Written by Megan Caruso
Photo credit: Stephen Bondio Photography
Even after withstanding five name changes, dozens of producers and flaky sponsors, the annual electronic music festival held in Detroit’s Hart Plaza each Memorial Day weekend is the same festival that the city originally set out to host 18 years ago. Known to us now as Movement Electronic Music Festival, the fest has had a long history of transformation and expansion with the help of Detroit love.
Let’s take it back to the beginning, when the locals called it “Tech Fest,” and the main organizing forces behind the idea were a few local DJs, producers and music-lovers.
2000: As one of the first three-day electronic festivals in the country, Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) debuts for the first time. The fest gathers over one million attendees, all free of charge. In the first few years, the festival was known for its open accessibility and also for the wealth of volunteers that helped make it all possible. The extra spending cash from those million people went back into the city instead, creating a small economy boost. Officials happily supported the idea of another year.
2001-02: The fest is dubbed the Focus Detroit Electronic Music Festival thanks to a hefty sponsorship from Ford Motor Company. The festival used that donation to launch a TV ad campaign to get the word out and to continue to let all attendees in free of charge.
2003-04: The city withdraws its funding under now-infamous Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, but promises Hart Plaza as a guaranteed venue. Derrick May, an early electronic producer from Detroit, stepped in to gather donations to help the fest continue. Now simply called Movement, the festival was just hardly scraping by.
2005: The Fuse-In Detroit festival (the fourth name change in five years) charges attendees entry to Hart Plaza for the first time. Without help from the city, the fest still costs more to produce than ticket sales can afford.
2006-Present: Local Detroit event production company Paxahau takes over the festival and reverts the festival’s title back to Movement. The same guys are out here running the festival today, providing you with an underground experience unmatched by any city for the last 12 years.
Movement Electronic Music Festival thrives in Detroit because of the local companies, artists, producers and sponsors that helped to get it off the ground. This year (and most years) Detroit-native Carl Craig will be spinning on opening night. Hint: he’s one of the original founders from DEMF 2000. This festival is 18 years in the making, and the only way to feel how truly remarkable it is to be a part of it is to dance with 40,000 of your closest friends on the Detroit River.
Click here for tickets and more details on this year’s celebration.