The Detroit of the East: An inside look at Dresden’s techno scene

Photo Credit: DAVE Festival

Many visitors to Dresden will be familiar with the city’s history in classical music and its world-class orchestras, opera and 700-year-old choir.

Less well known is the fact that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Dresden became known as “The Detroit of the East,” a destination for lovers of techno and electronic music with legendary Detroit DJs like Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Jeff Mills flying in to play in shut-down warehouses. Here, Oliver Hartmann a DJ and the man behind Etui Records, one of Dresden’s foremost electronic music labels, showcases today’s still-thriving techno scene in Saxony’s capital.

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Photo Credit: DAVE Festival

Genres

After the early Detroit-inspired techno of the 1990s came a Dresden house movement. In the meantime, new DJs and clubbers are also rediscovering the old sounds. These days, every kind of techno sound has its followers in Dresden, Hartmann says, pointing out that drum-and-bass music and bass music in particular bring in a broad audience.

Artists

Among Dresden’s many techno artists, Hartmann has a few favourites, including Dandytracks, who contributes more than just innovative music to the city. “In addition to his awesome minimal house, he’s also an awesome graffiti artist,” Hartmann says.

Jacob Korn is another local favourite. The multifaceted musician was also the winner of the Förder prize of the Landeshaupstadt Dresden.

Hartmann is also a fan of Lockertmatik / Kryptic Univers, who has been around for about as long as the Dresden techno scene itself has. “He made a big impression on me back in the 1990s with his DJing,” Hartmann says.

Record Stores

Among places to buy electronic music in Dresden, Hartmann directs people to one place. “Fat Fenders on Böhmischen Straße is more than a record shop,” he says. The retail space is the focal point of the Dresden techno scene — and the people who gather there have a deep affinity for it. After fire damaged the shop in 2011, Fat Fenders received support from more than a hundred people who helped clean up, rebuild, and ultimately, celebrate with a big benefit party.

“At that party of Musikfreunde (music friends),” Hartmann says, “you could really experience the tightknit Dresden community.”

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Photo Credit: DAVE Festival

Festivals & Clubs

The connectivity created through that experience became the DAVE Festival. DAVE stands for Dresden Audio Visual Experience. The festival takes place over ten days at the end of October and features a broad range of audiovisual concerts, parties and film screenings.

“With some events, we bring electronic music into unexpected places, like the Martin-Luther Church or the German Hygiene Museum,” says Hartmann.

But the Dresden techno scene doesn’t wait for DAVE to get together. Throughout the year, Hartmann notes the clubs TBA, object klein a, Koralle and Sektor Evolution as innovative party locations. “A drink in Bon Voyage with a live DJ is always worthwhile for getting started in the Dresden scene,” he says.

Dresden’s Place in Global Techno

Hartmann travels around the world for inspiration, from Britain to Australia and beyond. His outward-looking view is reflected in the international mix of artists represented on his label. But at the end of the day, Dresden is where he believes the heart of global techno is today.

“It’s always a long journey back to Dresden,” Hartmann says. “The euphoria, the freedom and the familiar feeling of the city keep me anchored here.”

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