Despite all the planning one might bring to a festival experience, sometimes things just cannot go according to plan! Following two amazing days of techno, house, and a little experimental EDM within the concrete park of Detroit’s Hart Plaza, a rain drenched Memorial Day definitely brought frigid revelers back down closer to Earth during Movement.
Whereas recent years offered the convenience of shade at both the Beatport and Red Bull stages, the reconfigured 2013 edition did very little to shelter people from an entire day’s worth of rain. A dampness curtailed the standard impromptu dance parties and kept many DJs camped out behind a blue tarp to save their gear from malfunctioning. For those looking to escape the downpour, however, the driving techno of the Underground Stage was the best refuge, and that area remained jam packed for the festival’s entire duration, no matter the performer. Though, Nina Kravitz brought numbers to the subterranean arena that security nor production could ever have expected or properly planned for.
Weather problems aside, Movement continues to score artists that you don’t normally see across the influx of American EDM festivals and others still that bring special sets to the Detroit faithful. Damn, even Boards of Canada couldn’t resist debuting the new “Cold Earth” before Squarepusher’s Main Stage/Red Bull Music Academy appearance. And it’s Movement that continues to try and educate the masses on the birth of dance music, bringing in legends like Moodymann, Masters at Work, Slam, and Steve Rachmad to showcase their talents to the new school. It’s these memories that you’re left with when the rain subsides.
So, when my car was skidding down I-75 and I saw the lights of a truck headed toward the driver side door, I must admit that it wasn’t my adolescence that streamed through my subconscious, but the gentle peaks of tech-house. When I awoke just a few seconds later, I could only think that it was the power of house music that kept me fairly unscathed. And that isn’t just the ramblings of a concussed brain.
Looking back at it, these are some of the artists that keep us dance-freaks jiving during all sorts of individual tribulations.
Saturday, May 25th
Moodymann – Red Bull Music Academy Stage – 5:30 p.m.
Whereas most DJs now show up with a laptop or flash drive full of tracks, Moodymann was able to command a crowd from one case of professionally-sourced vinyl. With two hours to perform, Moodymann started off funky by showing some love for George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Flanked by two masked guards, Moodymann would calmly turn his back to the crowd before pulling out his next gem; seamlessly building from the scene’s earlier understated glitz to the intensity of underground Detroit techno. Peering at the decks through his dark sunglasses, Moodymann’s only words to the crowd was an odd assortment of microphone antics. No matter the occupation, it’s still a joy to see someone enjoying their career 20+ years after its launch.
Nicole Moudaber – The Underground Stage – 7:30 p.m
Within the darkness of techno, there’s no light reserved for the DJ. So, while Nicole Moudaber’s petite frame only stood a few inches above the table, her sleazy tech-house consumed the room. The analog waves, vocal growls, and synth claps arrived seamlessly across the room, but Moudaber herself loved to attack the mixer. As the room would succumb to her dissonant tribal repetition, Moudaber would throw the headphones over her uncontrollable mane and infuse the minimal vibes with a funky bassline and violently awaken the crowd from their collective daze. Nobody is a stranger when caught in the Moudaber trance.
Moby (DJ Set) – Beatport – 10:30 p.m.
When I’m 47 I can only hope to be having as much fun as Moby. With Richie Hawtin commanding the main stage, Moby was secluded to the much smaller Beatport stage, which has increasingly become a logistical nightmare as the star-power of DJs continue to skyrocket. However, pinning Moby down as a DJ somehow seems wrong even when he’s demolishing a set with rave techno and hardstyle. Moby is the consummate entertainer with all the talent to back up his eclectic energy. Constantly hopping aboard his table, he was calling for the crowd to stay as motivated as he was. A seldom occurrence at a stage where most of the talent would rather spend their down time between tracks talking with bloated entourages just offstage.
J.Phlip vs. Kill Frenzy – The Fillmore – 1:00 a.m.
Just a short walk from Hart Plaza, Claude von Stroke’s dirtybird label were flocking together at the epic Fillmore Theater. Most of the collective’s only appearance during Movement (J.Phlip was the one exception), the theater’s three tiers were packed in anticipation of the label’s signature booty-bass. Hailing from Belgium, up-and-comer Kill Frenzy is superbly educated on Detroit’s vulgar-yet-playful ghetto-tech that has played a major role in the booty-bass sound. Paired at the decks alongside J.Phlip, the duo rinsed several Kill Frenzy originals like “This 1 That 1”, “Make That Booty Clap”, and “Black Girls White Girls”. To the shock of all, and the delight of some, Kill Frenzy wrapped the set with his turntable scratching skills and appreciation for late-1990’s hip-hop. Judging by the smile on label-head CvS, the Detroit-native was pleased with his prodigies.
Sunday, May 26th
Mala – Red Bull Music Academy Stage – 4:00 p.m.
Following in the bass-wake of DJ Hatcha, Mala reverted the energy back to the roots of dubstep. Sparked by a dose of reggae, the 90-minute set flourished into jungle and the slow-roll of early underground dubstep. With each additional track, Mala just grew more intense, first throwing off his sunglasses and dreadcap and eventually jumping across the stage to his own unflinching basslines. With fellow old-school dubstepper, and friend, The Bug watching from just off-stage, Mala dropped his recent “Rise” and drew an immediate smile from co-producer The Bug.
