Music, Travel

Why I keep going to Detroit

This weekend marks my fourth time visiting Detroit.

Each year has gotten colder, pricier, glitzier and more crowded. Each year I ask myself, “should I bother going next year?” “am I too old for this?” “should I really have waited in line for those parties?” But, I love going to Detroit, and I’ll tell you why.

I spent seven years in Southern Indiana listening to dance music alone. I had handful of friends nearby who “got it” and lived five hours from a club that could pull in a good DJ. I was hungry for more. So hungry. I wanted to hear these tracks on a big systems; I wanted to dance to deep house; I wanted a community of people who would love dance music with me.

So five years ago, RossBobbyRyan and I hopped in my Jetta, packed some PBJs and drove to Detroit for just that. We found hundreds of other Midwesterners from Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois looking for the very same thing. It also was the first introductions to the music family I now have in San Francisco.

Everyone at this festival is choosing to be there. The kids, the grandmas, the DJs. Unlike the European and coastal festivals, Detroit has a high barrier to entry. It’s seen as unsafe and grungy. That filters out casual listeners who go to WMC, Sonar and BPM. The vibe has changed through the years and nothing ever is what it was. But it’s magical there and reminds me that I now live in a musical candy-land.

There is so much love in Detroit. I love being able turn to the person next to me strike up a conversation or share a friendly nod during a great track. It’s just not like that in San Francisco. I don’t know if people during this festival are so nice because it’s the midwest or because they too have finally found people to dance with. I guess it doesn’t really matter. But it’s beautiful.

I’ll probably go back next year, skip the festival, get to venues earlier and focus on the smaller parties. And if I never go back, that’s ok, it was fun while it lasted. But I’ll say this for sure, I’ve loved going to Detroit because everyone there is hungry for more.

Nina Mehta is a writer and product design leader in Brooklyn, New York. She began her design career in journalism and has been writing online for 20+ years. Nina is from outside Chicago has since lived and worked in San Francisco, Berlin, London, and Tokyo. Learn about her work at ninamehta.com.

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