The stretch of construction down Detroit’s Woodward Avenue is a symbol of the city’s rejuvenation. Stretching from the central business district, through to Midtown, past a few universities, and into the city’s North End, the seemingly never ending line of orange barricades is the future path for the M-1 Rail. Still difficult to totally avoid distressed buildings in most any part of the Motor City, this 3.3 mile stretch is now base to numerous boutiques, galleries, clubs, cafés, and of course, the corporate run eatery. A monumental fiscal undertaking, the project is being hailed as a grand achievement in public/private/philanthropic partnerships.
This collaborative mentality is shared by the multiple entities that have shaped the character of the city’s Movement Electronic Music Festival over the past decade (when Paxahau officially began producing the event). In that time, the likes of Red Bull Music Academy, Electric Forest, Beatport, and Moog have all fueled the steady, organic growth of the techno-focused event. With the 2015 bill featuring Method Man, People Under The Stairs, and !!! (Chk Chk Chk), plus Snoop Dogg (aka DJ Snoopadelic) closing down the Main Stage on Monday, Movement has certainly evolved beyond its techno roots.
This continuing sonic expansion, combined with an international increase in the appreciation for techno, meant some growing pains during the festival’s 2015 edition despite the influx of Memorial Day electronic music events. As dusk began to settle in Saturday night, social updates regarding the length of the will call line began building — an issue exacerbated by a new ticketing partner. Quick to address the situation, Paxahau’s public statement did little to calm some of the voices that had been waiting in VIP lines for as long as three hours. Not a long wait in Bonnaroo standards, but a concern throughout Hart Plaza nonetheless. Once inside, it was the rhythms of the 808s, 303s, and 909s that settled the frustrations.
Looking out into the crowd during Dog Blood’s Sunday night headlining performance, this growth was palpable. Not only did the collaboration of Boys Noize and Skrillex pull the biggest crowd of the weekend, they likely packed the Movement Main Stage more densely than anytime in its history. Even those with deep roots in the scene left Sunday night exhausted from the duo’s acid-meets-bass clinic. The same cannot be said about the cold response to the Snoop experiment — which appeared to many like a grab towards the celebrity DJ ranks. Now with the inclusion of the aptly titled Sixth Stage, there were even more options to evade Snoop’s Top 40 mix. Joris Voorn, Ben Sims, and the pairing of Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May kept it grooving until the closing moments Monday night.
These many curatorial partnerships have greatly impacted the overall look of the festival. Since the rise of fellow Michigan-based Electric Forest, there are an ever-increasing number of hammocks and totems to avoid. And, as the underground rises to conquer some massive main stages, the broad brims, dark palette, and round spectacles have become an easily obtained fashion statement.
The online banter between the groups is arousing, but after about four hours in the beats and the capacity crowds, all walls just erode. Given the intimate footprint of Hart Plaza, where one might show up with their #fam, exploration is easy (and essential). If one was looking for a quick reprieve from the suffocating basslines of Cell Injection, Rødhåd, Nina Kravitz, or Matador in the Underground Stage, KiNK, Maya Jane Coles, and Hot Since 82 were ready with the tech-house and fresh air at the sun-drenched Beatport Stage. And few festivals pay tribute to the legends like Movement, who once again worked alongside Sauderson to book the originators and establish an immersive throughline for all the new techno converts making their first voyage to Detroit.
The growth of Movement has been relentless, yet controlled. As a new wave of dance music builds, Movement and Paxahau continue to find new means to draw fresh ears into their fabled techno story. With Hart Plaza now densely packed from 3 p.m. til midnight, a new evolution of Movement is taking shape. The festival’s back cover revealed a fall 2015 edition, the first for the festival. More details to follow…
For now, here’s a journey through some of the innovators likely still recovering from the weekend.
Senior Staff Writer
During this set, I overheard one fan ask a buddy how long this group had been around. And that is why the world needs Movement. Back in the mid-’80s, PHUTURE (then Phuture 303) invented the acid sound and the genre still holds true to most of their original Roland TB-303 stylings. Despite regular hiatuses, the pair of DJ Pierre and Spanky remain a machine behind their live setup. Even when a minor technical difficulty had Spanky speaking into a microphone three feet above the stage (mighty low for a man of his stature) while simultaneously tackling some of the digital controls, he didn’t miss a single distorted syllable. Attesting to the ability of the new Roland AIRA modular set-up, the pair have made the switch from a purely analog set. While the technology has changed, the acid is just as menacing. To celebrate their time on stage, the pair unearthed one of the scene’s more inspirational quotes, pulled from Fat Boy Slim’s “Song For Shelter”: “Well if house music was air/ And Doctor love would be my song/ And I would only take deep breaths/ And fill my lungs with the rhythm or the bass.”
Before the Lawrence brothers of Disclosure were even old enough to be banging on pots and pans, Lenny Burden and Lawrence Burden were burning up Detroit clubs with their drum-heavy techno assault. As you can see from the look in Lawrence’s face, this is a groove that you must control on the dance floor before it carries you away. Pulled from Detroit’s second generation, these were the guys fueling some of the city’s first undergrounds in the 1990s — that energy hasn’t subsided. And in traditional Octave One form, they are all about keeping it live.
