovative spirit didn't lose one step. Even when wild deer roamed the streets of a surreal, barren downtown, soulful and groundbreaking music rose out of the garbage and vacancy. We deserve a city that reflects our character, not soulless pre-fabricated bullshit.
There is plenty of propaganda distributed by powerful overlords who would love for you to accept that Detroit is a wasteland in need of salvation. The real truth is that thriving continuance of the techno tradition here could only have been perpetrated by the environment we have so delightfully occupied. Our music has found homes in posh clubs that boast million-dollar bottle service, but its origins in dingy, angular, post-industrial rats' nests like ours can never be denied.
The creators of Paxahau, the promotional entity that rules the party scene in Detroit and beyond, found their genesis in the humble, raw, weird and disgusting times they spent in the seedy underbelly of 1217 Griswold. Their time here helped them grow into a party monster that makes this city a mountain of cash annually through art and culture. This is the kind of grassroots-based revitilization that Detroit needs to rebrand itself as a "comeback city.
If gentrification is going to happen, Detroit deserves a kinder, gentler and more enlightened brand of it. Let us never forget that a whole lot of weird, freaky, amazing, and beautiful human individuals were gathered in dark and neglected spaces to bring light to this city, long before the big money came to town.