(Note: The details listed here are my best recollection of the events; if you ‘know’ better, please feel free to reply here or post a link. Also any photos of the event or the police intrusion would be highly complementary.)
As many of you do not know, my roommate is DJ Haz-Mat* of WBGU. He’s been on the air for about 9 years now and (though not recently) has DJed at a number of events. His genres of choice are dark ambient, industrial or any sort of harsh techno or electronic music; by no means the most ‘popular’ or ear-friendly. I’ve listened to artists like Aphex Twin, Autechre, The Crystal Method and Boards of Canada, but they are not more than a wee slice of greater electronic pie.
At any rate, he invited me to attend Schizophrenia 4, which “established itself in 2007 as North America’s premiere event for hardcore techno, breakcore and extreme electronics”. Now there’s some prestige. Not familiar with breakcore?
I listened to some samples and figured that I could probably make it through the 9 hour show. We stocked up on supplies, packing two coolers with food and beverage, and made our way to promised land: Detroit.
Oh Detroit, long have I longed for your sweet, sweet embrace, your destitute industry, frequent liquor stores and distinctive reek of raw sewage lurking southward along I-75. If Cleveland’s major export is crippling depression, Detroit must be importing it by the boatload. Large portions of the city appeared to be abandoned, which would explain the convenient empty parking garage in which Schizophrenia 4 was to be held.
The location of the show was not revealed until the day of; truly underground. DJ Haz-Mat* and I traveled down long corridors of capitalist wasteland before arriving at the Cadillac Body Shop. After some confusion as to whether or not we should park in an overgrown lot across the street, we grabbed our gear and headed inside the building.
The Cadillac Body Shop must’ve had quite a bit of business back in the day, given that the structure had the capacity to hold hundreds of vehicles. The bottom floor featured parking for the DJs, promoters and artists, guest check-in, two Port-a-Lets (which I didn’t expect, honestly) and funneled revelers towards a concrete ramp going to the main floor, the venue proper.
The main floor is… like a rave? That sounds asinine yet appropriate. (Like there’s some kind of typical rave setting, ha.) There’s a large screen on one wall for the VJ’s (Video Jockeys) to project accompaning images and videos to the music. Infront of the screen are tables for the DJs and artists to set up their equipment on. Beyond that lie the sound and light system (which from ear-witness accounts could be heard at least 5 blocks away) and some merch tables and ‘vendors' in the back.
I had (or was having) a great time. Around 10:30 my back started hurting so I sat off to one side with my ear plugs in. Shortly thereafter the police raided. I didn’t really notice what was going on until the music was cut. Here’s my roommate’s account:
It happened at around 11:00-ish. K.Attic and Deadlines did their DJ sets, and In Broken Key and Stagediver did their sets. There was an undercover cop walking around in a FUCT shirt for awhile, and then next thing I know I’m at the merch tables and someone tells me the cops are raiding the place. I see some cop in a black POLICE shirt with a facemask and ballcap walking around with a Glock casually hanging in his hand, telling Cutups to pack his shit up. The music’s still playing, so it hasn’t quite sunken in yet that we’re fucked, and then I see people being lined up face against the wall, and some poor girl being dragged on the ground by a cop.
Then they tell everyone to line up in two lines with our hands on our heads. We all get marched downstairs and told to sit down, girls on one side, guys on another. Some guy talks back to the cops and gets his chest kicked in and made to lay face-down for his trouble. We get the speech that it’s an illegal party, etc. etc. and told to pull out our ID’s (which the cops seemingly never check for most of us). They let the guys leave first, and then some time later the girls. As I’m walking out, I see the two door guys lying face-down with cuffs on. One of them looks pretty fucked up, drooling all over the ground. Promoters and performers have to stay inside.
Most of us are waiting across the street for friends still being detained, or needing to get back in because we have bags and property still left inside or have cars parked inside the garage. While still being held inside by the cops, they ask if we have any bags or coolers upstairs. I tell them that I have some property upstairs, but they don’t let me go get it. After waiting for some time outside to retrieve my shit, the cops tell us to disperse. I ask them if I can get my stuff, and the cop asks me “why didn’t you get it earlier when we told you to?” Uhhh… you wouldn’t let me, asshole.
(italics added for clarity of reading)
We ended up going home and returning the next day to get our stuff.
Irony: In 2007, as part of album/concert promotion, Nine Inch Nails had a secret show raided by a fake SWAT team. From The NIN Hotline:
Remember how last week a bunch of people in LA got AIR kits with cell phones from some dudes in a van somewhere? Well, these lucky fans got calls on their phones telling them to show up at a certain location last night, and what began as an AIR meeting led to a secret Nine Inch Nails performance that was prematurely ended by the local SWAT team. You can watch video of the meeting on OSR.net and you can read more about the events here on ETS. Make sure you digg the story, too. And, NO FAIR WHAT ABOUT THE EAST COAST.
Turns out that actual ‘secret shows’ sometimes actually get busted by ‘real law-enforcement officers’ who may or may not conduct themselves in the most professional manner. There’s also real consequences. I’m sure that raves have been broken up before, but I’ve never personally seen it myself. It also seems funny to me that someone would want to experience the simulation of a police intrusion.
The performers and promoters were cited for various crimes, i.e., operating a venue without a license, engaging in “illegal occupation”. At least one staff member was arrested. Here’s In Broken Key’s citation.
Performers could be charged up to $500.oo in fines (and additional court costs), but more importantly would have participating in “illegal employment” on their records. This could interfere with their interstate and international travel. Given that the performers did not know that they were performing at an “illegal venue”, this is very unfair. Some traveled from as far as Europe to perform at this show, and such a charge may hinder (or dissuade) them from playing in the States again.
Why all the bother? Taxes. Money for the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit. What a great reason to end the evening…
. “Illegal” venue: according to the Detroit City Vice, Schizophrenia 4 was an illegal venue because the operators did not have a “venue license”; and it was a venue because guests were charged an admission at the door. The police seized any money collected at the door. Admissions, in my book, could just as easily be donations. Words, words, words. The event DID occur with the consent of the owner of the property.
. This was the second charge lain upon Schizophrenia 4; that there was the selling of alcohol and the site did not have a liquor license. If there was anyone selling beer at the event, I don’t believe they were in ‘cahoots’ with the promoters or the property owner; I doubt Vice cared though.
. To read the entirity of DJ Haz-Mat*’s account, click here.
. http://www.theninhotline.net/news/archives/backissue.php?y=07&m=4#1176993303. Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Zero_(album)#Performance_2007_tour