Thank You for Choosing Detroit: Movement Festival Recap
The city was buzzing more than usual in advance of the 10 year anniversary of Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit. Dubbed “Techno Christmas” to locals and global fans of this world-renown festival alike, Movement expanded to its biggest and baddest year yet, with more performances over the 3-day weekend than in any year past.
“Looking back at how much the festival has grown over the past 10 years has been an incredible experience,” said its production powerhouse Paxahau’s founder, Jason Huvaere, in a press release. “As the festival landscape continues to evolve, Movement’s founding principles and creative vision remain true to the music culture that inspires us.”
Whatever hard feelings remained from last year’s victims of 4+ hour entrance lines were rectified as Day 1 was smooth sailing for festival goers. After an easy entrance, we headed straight for the Interdimensional Transmissions showcase on the Opportunity Detroit stage. Our arrival to the stage was just in time, as we became entrenched with a riveting live set by Israel Vines comprised of minimal soundscapes and heart-pounding bass lines. We then skipped down to the Underground to revel in the technical prowess of Texas techno veteran Andrei Morant. A perennial favorite, the Underground stage got a face lift of sorts this year as the stage was turned on its side to accommodate more dancers. Unfortunately we missed what has been recalled to us as “the best set of the weekend” by Mike Servito and Derek Plaslaiko, but we got our groove on with DeWalta & Mike Shannon on the main stage. The crowd began to grow during their set and it swelled to its highest point when the duo dropped “GMC,” a crowd favorite especially with David DeWalta laying down live saxophone licks. Then it was all about the minimal grooves as the legendary Zip provided a perfect vinyl sunset soundtrack at the Beatport stage.
As big fans of Stones Throw Records, we went to check out Dam Funk’s DJ set. He played a lot of originals, including music from his most recent album Invite the Light. He ended with “Mirrors,” standing up on the decks dancing and waving his hands along with the crowd. After that airy atmosphere and jazzy vibes, we headed over to experience the complete opposite at the Underground stage where Scuba was throwing down dark techno. Rounding out the first day of the festival was Caribou playing live – a band which has delighted us for quite a few years now. The boys were on point and played a lot of tracks from studio albums Our Love and Swim.
With an extra-stacked roster of after parties to choose from all weekend, we carefully selected the Octopus Recordings showcase at Bleu as the late-night place to be on Saturday. We arrived as talented French producer Julian Jeweil was at the helm, and he delighted the crowd with a well-selected set full of just the right amount of intensity. The enthusiastic techno legend Jay Lumen was up next, and he dropped heater after heater, weaving in melodies at the sweet spots, just like in his productions. Closing out the night was label boss Sian who doesn’t ever disappoint. The club was packed for the classic modern techno titan, who dropped the bass and layered tracks with finesse.
Attendees braced for intermittent storms throughout day 2 as prognosticated by the local weather reporters. Instead, sweaty techno fans welcomed light sun showers that sprinkled throughout the afternoon. Once again beginning the day at the Opportunity Detroit stage, we were excited to see hometown hero Ryan McCray. McCray played a lot of his own material mixed with booty-driven bass and jazzy melodies. We headed to the main stage for Bjarki‘s live set, which coincided perfectly with the largest rain burst of the weekend. The Icelandic producer seamlessly mixed together elements of breaks and techno for a sound all his own, making us even more impatient for his albums releasing this year.
Matador was up next, delivering a live set full of energy, including cuts from his new album Ructions. Meanwhile on Thump’s Made in Detroit stage, Visionquest members Lee Curtiss, Shaun Reeves and Ryan Crosson were dominating the decks with psychedelic swirls of deep house and techno that kept dancers in a tizzy. The Underground stage was more than a little puzzling on Sunday – instead of living up to its reputation as the raging techno refuge of Movement, it featured the EDM/dubstep combo of Skrillex’s label OWSLA. Causing much chagrin in the scene, we hope this is a booking that does not get repeated. The Beatport stage was bringing the heat all day, with highlights including Magda‘s acid-drenched set whilst dawning a “Berlin Acid” tee and Âme‘s twilight set that is still being talked about weeks later. Later on at the Made in Detroit Stage, Detroit techno legend Eddie Fowlkes set off aural fireworks with his classic technosoul sound, blending records so perfectly that the distinction between one song from the next was nearly indistinguishable. Rounding out the night, we finally got to see some of Dubfire:LiveHybrid, and boy was it worth the wait. The audio-visual treat featured futuristic sights and sounds and ended with his incredibly memorable remix of Radio Slave’s “Grindhouse.”
Not ready to say goodbye to Sunday, we headed to TV Lounge for OK Cool, one of the most lauded parties of the weekend. We arrived around 1 a.m. to a glorious jazz-infused techno set by the veteran duo Mood II Swing. Next up, Seth Troxler graced the decks to a fully packed patio and threw down an inspiring set blending atmospheric house with dark, driving techno. Meanwhile, inside TV Lounge’s Red Room, Heartthrob was playing an epic live set to hardcore ravers. We didn’t stay for the Black Madonna‘s sunrise set, but we heard great things from friends.
At the final day of the festival, there was a feeling of exhaustion mixed with excitement. The crowd was noticeably thinner the final day but the music was just as great. We relaxed at the mainstage for most of the afternoon, breaking for a delightful minimal/acid set by Tin Man in the Underground, in anticipation for effortless mixes and an acid-tinged set by John Digweed who did not disappoint. The techno side of our crew held steady in the front and center for the entirety of the outstanding set by CLR‘s Chris Liebing. With it being Movement, it takes someone special to keep your attention for two hours, and Liebing dug into our hearts and feet and did not let go. The other half of us took a break from the intensity of the main stage and headed to Made In Detroit to see Guy Gerber, whose sets mirror his productions – full of technical soundscapes and burrowing basslines.
The highlight of the festival was our most anticipated performance: Modeselektor live. We’ve been waiting for years to see the Berlin-based duo make their way to the Midwest U.S. and boy was it worth the wait. The guys opened up their show with a fan favorite “Art and Cash,” which set the pace for their entire set. The powerful combination of stunning visuals of their well-known Monkeytown logo blended with masterful sound quality that trumped every other performer on the main stage the entire weekend (whether it was their sound guy at the sound board or the artists themselves remains unknown) made this a truly unforgettable experience. The only downfall was at one point when their computer died, but luckily they had a backup and were up and running soon after. Overall it was a truly emotional performance, moving some audience members to tears and providing us all with goosebumps.
Our last stop of the weekend was Anthology at The Works and it was another party that lived up to its name. We were immediately sucked into the main room for a killer live set by Phon.O then took a break on the patio to see Dani Lehman going hard before the main event, Max Cooper. Max is one of those people that has the gift of storytelling through music. He took us on a journey through melodic minimal and burning techno while throwing in elements of breaks and drum n bass to add up to one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. It was a perfect way to end a wonderful celebration of the city of Detroit, the birthplace of techno and the 10 year anniversary of the country’s most renown techno music festival.
Recap video by Jeff Tabb. Photos by Jess Hruska & Aleah Axiom.