For Movement tickets please follow the link.
For Movement tickets please follow the link.
Every Memorial Day weekend, my friends and I embark on our annual pilgrimage to Detroit for Paxahau’s Movement Electronic Music Fest (formerly known as Detroit Electronic Music Fest, or DEMF). The birthplace of techno, Detroit hosts the event every year in the heart of the city, Hart Plaza. Unlike most festivals that are held in public parks or on raceways, Movement’s Hart Plaza is a sprawling concrete jungle with six stages all tucked away in their own unique area. Movement is one of the longest running electronic music festivals in the world, founded in 2000 by Detroit techno legends Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, and Carl Craig as a free festival open to the public. Since Detroit is the birthplace of techno, Movement has a vibe unlike any other festival; The DJs all play with a sense of pride to represent the city and its electronic culture and the crowd’s primary focus is to listen to incredible sets and dance the weekend away. After experiencing another amazing weekend in Detroit, 2015 proved to be one of my personally highest ranked Movement years ever.Friday
My group arrived in Detroit one day prior to the official start of the festival in order to enjoy the annual festival pre-party ‘Bang Tech 12’ on Friday night, a free event held at Bookie’s Bar and Grille that showcases mostly local techno and house Djs on three separate floors; the most satisfying stage held on the roof of the bar that provides open air and great views. The excitement of the crowd at this party was palpable by the end of the night. There is nothing like the vibe of a party where the crisp evening air hits your face as local techno hits your ears, eyes darting towards the scenery of Canada’s neon casinos in the distance as only joy resonates within your body, knowing the real festival hasn’t even started yet. This free party has occurred every year since Movement’s inception and our group has no plan to stop attending.Saturday
With a late arrival Saturday evening due to much needed recovery time from the Bang Tech 12 pre-party, I started off the evening at the ‘sixth stage’, a new stage that was tucked away in the corner of the fest, allowing one to escape from the crowds and dance in the grass with all the room they require. Since the sixth stage was hosting all drum n bass local Djs on Saturday, I put that dance room to good use. The snarling basslines of this enclosed jungle habitat kept me busy for a while until it was time to head over to Dixon at the main stage of movement. Reminiscent of a Roman Empire colosseum, the main stage boasts the biggest lights, sound, and capacity of all the stages. Dixon kept the crowd going with his patented trippy techno, but I was only able to enjoy his set for a short while before I made my way to the underground stage for one of my highly anticipated sets of the weekend, Cell Injection. Cell Injection consists of Droid Recording founder DrumCell and Audio Injection, two Djs who play hard techno. The underground stage hosted the majority of the faster tempo techno artists of the weekend, and boasted a bass crushing sound system where earplugs could hardly fend off the decibels.Needless to say, Cell injection was absolutely ruthless in punishing the crowd goer’s dancing shoes, whipping track after track of 150+ bpm goodness. Once my organs and bones felt rattled enough from the merciless sound system, I backtracked to the main stage to catch techno legend Richie Hawtin. Hawtin, who I feel can be hit or miss with his live sets, was all hit in Detroit. Utilizing a minimal yet effective lighting system of all black and white, his tracks built upon one another seamlessly and closed out Saturday night without skipping a beat.