To steal a line from a member of the Movement Insider’s Guide: “Squarepusher sounds exactly how anxiety feels. Full on panic attack.” In the wake of !!!’s electro-punk, the match up did seem a bit odd, but the weekend wouldn’t have been complete without some jarring IDM. Now 21 years into his career, few do it better than Tom Jenkinson. A relatively intimate performance, the visual assault was just mild enough to capture some real glimpses of Jenkinson’s technique. Closing down the Red Bull Music Academy Stage Monday night, the lineup placement required the final moments of stamina from everyone in attendance. With Jenksinson becoming a regular feature for Movement, might it be time to invite (and hopefully secure) another celebrated braindance enthusiast?
Despite the reaction to DJ Snoopadelic’s closing set, hip-hop has earned its moments of acclaim the last few years at Movement. Produced with similar instruments, and developed in similar neighborhoods, as early techno, the genres have long been connected in Detroit. As half of the Platinum Pied Pipers, and a founding member of Tiny Hearts and Bling47 record label, Waajeed made those ties clear during his Sunday evening set. A close friend of the late, great J Dilla, Waajeed’s beats run way deep. A product of the city, Waajeed’s instrumentals coursed through a dark filter, foreshadowing the Monday performance of France’s Brodinski. But unlike Brodinski, this set was all about those beats, tinged with a layer of sober optimism — like the city itself.
Hailing from Germany, with family roots in Tunisia, and a deep fascination for hip-hop, Loco Dice represents the cultural amalgam that is Detroit-bred music. Working within the more minimal realms of techno, the hip-hop presence keeps his flow more immediate than friend and Detroit-native, Richie Hawtin. A long-time Ibiza veteran, Loco Dice develops sets that take travelers on a multi-hour journey. Absent that much time, he eliminated some of the organic found sounds that often popular originals for more gritty transitions.
You could likely throw Matthew Dear up on any stage during Movement weekend with just two USBs and he would find a near-flawless way to entertain. From indie dance to rave techno, Matthew Dear has experimented in most corners of the electronic spectrum. So, while his Ghostly International imprint might not have the legacy of other Detroit rosters, it nurtures a similarly eclectic taste profile as the Paxahau team. But for this evening, Dear kept things circling back to the underground acid experience of his adolescence. Showing a great touch of class, even though his label was hosting the stage, Dear arrived wearing a Borft Records tee. A Swedish label known for its obscure electronic selections — and that about sums up the Matthew Dear Movement 2015 set.
Bulgaria’s Strahil Velchev (better known as experimental techno/house producer KiNK) is undeniably a machine head. A trait shared by the genre’s first wave. When the layers he adds to his psyched-out techno works, he is adamant about showing the crowd from where the sounds are originating — a much easier task mid-day during a festival than at a dimly-lit European club. Separated geographically from most of his contemporaries, KiNK has created a depth of texture without much to compare. Properly reading the crowd, KiNK’s early Saturday set kept the crowd sweaty without pushing the tempo too hard and draining the batteries early on day one. Eats Everything was as satisfied as the crowd, jumping up on stage to thank KiNK while on his way to the Red Bull Stage.
Are you in the mood!? No matter what type of headspace you are yearning for, Nicole Moudaber will get you there. One of the event’s greatest selectors, Moudaber’s sets are rife with a fiery passion. Unrelenting, there is still a human tangibility which makes the brooding aesthetic even more visceral. When not momentarily focused on the computer screen, Moudaber is as manic as her tempo, owning the entirety of the booth with her petite frame and voluminous black mane.
Running on only a few hours of sleep (since he was headlining the TEKLIFE party the night before), Travis Stewart (aka Machinedrum) brought the footwork to compliment Jimmy Edgar’s funky Detroit techno. Simply know as JETS (a combination of their initials), Stewart and Edgar focus on the genres that tie together the globe’s many urban areas: footwork, juke, ghetto-tech, g-house, and jungle. Though the pair’s shared Ultrajamic Records has since moved to Los Angeles, the vibes didn’t lose any of the dark sensuality that Edgar perfected while living more permanently in Berlin. Now that Edgar has established a regular Rinse.fm showcase, and Stewart is growing into the footwork champion, anticipate epic things for this convergence during the next year.
First establishing his Stateside presence alongside fellow Frenchmen Gesaffelstein, Brodinski has recently focused more directly on establishing his beats under the brightest emcee upstarts. Picking heavily from his recent Brava LP, the set featured the outrun of “Need For Speed”, the dark romance of “Bury Me”, and the straight-up banger “Can’t Help Myself”. Embracing the carefree hedonism of the co-ed experience, the crowd knew nearly every word from these narratives, Brodinski capable of flipping the track sans vocal just for the crowd reaction. Whereas hip hop producers often falter when commanding the decks, this is where Brodinski is most familiar. As showcased heavily during Movement 2015, the boundaries between hip-hop and EDM in 2015 is nearly non-existent.
Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance, who collectively make up Bob Moses, go straight for your exposed emotions. Walking into the festival and immediately hearing “Not Going To Be The First To Cry” was almost an overwhelming feeling. Fusing the soulful demeanor of early vocal house with the deep house of Crossroad Rebels, Bob Moses have established a sound that is as powerful in the bedroom as it is on the dancefloor. Only when one stops to actually listen to the pain in Howie’s voice does one begin to question dancing to such depressing, lovelorn lyricism. Once Howie and Vallance further develop the energy of the live experience, they deserve to bring this show to stages across the indie-rock festival landscape. (It helps that they’re signed to Domino Records.) After all, Bob Moses has the ability to establish deep house on an entirely new level. Tread lightly, fellas!