One California boy and one Taiwanese girl, both that met in Shanghai are now in the birthplace of Techno for one reason only – Movement. An annual music festival that happened to be celebrating its 10th birthday, DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival) organizers let the world know it was going all out to welcome in double digits. With over 150+ prime cut DJs, 6 well produced stages, electronic tech convention, 40+ delicious food trucks all 120,000 attendees were sure to be entertained one way or another. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into as we popped our DEMF cherries…
Day 1: Explore
What began as a 10 hour road trip starting at 4:30 am from DC fueled entirely by pure excitement and red bull quickly transformed into a speeding ticket, taking a wrong turn into Canada and mildly pissing off my AirBnB landlord (if that’s their proper title) before we finally reached our motor city home. Doors were now open for 3 hours at thispoint so the minute men rally switch was turned on high; and by that I mean my girl taking her sweet ass time to put on make up and changing as I sprint to the pizza parlor for some slices, back to the house to change a shirt, back to the liquor store that just denied entry due to my gang related shirt (plain red tank aren’t Detroit friendly), then back to the house again. Jack & Ginger Roadies prepped, Uber called, dancing shoes strapped, its go time. And then just like that, its not go time, our Uber driver got pulled over going 30 in a 25 by an Uber dick because she didn’t let him in her lane. We rinsed with some NWA for the second leg of the trip. FTP FTW I was worried about rolling up to ridiculous security lines from the backlash I saw on their Facebook account, however it was so nonexistent that I thought the main entrance was VIP. Security straight up asked me if I had anything in my pockets then let me walk thru, dude has no chill. So far so good, getting hit with that feeling you get in your stomach first stepping foot in the venue knowing its about to go down for the next 3 days. Smiling faces, funny shirts, bass resonating through the ground up into your bones, this is happening. We’re welcomed by the sound system from the Thump Stage on the right with a molly whop of bass to the face; the “Ear Buds 4 Sale” sign caught in the cross fire was looking radiant off the bat. However, there was no time to spare, Guti is playing live already halfway through his set, let the mom power walk engage. We arrive at the Beatport stage and are blown away; all 5 other stages already have higher expectations. On one side you have the Detroit River dividing 2 nations, a giant dance area separating the stadium standing area escalating a few feet each level to overlook the sound waves to flow through it all. The rest of the night held multiple jaw dropping moments at the sights of the other stages. The Red Bull Music Academy offered the only nature friendly environment allowing those caught up in the heat to lean back and be massaged by the subs while catching the river breeze. Or if the heat wasn’t bothering you, take your chances down in the only indoor stage immediately transporting you into a warehouse, The UNDERGROUND. Now to the important part, the music; it can be unanimously agreed upon that at any time of all 3 days at either of the 6 stages offered quality music that someone on crutches could groove to. Can’t honestly say this about any other festival in my extended list of festival attendance from EDC, Mysteryland, Nocturnal/Escape/Beyond Wonderlands, Hard Summer/Day of the Dead etc. Guess this is a given for an all-techno festival when you really really fucking love techno. The first days lineup included one of my favorite techno producers that I couldn’t wait to see again, Maceo Plex on the main stage. Easily my top set of the day, yes Scuba, Four Tet, Seth Troxler, and Len Faki exceeded my expectations, but only Maceo took everyone at the packed main stage on a journey from the transcendental vocals over top his infectious melodies to the dirty grooves that transmitted Parkinson’s shuffle to all in its reach. Day one ends with Kraftwerk in 3D performing an intense projection mapping display of random visuals and everything else you’d expect from 50 year old Germans that have been in the game since 10,000 B.C. Unfortunately, the music matched their ages as it was difficult to get into with their one-dimensional synthesizers after listening to so many explosive modern sets with samples varying from Megatrons ass to grunts from World of Warcraft. The clock strikes midnight and its time to go home, only if you’re A – a square, B – 40+ years of age, or C – just drove over 10 hours to reach Detroit and are completely dead. Half of the Movement experience is the dozen of after parties organized around the wonderful sketchy shires of 8 mile, but unfortunately I am in the Cthreshold and my p-artner in crime [that got to nap a few hours in the car] is not happy about it. I drove, don’t tread on me or touch my radio angry bird.