Audion (Live) – Red Bull Music Academy – 8:00 p.m.
Equipped with a laptop, two track monitors, and multiple controllers, Ghostly International co-founder Matthew Dear arrived with a live set-up different than I had personally ever witnessed. Maintaining the dark shadows of his avante-garde pop work, Audion is Dear’s alias for his slightly more aggressive side. Techno at its core, Dear’s broad appreciation for electronic music was displayed in the subtle irregularities spliced within the synth repetition. The clapping crescendo and congo drums of “Mouth to Mouth” into the wonky electro-time signatures of “Noiser” is one such example of crowd and tempo control.
Gesaffelstein – Electric Forest Stage – 10:00 p.m.
Part of techno’s new school, Gesaffelstein maintains the serious live disposition of torch bearers like Richie Hawtin and Carl Craig, the output is just more bombastic and fun. Reflecting the rumored short attention spans of today’s young adults, Gesaffelstein rarely waited more than a few bars before hitting his rave-techno with a splash of acid, indie-pop acapella, or twisted 1960’s sci-fi sounds. A master of the vocal edit, Gasaffelstein morphed single syllables into a body-gyrating sample. Unlike the analog predecessors of techno, it seems whatever sounds Gasaffelstein can lay his ear on he will inevitably wrap it up in a tight groove.
Squarepusher – Red Bull Music Academy – 10:45 p.m.
The focal point of a Squarepusher live set currently resides in his bank of visuals and matching helmet; however, the opportunity to peer behind that set-up reveals the complexities of the experience. While wearing the light visor and battery pack, Squarepusher is simultaneously controlling two-custom pads and engineering the sound through an onstage console hidden behind the light board. Dubbed IDM, Sunday night’s performance was heavy in break-core and jungle bass-lines, in other words, the crowd was swaying but his hands were moving even more quickly.
All of that represents just one-third of Squarepusher’s live prowess. Between songs, he would also queue up his own visuals, and with an extra 15-minutes allotted for his performance, transitioned to the electric bass and its accompanying dozen-or-so pedals for his set’s closing moments. Often harsh in construct, there’s also an industrial beauty that resided in Squarepusher’s beats Sunday evening that brought many revelers to an emotional climax.
Monday, May 27th
TOKiMONSTA – Red Bull Music Academy – 4:30 p.m.
A former participant of the actual Red Bull Music Academy, TOKiMONSTA still lives by an adventurous beats mentality. The only issue with her set Monday afternoon? It was about nine hours too early. Based around a core of mid-tempo underground hip-hop, broken beats, and upbeat dancehall, TOKiMONSTA would have been an amazing selection for the Underground Stage right around 9:00 p.m., late enough to really get dirty with enough room for a proper stage closer. But perhaps there’s a change on the horizon, as TOKiMONSTA’s final track, ”Go With It” (feat. MNDR) from her recent Half Shadows LP, possesses an organic-electro quality that helped propel Bjork to international super-stardom.
Don Dada – Made in Detroit Stage – 6:00 p.m.
Comprised of Chicago’s DJ Zebo and Detroit’s DJ Godfather, Don Dada are a cross-generational combo that just understand how to get Midwestern booties to the ground. Even during a pretty severe spring shower, Zebo and Godfather were able to demonstrate their scratching mastery, working off one another’s track selections to improvise ghetto-tech and trap edits. Each well known in their respective market, the upcoming year may prove to be an interesting transition from regional standouts to national figures. If only Zebo can give up his daytime gig as a college professor.
Truncate – Underground Stage – 7:30 p.m.
A Truncate set is not for the faint of heart, but with the weekend running down and Red Bull no longer doing the trick, Truncate’s hardcore techno in the sanctuary of the Underground stage was the shot of adrenaline that many needed to brave the final rainy hours of Movement 2013. Truncate didn’t care about drops or tension, for 90 minutes he went straight hardline techno directly into your dome. Just as grindcore can test the limits of the biggest metal fan, Truncate’s set tested the stamina of the most devout techno supporters. Although hailing from Los Angeles, the raw Truncate sound would be a suitable soundtrack for exploring Detroit’s dystopian destruction.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs – Red Bull Music Academy – 8:00 p.m.
Oxford’s Orlando Higginbottom is a one man orchestra. While I still have issues working my smartphone, Higginbottom (bka Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs) used no less than eight different tools to harmoniously recreate studio tracks including “Household Goods”, “Gardens”, “Tapes & Money”, and the electro-charged “American Dream Part II” from his standout LP Trouble. Continuing his appreciation for exotic garments, Higginbottom hit the stage wearing a cape with the occasional help from two females possibly dressed up as fictional extinct dinosaurs.
Young but undeniably skilled in the production aspects of deep house, funky, electro-pop, and euro-house, Higginbottom is highly capable of pushing the boundaries of dance music into the pop-music realm without bastardizing the aesthetics of either. His own vocalist, producer, mixer, and arranger, the only barriers that Higginbottom must topple on his path to cross-over success are his own worries of fame. Any for anyone that has seen TEED live, that lack of crowd interaction definitely points to character that is more secure in his outfits than a judgmental public eye.
Photographer: Derek Staples