Movement Detroit: My Inaugural Techno Pilgrimage

Photos and words by Jen Fall

There are so many wonderful electronic festivals all over the world for your enjoyment. I’ll be honest, when I heard that Movement was a key player, I thought to myself, “who in the world would want to go to Detroit for a music festival?” My friends make the nearly 6-hour drive yearly, and finally convinced me to experience it. I’m here to tell you, it’s definitely one of the most underrated, and best electronic music festivals I have experienced to date. It has an extremely underground vibe, that catapults you back to a time where the music is pure, and the crowd is responsible and respectful. Boasting a stacked lineup including the likes of Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, and Testpilot (who we lovingly call TechMau5), Movement sets a benchmark for other Midwest festivals to strongly contend with. This is a festival for true electronic music lovers, and it is literally all about the music with no gimmicks.

Music Genre: Mixture of Techno and House.

Camping: No.

Capacity: Medium.

Crowd Type: Old school ravers, Techno veterans, Families, Fashionable.

Water Stations: Honestly I never encountered any. Camelbaks are allowed in so I assume hydration stations were available.

For the First Timers:

Most attendees are Detroit or Midwest locals. They wait all year for the one weekend they get to blow off some steam. Half of the people I encountered attend every year (or almost) and are huge supporters of the Detroit Techno Movement. This is imperative to understand, because you are a tourist here. Just like visiting another country, you must fit in with their culture. Be real, and be YOU. That is the most important advice I can give first timers. (Actually, this advice was given to me on the second day, and I’m passing it on to you. Thank me later). You must respect the techno. This is not a magical EDM wonderland. This fest is for DIE HARDS.

If you aren’t a Detroit native, no worries… I also met many wonderful people who decided to fly from all over the country who love this fest and consider it a main staple of their festival season. Drive or fly into Detroit and pick a hotel. We stayed at the MGM Grand (amazing pool) but there are closer options to Hart Plaza where the festival is located. Book early, because around Movement weekend options become limited and very expensive. www.Movement.us/experience is a great place to start for accommodations and FAQS for the festival.

Standout Food:

Typical fest food featuring a beer garden and food trucks. I had a pita from the Pita Post that was fantastic. The food prices are incredible. Drinks were very  reasonable, and water was a measly $3.

Stage Layout:

Hart Plaza is an excellent location for a fest. Wear your sneakers because this is a concrete jungle. The only stage with grass dancing options fills up quick, so plan accordingly. Six stages occupy the park, and you can get around the entire festival in about 10 minutes max. This is a benefit of having stages so close together. There are no major frills for each stage. They spend their budget on the talent. Led screens are abundant, but the vibe is more important than the “light show.” My personal favorite stage was the Underground. The vibe at this stage transported me back to early 2000 warehouse parties, and the sound was so loud, it literally vibrated my entire body. Seriously, wear ear protection. It is not only cool, but you will thank me in your 30’s when you don’t have to deal with the starting stages of Tinnitus.

Musical Highlights:

Saturday

Standout set of this day for me was Coyu. I made sure to leave for the fest early and solo to catch this set. I was not disappointed. I highly suggest a listen here if you are not in the know. Richie Hawtin closed out the night with some beautiful visuals on the main stage that was a bit more repetitive than I was hoping for musically, but was enjoyable.

Sunday

Some of you may have read my piece on the Female DJ’s of Movement (shameless plug). The female heavy lineup was literally the deciding factor for taking vacation time to attend this festival. You know what they say, “work hard, play hard!” Heidi’s set at the Stargate Stage was so monumentally impressive that I would travel near or far to see her again. Perhaps it is because I wasn’t expecting her to bang out as hard as she did but she broke it down in the pouring rain, her curls bouncing, and never slowed down once! Honey Dijon played an equally exciting set that had us dancing until our shins hurt.

We took a break from the girl power and hit up Shiba San, who played the best set I have seen him spin to date. Poor Testpilot’s set got cut seemingly short because of a rain delay and after he got going it paused due to technical difficulties. There’s always next time. His debut shows much promise. I can get into TechMau5.

Monday:

My Detroit OG adopted me for the day and popped my Movement cherry with some artists I would not have seen on my own. We started with DJ Hyperactive at the Underground Stage. My ears were ringing afterwards even with earplugs, but it was so worth it! Another highlight was Soul Clap. I honestly have no words. I was not expecting the all around epic funkiness. Kerry Chandler played house that made my heart remember the good old days of house music. I finished out with my first time ever seeing Carl Cox (yes, yes… how I never have seen him until now befuddles me as well) and it was well worth the wait. The man is not only a legend, but has more energy than me. I still don’t know how he does it.

Things to do: Obviously techno, but they did offer yoga daily. The merch selection is incredible. I purchased so many unique items that I went over budget. The fashion in Detroit is NO JOKE.

VIP or Bust: With air conditioned private bathrooms, dedicated VIP bars, and surprise artists on a VIP only stage, and ample areas to lounge in VIP is definitely worth the value. The tickets for VIP are less than most GA tickets at comparable fests. I would honestly never go without this perk to Detroit.

Grandma Techno!

Story of a Movement Convert:

Movement is not for the casual techno lover. I promise if you go, you will develop a new love for, or enhance your love for techno. The lineup this year was equally house friendly, which was phenomenal for my personal tastes. Detroit techno is its own institution. After a slow start to the fest musically for me on Saturday I was joined by a group of Detroit “techno snobs” (said lovingly) that gave me great advice for the upcoming days for the festival.  

Saturday, I started my day with a whirlwind learning that GRIZ was showing up for an unexpected birthday guest spot with Golf Clap. How monumental, and such a beautiful experience. I started my day with the “hippies” and saw the best sets of the fest this day.

Attend Movement with an open mind, and do your research before you go. They don’t say “Detroit Hustles Harder” for no reason. I’ll see you there next year.

I would love to hear about your Movement experiences! Send me an email at jenfall@gmail.com, or follow me on Facebook for travel updates.

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