Day 2 – Vibes
The second day can sometimes be an even better experience than the first, considering you already know the layout and what to expect allowing you to take in more of the vibes and smaller details. We linked with some friends of my cousin that runs clubs in Philly that really added to the day’s success. Stage hopping with a fat crew is always a plus, except now you have to hold more than one beer while weaving back to your spot in the front. A bunch more “ravers” could be noticed on day two rocking kandi, masks and just about neon everything. Quickly realized they were all flocking to The UNDERGROUND stage for the OWSLA takeover featuring What so Not, Mija, Alex Metric, and Kill the Noise. Aside from Rezz opening up the stage at 2:00 pm with her signature hard af industrial midtempo, it was just noise from the others for the rest of the day. Which explained the majority of Techno heads avoiding the deep dark chamber of EDM secrets. Exiting this fine conventional oven they called the Underground stage was a bar in arguably the most convenient location in between a trifecta of stages including the main stage. Disclosure: Movement makes an effort to give back to the community by employing only locals to sell merchandise and beverages. So you would think they would put their top local bartenders in this spot to keep the efficiency up and people hydrated. Nope, none of that. They recruited the oldest batch of elders from the senior home downon 6th street. If you’ve seen Zootopia, think of the Sloths at DMV(“Hey… Priscilla… two…whiskeys……please). As thirsty as you are you can’t get mad at them, you smile and observe their sloth ways as they gently bump into each other apologizing repetitively like their Canadians, then say thanks and never return. Dubfire headlined the main stage with his “Live Hybrid” performance that consisted of multiple layers of sheer hanging around his decks, a half dozen strobe lights and a copious amount of fog sponsored by Freddie Krueger. I guess he digs ghosts n stuff. One of the more darker sets of the day, I was all about it, so many surprises and curiosity wondering what he was going to do next. I was like Russell Westbrook waiting to hear the news of Durant’s decision (Golden State? Come on KD, fail) After party anyone? Its amazing what some sleep can do to the human body, it allows you to do, things, longer! Specifically after party, and being Fired up from the Dub (no pun?) we were ready for the best after party of the weekend: Dirtybird Presents – Whos afraid of Detroit? We attempt to walk to take in the nocturnal side of Motor City’s moon life. What we didn’t know about Detroit is that aside from the downtown area of the city, it can quickly appear uninhabited with not much to see. Uber called,were now en route with anticipation seeping out the crown vic. We’re met with the four on the floor kick drum before we even exit the vehicle and dart up the stairs eager to see what’s over the concrete hill. We’re early, really early. Apparently experienced festival-goers return home to change up and head back out, is that the adulting approach toafter parties? F that noise, never grow up. It was a blessing in disguise honestly, super easy to meet new people when you’re essentially forced to interact, and avoid bar lines to perpetuate the buzz, I’ll take it with my grimy self. Didn’t realize how much Dirtybird record label is like a family. Label boss Claude Vonstroke and Detroit native is best friends with fellow producer Christian Martinwho’s little brother happens to be Justin Martin. Now all the annual dirtybird BBQ and campouts start to make sense. Justin drunkenly takes the mic repeatedly to ask for the crowdto give it up for Claude like its his big brother; so much so that big brother Claude eventually takes the mic out of his hand and announces,” We’re not gonna use this mic anymore,” as he peers into Justin as an act of discipline. Bad Justin! That’s a very bad Justin! Some black dude later grazes past me casually asking everyone “J’s, I got J’s, who wants them fatties?” Everyone is then lighting up and the venue turns into a hotboxed warehouse, which in turn grabbed a blacked out Justins attention, apparently it was the only thing missing from his night. “Who’s smoking out there?!” My new buddy raises his hand and backpack signaling himself as the MVP of the crowd. No more than 5 minutes later I see the same homie, Tyrone, up on stage hugging Justin before they come to the edge of the stage and catapult the possessions of his backpack into the crowd screaming “Free J bitches! Ganjas on Dirtybird!” As you can imagine, that place let loose, turned up and made the night as special as it was. Thank you Dirtybird.
