Next year in person
Glitches in the Seder
Last weekend I watched Melvin “Traxx” Oliphant spin 12-inches from the Trax Records catalog through Twitch. Traxx’s set capped off a daylong benefit for Gramaphone Records, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in November. The previous month, Black Dog & Leventhal published a translation of The Song of the Machine, a French graphic novel on the history of dance music. Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo wrote the forward, a chronological look at their growth from early 1990s ravers who admired Black dance producers from Chicago and Detroit, to their first taste of success as they readied their 1997 debut, Homework. The previous year, they met two of their heroes, DJ Deeon and DJ Milton, in the alley behind Gramaphone.
Thomas and Guy-Manuel had gotten hooked on house through Trax, which became a primary avenue for Chicago house artists after it launched in 1984. Founder Larry Sherman developed a reputation for stiffing musicians while springboarding their songs overseas, introducing the world to acid house on records rumored to have been pressed on recycled unsold back-stock. Sherman died on April 9, at the age of 70, near the beginning of Passover, when our people end our hours-long Seders with “Next year in Jerusalem.” The day before, I had plugged into a Zoom meeting with dozens of other Jewish folks—in Scotland, Austria, and spread out among three additional time zones in the U.S.—all of us attempting to sing together, unmuted, during the first night’s Seder. The feedback sounded like it should have scorched our computers. I thought, “Next year in person.”
A little more than a week later, Traxx spun selections Trax cuts in his home, on a setup flanked by shelving units. I didn’t notice any of the glitches that seem like a routine part of the virtual concert experience till he put on Hercules’ “Lost in the Groove.” The sound quality wasn’t lacking, but when Hercules asked for the crowd to clap their hands in his impossibly deep voice, it took several seconds for Traxx to turn to the camera and clap along. And I wonder what kind of strange, arrhythmic sounds those of us watching could have made while attempting to clap together, if only we had used a different program.