3 Jun
The prodigal son returns to its techno-birthplace


words by Boojie Baker // photos by Chris Soltis

It’s hard to convey the impact that listening to techno music at Detroit’s Movement Festival can have. This year I witnessed 10,000 plus people going totally bananas to Luciano and Loco Dice — crowd surfing, rock concert hyena antics. Night had fallen in Downtown Detroit, GM’s Renaissance Center loomed over Hart Plaza to the East, its blue insignia a beacon above, while the broken buildings of the city look down from the North, and Canada peers at you from the South (yes the South) side of the Detroit River. This was straight up techno being performed in the abandoned industrial heartland of America by a Chilean and a German, to a crowd who couldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.

It’s a truly rare experience for a dance music event, or any musical event not charity related, to force you to acknowledge the social context in which it’s being performed. Normally festival environments exist as eye candy, visually stimulating but little else — a non-intrusive backdrop for festivities. Detroit’s Movement, however, is much more than that. This is a festival that forces you to confront what has happened to this Once Great City.

Continue reading Boojie Baker’s review after the Jump…

The Downtown location, the hugely aggressive Detroit symbols that welcome you to Hart Plaza and adorn the Made In Detroit Stage, the juxtaposition of GM’s new Renaissance development with the city’s abandoned buildings, the frequent discussions amongst attendees about what they thought Detroit would be like, and the obvious pride a US city takes in techno music are just some of the visual elements, contradictions and preconceptions that attendees confront at this festival. Add to that a huge amount of after-parties — 24 alone on Saturday night are strewn out across the city — and you have, for those who care to look, a truly immersive Detroit experience.

Far too many people have proclaimed Detroit dead already, and while no doubt the city is dying, my time at DEMF and in the city gave me hope it might not be a terminal case.

DEMF presents some of the world’s best techno acts over four stages and three days. At $40 for a three day pass the value for money is absolutely unbeatable. I know Miami clubs at WMC charging twice that for gawd awful silk-shirt, gelled-hair line-ups. Forty bucks for 3 days? Only in the Dirty D. The set-up is great: two of the stages back out onto the Detroit River, making for surprisingly picturesque views. The main stage is set against the backdrop of Detroit’s downtown skyline, while this year’s Made In Detroit stage was an underground concrete pit drenched in bass. Not for the faint hearted, yet a fitting tribute to the city’s industrial clubbing background. This year the sun shone throughout, which is fortunate as there would be little shelter from the rain had it fallen.

Over the course of the weekend I was able to catch acts I had never had the chance to see play in the US and listen to the men who birthed this genre play their hometown. Stand out sets were many, of particular note was the aforementioned Luciano vs. Loco Dice, who based on this performance are surely set for world domination, Guy Gerber’s live show for his unique Israeli take on techno, hometown boy Ryan Elliot, Dennis Ferrer and his entourage rocking the main stage, the Wighonomy Bros’ extremely short German swim shorts and vinyl-only set, founding Belleville Three member Kevin Saunderson, Damian Lazarus’ twisted imagination at work and the beautiful and bouncy Heidi. There were others I missed that I would’ve loved to have seen: New Detroit whiz kids Seth Troxler and Lee Curtiss, Derrick May, Benga and Afrika Bambaataa I’m sure would all have been pretty special. But the midnight finish time and human endurance only allowed for so much.

After-parties were debauched. Paxahau’s boat party with Luciano vs Loco Dice, Innervisions and Carl Craig was immense. Old Miami’s daytime party — held outside in the backyard of a rock-bar in Detroit’s grim looking suburbs — presented Matthew Dear, Damian Lazarus, Sean Reeves and others. While Hot Natured’s party on the closing night saw LA folks Droog and Hot Natured bring the festival to a fitting close.

It was a wonderful weekend of techno music, and it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm that both the city and the attendees have for this festival. Detroit, me, my $40, and a rejuvenated liver will see you next year.

One Response to “Detroit’s Movement Festival”

  1. chris soltis says:

    very very nice writeup.
    I want to thank you for using my images, looking forward to Detroit next year already. :)

    chris soltis

Leave a Reply