Day 3 – The Music
The motivation for the 10 hour journey, the money and energy put into this weekend was always for that one reason – the music. The stage production, art installments and games are a nice touch, but it always comes back to the music and boy was Day 3 stacked! My Partner in Crime’s favorite producer, Chris Liebing, was on the main stage slot at prime time. A new duo calledGet Real consisting of Green Velvet and Claude Vonstroke was set to close out the Red Bull Stage, which was taken over by Dirtybird on day three (fine by me, I wanted an encore the night before, but the douche owner pulled the plug mid-encore). Not to mention Joseph Capriati, John Digweed, MK, Guy Gerber, Boys Noize and Modeselektor playing live for the first time ever playing at Movement. Where to begin, how about something innovative? Joseph Capriati locked down a prime set time from 6-8 at the Beatport stage, which was taken over by the new PlAY DIFFERENTLY mixer promoted and pioneered by Ritchie Hawtin. So this was the first festival that everyone on a particular stage had/got to twist the revolutionary knobs and control up to 6 tracks at any given time on one mixer, let that digest. In otherwords, everyone on here graduated from the electronic Hogwarts School of Beatmatching Magic and Mixing Wizardry. The way he looped sometimes over 4 tracks on top of one, keeping a steady crescendo that seemed everlasting, the crowd was at his mercy anxiously waiting for the drop to go back in. Capriati’s Italian swagger would show during these episodes as if he was a frantic Italian composer flailing his arms and suffering from mild seizures in sync to the beat. There were a couple times he forgot to kick back on the Lo (bass) of the track during those drops, but he quickly fixed that with a forgiving grin. If anything, it added a unifying sense of connection between us and him, not only was it his first time playing this new mixer live, but our first time hearing it live. John Digweed cooled everything off with his mellow and almost, dare I say, trance-y techno. Needless to say, didn’t stay long, especially with MK slapping some groovy house just over the hill yonder. MK offered plenty of feel good house records full of soulful vocals, which was a nice change from the hard hitting techno we were growing accustom to. Guy Gerber followed up with one of the sexiest sets of the weekend, everyone including myself started getting a bit more touchy feely with their significant others.. It got pretty weird on that dance floor as we were leaving. Everyone’s cupcake game was too strong forcing us to meander around couples trying our best not to make contact and givethem any ideas. Decided to stop in The UNDERGROUND stage to scope out the Acid Showcase championed by Boys Noize and Nina Kraviz. Heard and saw lots of lazers and acid beams firing all over the place, was too eager for Get Real to stay long. Get Real blew the fucking roof off. Green velvet was singing, Claude was smiling behind that thick beard, and everryone was letting it all out for the final set of the epic three-day festival. Couldn’t have imagined a better closing setto such a memorable weekend. And thanks to the after parties, it didn’t have to end there just yet. We had Tale of Us & Ame to look forward to up until 6am. Everyone flooded the streets partying in form of positive protest for another successful Movement not wanting it to end. I knew then, this is why all the people I spoke with that are going on 6,7, or all 10 years attending Movement, there really just isn’t anything else like it. I met someone that booked a room for the following years festival, that’scommitment! Everything from the layout, vibes, beer and food prices, sound systems and music was on point. I could speak with anyone about the Pyro project and received nothing but supportive comments and encouragement. Can’t imagine having constructive conversations about the evolution of Pyro at any other festival, these people care about electronic music in all shapes and forms. I can only hope to attend once or twice [or more] again, because my standards are forever changed.