Musique Electronique: Recap

Omar S Spinning Vinyl at the Moon Tent, July 13th 2019 (Alice Alexeeva)

Author: Ben Farrell

Just over a week ago, a local music staple that’s been steadily growing over the past decade had its biggest weekend yet. The Musique Electronique portion of Madison’s yearly Fete Du Marquette jamboree, headlined by Detroit-techno legend Stacey Pullen and the midwest’s underground king, Omar-S, is an event that provides the service of the best-of-the-best in electronic music to Madison.

Outside of Musique Electronique, The Fete is made up of mostly families, food carts, and folk bands. The east-side-staple that is McPike Park plays host to Fete, filling with frolicking children, parents on the lookout for craft beer, and just about every high-end food offering Madison has. But, at the far end of the festival, a seemingly unstoppable 125 BPM thump of Musique Electronique almost mystically draws music lovers like myself to “The Moon Tent.”

Behind a chain-link fence, under a massive white canopy, some of the United States’ foremost electronic musicians brought the movement to Madison. Playing off of a stage covered in lights, decorated with a new-ae moon-like topography, DJ’s transported the audience to a place Madison hasn’t reached in a long time. 

 This year’s Musique Electronique was the largest to date, switching from just a single day of performances to two. Another significant change from last year’s Fete to this year’s was the scale of production. Festival organizer Jason Van Nurden outlined the two main advancements that helped this year’s production hit the heights it did:

“First was going back to two nights with a major headliner each night in the dance tent at la fete. The second was what was done with the stage and lighting setup this year and how we built the stage to look like the moon, and added a ton of extra lights and lasers around the event to create something beyond the more basic visual setups in years past. Max who has been with us for the last 4 or 5 years was instrumental in dreaming up the vision and bringing it to life. This event really takes a team to make happen though, and that team the last few years includes Max, Jared, Ankur, and myself.” 

On Friday, July 12th, headliner Omar-S played two unbelievably versatile sets off Vinyl. His ability to transition between his own music, calmly composed soundscapes with deep thumping bass tracks, into house and techno classics, while still managing to throw in a hip-hop or disco track in every once in a while kept myself and most of the festival goers guessing in the best of ways.

The owner and lead artist on his own imprint FXHE records, Omar-S has through his DJing prowess, unorthodox production, and boundless collaborations shot to the forefront of the much-storied detroit scene. Working frequently with local legends such as Norm Talley and Luke Hess, Omar has come to the forefront of American techno as a steward and master of the underground.

Omar’s addition on this lineup was an especially good get for the local festival. Omar’s stature on the house music scene in Detroit has in recent years reached near legendary levels. His commitment to quality music, as well as fostering a vibrant, self sustaining underground community of electronic music in the midwest fits perfectly into the mission of Musique Electronique, and I must say, he seemed thrilled to be in Madison. 

On the 13th, Joel Shannahan AKA Golden Donna, lit up the Moon Tent with a Live PA set. Constructing his sounds on the spot, Shannahan bumped and gyrated to the almost organically growing soundscapes. Watching someone of his skill level put together music on the spot, synths, drum machines, and all is a show in and of itself.

Stacey Pullen, that night’s headliner, is another Detroit legend. Since 1985, Stacey has been spinning house and techno, and hasn’t slowed down over the thirty-plus years he’s been at it. His performances in both the High-Noon Saloon and Moon Tent helped cap off the festival in style. The DJ-Audience feedback loop that makes was infectiously exciting, working at its highest capacity. After every one of Stacey’s transitions, the crowd would cheer with an almost primal glee, pushing Stacey on. The detroit OG even posted on his story that Fete had been one of “His favorite parties of the year.

All in all, this year’s Musique Electronique was a rip-roaring success. The presence of electronic music in Madison has steadily grown, and this year’s festival is a major landmark. When I asked Jason about the future of events like Musique Electronique in Madison, he replied that, “As for Madison specifically I see more people taking chances on artists and pushing the sounds they believe in forward.” He also made sure to mention to look out his next party, called Willy Street beats, headlined by Mike Servito and Lauren Flax, two legendary midwest spinners. Stay tuned Madison!

Check out this conversation between Saturday’s headliner Stacey Pullen and our music director Ben Farrell below for more Fete Related content!