Dweller Festival Is Forging the Future of Black Electronic Music

After an inaugural six nights in February 2019, Dweller released a second edition in 2020, before the pandemic hit the American shores and the Black Lives Matter protests helped spur widespread racism in dance music. After cutting the festival last year the activities this weekend became the most ambitious part of Dweller. In addition to local artists such as AceMo, Juliana Huxtable and TYGAPAW, the festival will be attended by luminaries RP Boo and Jana Rush, British julist dBridge, Detroit pioneer Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale and Detroit techno-political band Underground Resistance conscious techno.

With the upheavals of 2020 fading in memory, Dweller’s mission feels more necessary than ever. “You see the same syllables, the same behavior, and it’s like erasure,” says Hutchinson, lamenting the stubborn complacency of electronic music. “I was very depressed because many of us put so much energy into making something different, into talking about our experiences in the hope that it might make someone feel. So when you publish it all, and it meets with the same repetition, you think, “What’s the point of telling me more?”

But Hutchinson realized she had a choice: instead of constantly fighting back against existing forces, she could dedicate her efforts to building something independent and self-sustaining. “To the tin all the noise in the background,” she says. “I don’t particularly care if these other sites and institutions want to leave us out of sight. I just want to focus on creating space for the amazing creativity and diversity of black artists. I need to give my energy to what gives me joy in this short life. ”


Pitchfork: How would you describe Dweller’s mission?

Frankie Decaise Hutchinson: Over the years it has become deeper. This year, in particular because we have all gone through so much, there is a real need for communication, confirmation and compassion. Simply put, we are here to provide platforms for artists to connect the present with the past and restore those connections in Black Electronic Music.

It has become bigger because of the context in which we live. In the beginning, it had a more homely atmosphere – like: “Let’s just have a fun meeting.” We are now booking foreign guests. The need to connect has become more urgent. Now it’s more like a conference rather than the way we hang out in the living room. But I think both vibrations are still there. The most important factor is that black people can enjoy the place and feel safe.

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This year’s theme brings together several generations. Why do you think the younger generation of black electronic musicians can learn from the older ones?

History. It is impossible to overestimate. Being a young man, looking at this music and looking at my black seniors in space, it was so enriching and reassuring. This gives you a stronger foundation in a space that you considered mostly white. It gives you a sense of confidence and purpose as if you belong here. It gives you a sense of pride, and it’s priceless.

What I find interesting in the intergenerational theme is that in previous decades, many black American electronic musicians were looking to Europe to make a living, simply because there were fans there. But this new generation feels much more committed to building something sustainable in the States.

This is very true. A few months ago Underground Resistance was in New York and they were talking about how so many black musicians left because the US didn’t want to recognize techno or house as a musical art. What is happening now looks pretty punk where black musicians are trying to do it for themselves. New York is full of creatives, and not many people want to leave. The desire to stay here has a real sense of pride. There was also such an influx of clubs and nightlife, and this love of techno and house has grown by a step. I feel like it’s pretty steady here – people can make money as a DJ, so it changes things a lot.

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What was the crowd mix like in previous editions of Dweller?

I. to think I remember it was really black, but I may also have an electoral memory because I want it to be that way. But I would say I have seen many more groups of black friends at these events and many more black people coming to the front. This is the funniest thing – you throw this thing on the Month of Black History and say, “Okay, but the crowd should reflect that, too.” This is my hope.

Are there any moments of the Residents that remain in your memory?

One defining moment for me was 2020, when DJ Assault played solid music and scratched those tracks – it was so crazy and almost stupid. But everyone was losing their minds, and we were all shaking our asses, having fun and being carefree. It just felt so free.

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