72-year-old Grandma Techno is a testament to raving despite age or disability.
It's not hard to spot Grandma Techno in the thick of things when she's at Movement festival in Detroit. Her white hair sticks out like a lone cloud in a brilliant blue sky, and she's usually dancing next to a mobile scooter, her main source of transportation. Over the years, she's become a beloved staple at the festival; countless videos and photos documenting her vibrant spirit have surfaced online, including a mini-documentary produced by her friend. But who really is Grandma Techno?
Her real name is Patricia Lay-Dorsey, and she's a 72-year-old former hippie who has been attending Movement for the last ten years. Her first sojourn happened in 2005. After attending different music festivals in Detroit, Patricia and her friend decided to check out Movement without wit or predisposition for what they were going to encounter.
"We went into Hart Plaza and it was so loud! Not just by the stages, but everywhere we went. I didn't know electronic music at all, but I adored it once I discovered it," she says. She goes on to recall that first-year learning experience, "As we left I remember someone was doing a survey out front and they asked, 'do you like house or techno better?' I didn't know what they were talking about, but I tried to act like I did so I said techno! Now there's dub, trance, and such. I was so clueless! I never miss a beat now."
The year she claimed the name Grandma Techno, she was attempting to turn her scooter around and asked some of the festival-goers for help so she could get to the Beatport stage. "Half way through the journey this big guy's voice came out of nowhere yelling, 'It's Grandma Techno, let her through!' and the whole crowd started yelling 'Grandma Techno!'" she says. After she popped up on Humans of New York in April 2015, her profile started to rise again, something she's grown accustomed to after Movement posted her documentary on their Facebook page.
The old saying 'youth is wasted on the young' is a maxim that speaks volumes to Patricia, who finds herself only getting wilder—and more authentic—with age. "I would say I started becoming crazy at 40, but by 50 I was big-time. I swear to you every decade gets crazier. It's like I just get weirder and weirder and more of my own unique self, not giving a damn what anyone thinks." She also hasn't attended another electronic festival, but she's open to it, "you never know, life is crazy. I never know what's next."
Patricia doesn't let her age or her disability prevent her from enjoying the festival like everyone else. Instead, she uses her celebrity to inspire more handicapped people to revel in the music they love, and lobby for more disability-friendly areas at festivals. "I don't want an area in the back. We want to party too," she insists.
She's also peaking the curiosity of an older crowd. "The Detroit newspaper wrote something on me around 2012, and I noticed a few more older heads than usual. It's terrific. We should be more inter-generational. I'd love to open it up and see what it does to the energy," she says.
With the upcoming Movement weekend marking her eleventh episode, Patricia's excitement is evident as she remembers some of her choice sets. "Claude VonStroke is absolutely my favorite. I love him. We actually got to know each other a little bit and he's the sweetest guy. Last year John Digweed played and I went fucking crazy! A marvelous local, well, she tours all over the world, DJ Minx. Awesome. Love her!"
Over the years, even Grandma Techno has started to notice a shift in Movement's crowd. "I'm a bit of a Movement old-timer. We have our own ethos inside of our electronic music culture—always be considerate of others. It's beginning to change a little now. The young people, the ones following the mainstream, that's a different world. They don't know our ethics or understand the culture. It's a different energy."
"It makes me a little sad," she says, unravelling a bit. "It's part of the nature, I know, but once something goes above ground it changes."
Yet, when she explains what the scene means to her, you can understand just how deep her love goes, "I adore the amazing young people who are so full of love and peace and gentle spiritedness. If only other people in the world knew that this is what this generation is really like. If people were to just walk inside the festival and see the beauty of the young people, it's phenomenal."
Although Patricia has never been a mother, after becoming a stalwart of Movement, she feels like she's adopted a rave-load of children. "It's the kids [that make Movement so special]. Their energy is so sweet and I think it's special to EDM lovers. And I say kids because I'm almost 73—everybody's is my grandchild. I'm always the oldest person there. Even people in their 50s could be my kid!"
Patricia sees mirroring qualities between the "Summer of Love" era she grew up in, and today's dance music culture. The bellowing bass-lines and clapping hit-hats first drew her into Movement, but the culture made her a life-time devotee. "It's really the people. They remind me of the 1960s with the peace and love. But maybe they're tranced out on E, I don't know..." she says with a pause. "Probably."
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