Following a month off, the long-running DJ night returns with a Halloween show at Otherworld on Saturday, Oct. 26
Occasionally you’ll hear about an idea being hatched “after a few drinks,” but the opposite is true of the long-running DJ night Midwest Fresh.
“The idea, originally, was to take the focus away from time constraints and bar culture,” said the Detroit-raised Jed James, who traced his involvement in electronic music to the rave scene that developed in the Midwest in the early 1990s. “Neither [co-founder and business partner] Kevin [Brugger] or I drink ... [and we felt] this music shouldn't be in bars. I didn't discover this music in bars. ... This music, to me, was something deeper than that.”
While living in Texas, James gave up drinking, which meant learning the DJ craft anew, because, as he explained it, “I’d never played records sober.” But it wasn’t until James was living in Ohio, following a 2010 trip to Detroit for Movement (a large, techno-centric music festival held annually on Memorial Day), that he and Brugger co-formed Contrast Music, intent on showcasing the type of music and the overall scene they hoped to see develop. Freed from the restrictions that night clubs put on alcohol sales and hours, the pair’s Midwest Fresh regularly runs into the early morning hours, giving DJs more space with which to explore in their sets.
“When the focus is on the dancing and the music, that's when the magic happens,” said James, who organized events at places like the now-defunct Double Happiness in the Brewery District, hosting parties on the last Saturday of each month. This month’s event, back following a month off (its first break in five years), features Iran-born, San Francisco-based DJ Mozhgan spinning alongside locals Mike Amerine and Brian Cheng. It takes place at Otherworld on Saturday, Oct. 26, and for the first time a ticket is required for admission.
Early in its formation, James and Brugger chose to make the event invite-only. “You don't create a community by being ultra-exclusive,” James said, “but you do create a community by being selective and caring about the people who show up.”
In addition to preventing overcrowding, James said that decision helped Midwest Fresh develop as a safe space where people from all walks of life can enjoy themselves free of judgment, which has allowed the event to cultivate a diverse audience ready and willing to be challenged by its heady mix of visiting DJs and locals. On the event page, this philosophy is spelled out in the simplest terms: “RESPECT one another. RESPECT yourself. RESPECT the space.”