Heard on CultureShift

Grandma Techno Parties Harder Than You

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Image credit: Ryan Patrick Hooper

I’ve gotten wilder the older I’ve gotten,” says Patricia Lay-Dorsey, who is better known to electronic music fans as Grandma Techno.

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Patricia Lay-Dorsey gets around by scooter at Movement. She's been attending since 2005.Stephen Bondio
Stephen Bondio

Patricia Lay-Dorsey gets around by scooter at Movement. She’s been attending since 2005.

A yearbook photo from 1959 shows Patricia Lay-Dorsey at 17-years-old decades before the "Grandma Techno" nickname. Her first musical love was jazz. It was around this age when she would see performances from Thelonious Monk and other jazz icons at clubs in and around Washington D.C., where she grew up before moving to Michigan. She currently resides in Grosse Pointe Farms.Courtesy of Patricia Lay-Dorsey
Courtesy of Patricia Lay-Dorsey

A yearbook photo from 1959 shows Patricia Lay-Dorsey at 17-years-old decades before the “Grandma Techno” nickname. Her first musical love was jazz. It was around this age when she would see performances from Thelonious Monk and other jazz icons at clubs in and around Washington D.C., where she grew up before moving to Michigan. She currently resides in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full conversation. CultureShift airs weekdays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station.

76-year-old photographer Patricia Lay-Dorsey has become a folk hero at the Movement Music Festival — the celebration of electronic music that takes place in downtown Detroit at Hart Plaza every Memorial Day weekend.

At the festival, she’s known simply as “Grandma Techno” — one of the oldest music fans there who gets around via mobilized scooter due to her diagnosis of progressive multiple sclerosis at the age of 45.

The nickname was given to her by a fellow patron who was helping her move through a crowd during one of her first trips to Movement.

He said, ‘get out of the [expletive] way — Grandma Techno wants to get through!’” recalls Lay-Dorsey, whose been going to the festival since 2005 (one of her favorite deejays is Benny Benassi).

Everybody started yelling, ‘Grandma Techno! Grandma Techno!’ And then it went viral. I’m known all over the world that way.”

Her first experience was overwhelming. Much of her live music experience was tied to seeing live jazz — not thumping, driving bass blasted through massive sound systems.

It was louder than anything I’ve ever heard in my life,” says Lay-Dorsey, who had to buy ear plugs at a nearby hotel gift shop. “That bass beat just got me in the gut.”

She quickly fell in love with the music and the vibe of the festival.

I loved it from the get-go, but I’ve loved to dance ever since I could walk,” says Lay-Dorsey. “I remember doing the jitter bug in front of the mirror when I was 14-years-old.”

When I became disabled, that didn’t stop me from being a dancer,” adds Lay-Dorsey.

This July, Lay-Dorsey will release a book of her photography taken at Movement over the years with Detroit-based boutique publishing house 1xRUN. It’s called “They Call Me Grandma Techno.”

Click the audio player above to hear Grandma Techno talk about her experiences at Movement and her life dealing with progressive multiple sclerosis​. You can preview some of the images from her upcoming book “They Call Me Grandma Techno” below.

Patricia Lay Dorsey / "They Call Me Grandma Techno"
Patricia Lay Dorsey / “They Call Me Grandma Techno”
Patricia Lay Dorsey / "They Call Me Grandma Techno"
Patricia Lay Dorsey / “They Call Me Grandma Techno”
Patricia Lay Dorsey / "They Call Me Grandma Techno"
Patricia Lay Dorsey / “They Call Me Grandma Techno”
Patricia Lay Dorsey / "They Call Me Grandma Techno"
Patricia Lay Dorsey / “They Call Me Grandma Techno”

 


Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is a host of CultureShift and longtime arts, culture and music reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @hoopingtonpost

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