On Sunday, the first person I made sure to see was Dubfire. Unfortunately, the seeing part was a bit difficult. Dubfire played at the Beatport Stage (or commonly known as the pyramid stage for those who can’t keep track of the stage name changes year over year), which has been notorious since the festival’s inception for creating aggravating crowd bottlenecks when a festival favorite Dj commands the stage. With three sides of the stage consisting of Lake Michigan, the stage, and a pyramid structure that holds standing attendees, the only opening to the rest of the festival is narrowed by vendor trucks, creating an uncomfortable passageway to get in and out. Due to its inherent layout, I was unable to catch a glimpse of Dubfire and could only passively listen and dance in a constricted area.Since I have seen Dubfire countless times, I decided to leave the suffocating stage and make my way to Josh Wink at the main stage. Josh Wink delivered his usual brand of thumping acid techno. Midway through his set he played his classic “One Laugh”, a blood curdling acid techno track with a haunting laugh reminiscent of The Joker. After Josh Wink’s performance, I took some respite in the VIP lounge with one of the complimentary massages offered in the area. The additional cost of my VIP ticket was well worth the free massages alone. Just a ten minute deep massage and I was completely rejuvenated to dance away the rest of the evening. As night began to reclaim the sky and the lights of the main stage illuminated the crowd, Loco Dice took the stage and played track after track of crowd-pleasing techno. Once Loco Dice’s set neared its end, a wave of younger kids thirsty for an EDM oasis in a techno desert began to make their way to the main stage for the duo Dog Blood (Skrillex and Boys Noize). While I respect both artists, my heart lies with techno, so I finished the evening enjoying Ben Klocks set at the underground stage. Once the festival closed at midnight, we continued our journey to one of the most exciting chapters of Movement weekend, the afterparty. The after party scene for Movement weekend is almost as important as the festival itself. Every night there are dozens upon dozens of afterparties being thrown; some at bars, some at clubs, and some at warehouses. Each party tends to have its own mission, whether it’s to showcase the most popular techno artists under one roof or to bring back the atmosphere of yesteryear raves by throwing a party in an abandoned warehouse with minimal lighting and maximum dancing. I decided to go with the an afterparty that yearned for old school vibes at an old school venue, ‘A Reach Beyond the Beyond’ due to promises of an old school warehouse venue. Upon arrival, I realized that the warehouse was beyond any expectations I could have ever had. A massive first floor had a Dj in one corner with a group of partygoers enthusiastically dancing, paying no heed to the random tires and wooden beams scattered around the room. Hearing word that there was a second floor, we waited in line to take the stairs up as the second floor was at capacity momentarily. After fifteen minutes or so, we were led up to a rickety walkway with caution tape lining the rail. After thanking the Lord for not allowing the walkway to collapse beneath us, we made it to the second floor where acid techno was blasting via the craftsmanship of DJ ESP Woody McBride. Everyone at the party seemed to appreciate the old school venue, and that appreciation transcended among all party goers in the form of hugs, smiles, and sawdust-kicking footwork. At 5am I reached maximum rave capacity and left the party to get some sleep, leaving behind a warehouse still full of people who planned on going far later in the morning than my body could handle.
The final day of Movement came with another schedule full of must-see artists to fill my voracious appetite for quality tunes. A sunny afternoon in Detroit gleamed upon a rare lightly-crowded pyramid stage, and I was able to take advantage of the dance space and groove to the upbeat house music supplied by Route 94. After their set ended, I drifted over to the Made in Detroit stage, a location dedicated to housing mostly Detroit techno legends. I caught a set from Phuture. While the group hails from Chicago, their lust for playing heavy acid with massive hardware represents both the windy and motor city’s style of dance music. After Phuture banged out more acid house and techno than I could normally digest, the next four hours became a euphoric blur of pounding techno. Paco Osuna and Nicole Moudaber delivered heavy-hitting techno at the pyramid stage while LED backdrops emanated a dizzying array of psychedelic patterns and shapes. Maceo Plex absolutely pummeled the main stage with his own brand of techno that can only be described simply as intense.One of my favorite tracks of Plex’s, “Conjure Sex”, was mixed in towards the end of his set and caused the crowd to erupt when it’s Lord of the Rings sounding horn ripped midway through the song. The final two hours of the festival had some highs and lows; the peaks were the blitzing, quick mixing of Ben Sims and the glitchy, chaotic IDM of Squarepusher while the grueling valley was Dj Snoopadelic. Even though it was the only musical atrocity of the weekend, Paxahau’s decision to book Snoop as the closer on the main stage proved to be a poor one, as he emulated a wedding Dj playing dive bar songs like Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” with zero mixing involved. Hopefully next year Paxahau will choose someone that truly represents the culture of Detroit techno to properly close out the festival.
Movement festival left me with a weeklong afterglow filled with memories of techno, dancing, warehouses, and friends. Sometimes it amazes me that Movement has been occurring for 14 years and still consistently delivers top-notch talent and production. Many of my friends went for their first time this year and every single one has been converted to a loyal technophile servant of the festival for the foreseeable future. If you have yet to experience the incomparable vibes and music of movement festival, I suggest you mark your calendar for Memorial Day weekend of 2016, or perhaps even sooner, as Paxahau discreetly left a hint for an upcoming festival in ‘fall 2015’ on the back of their festival flyer.