MDW Memories: Movement Electronic Music Festival

Photos Taken From Movement’s Facebook Page

Written by Megan Caruso

“Detroit is the Birthplace of Techno Music.” The phrase was plastered in bold letters on a billboard in Detroit off I-75 and Clay for weeks leading up to Movement Electronic Music Festival this past Memorial Day Weekend. When the week of the festival finally hit, the billboard was seen on the cover of Metro Times magazine, a local Detroit publication. An LED billboard over Cobo Center read “TECHNO CITY” on a monstrous, glowing-blue license plate. Movement may live inside the boundaries of Hart Plaza along the Detroit River, but beyond festival gates, the party rages on in a city that embodies the spirit and scene of Movement on a regular basis. Detroit is a DIY kinda town. Movement got its start as an all-volunteer, free-to-the-public festival and—had the OG artists and contributors still had the support to continue this—it’d probably be free every year. Still, a three-day wristband is comparatively cheap (about $155 before fees) and the festival has stayed true to its original vibration: techno, a little rap and hip hop, and everything else underground. You won’t find this lineup anywhere else, but then again, you can’t find this much Detroit techno anywhere else.

The Stages
Hart Plaza has a few stages built into its stone infrastructure as permanent fixtures year-round. The mainstage is at the bottom of a valley of stairs, creating natural theater seating-and-standing for all to have a good view of the stage and everyone around it. To the right of the mainstage is Stargate, a stage next to Detroit’s massive circular statue (which the stage is named after) that symbolizes a gateway into the city. Peering through the lights flashing from all angles, you have a perfect view of the beautiful Detroit skyline and buildings illuminated in blues, greens and rainbow colors for the weekend. The Red Bull Music stage and Pyramid stage stand opposite each other near the bank of the river and offer the best breeze in the park. Red Bull is planted in a growth of shady trees, and the Pyramid stage stands next to a stone fixture of large blocks stacked much like legos to create a pyramid. Up here are the best views, but there’s no hiding from the sun. Last but most certainly not least, the Underground stage hides down the staircases and walkways underneath the rest of the park. It’s always shaded, always has a spectacular light show and is reserved for more up-and-coming artists. This stage makes you feel like you’re experiencing Detroit’s best kept secrets, but at night when the headliners come out, you can feel the heat and humidity rising out of the structure from yards away. Enter at your own risk, but it’s absolutely worth it.

The Goods
The average time slot at Movement allots for a 2-hour set, which is a privilege usually given only to headliners at other fests. The heart and soul of Movement’s mission is to find a vibe: to be magnetically drawn to a stage that takes you exploring into new sounds you’ve never known, and to feed your musical enlightenment. Not to mention, it’s okay if your two favorite artists overlap – you can probably catch an hour of each…

…An hour of Detroit-native Claude VonStroke, spinning Dirtybird house from within his illuminated, on-stage bird nest, and then an hour of an Ibiza regular, Maceo Plex, kickin’ some soulful, deep house from the other side of the world.

…An hour of Rezz’s especially slow and heavy brand of trip-ass bass behind spiraling LED goggles, and then an hour of Diplo’s techno set. Yep, that’s right. No one was more surprised than I that Diplo had weaseled his way into yet another festival outside his most famed genre, especially one as niche as
Movement, but he showed with a few things to throw down. Some of his mixes were spot on and Detroit went crazy, but it didn’t last – no one came to Movement to hear a remix of Cardi B. It was probably worth it to skip this set and stay a full 2 hours with Space Mom.

…Maybe two hours of Loco Dice B2B The Martinez Brothers, ‘cause they were just that damn good. And it’s still two artists, right? Standing at the top of the amphitheater-styled stairs descending towards the mainstage, you could see the whole crowd’s vibe change as Loco Dice’s crisp techno was matched by a
funky beat dropped soon after by the Martinez Brothers.

…And maybe two hours of Wu-Tang Clan, because they reunited with all remaining members for the group’s 25th anniversary from their start in 1993 to close out the entire weekend. The Wu is no stranger to Movement, but their appearance together was as legendary as it is rare.

Photo Credit: Jacob Mulka

The Familiar
Techno veterans Kevin Saunderson and Carl Craig both played headlining sets this year at Movement, as they have pretty consistently throughout the last 18 years. These two created and released some of the first techno out of Detroit in the late 80s, and both are founding DJs who helped produce the first
Movement ever in 2000 under the name Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF). Other Detroit artists and natives alike have produced afterparties post-festival in the area for years. Perhaps the most unique is a local art park: a place where graffiti changes weekly, sculptures are built from lawn furniture and abandoned boats and semi-trucks become a canvas. Bonfires at this spot burn until early the next day when everyone scrambles home at the first signs of the sun’s heat, and some local DJs have been known to spin pop-up sets in the tiny, secluded area. The established venues around town host techno shows weekly and they absolutely throw afters for techno’s biggest holiday. The small clubs offer a more intimate feel, but there are also the warehouses like the Russell Industrial Center where 2,000+ people migrated to see Golf Clap, Justin Jay and Chris Lake spin ‘til 4 a.m. And even these afterparties come with afterparties of their own.

The Sad Truth
Did I just hear “no water refill station?!” Hart Plaza is completely made of stone with a few lawns and shady areas down by the river, but other than those small pieces of salvation, the heat is bouncing off the stone walls and steps and radiating at you from all angles. The sun made its most fierce appearance yet for Memorial Day Weekend, scorching over 95 degrees with little mercy from the clouds. A large fountain is central to all the stages where the desperate run to cool off in, but otherwise, the people have to fend for themselves. Let’s be real – It’s way too hot to deprive someone water who’s short on cash, we’re too eco-friendly for that (camelbacks cut down on plastic waste!), and we shouldn’t have to stare longingly at the fountain or the river, contemplating buying a 4 th bottle of water for the day to survive. But in all seriousness, water-refill is a basic festival need in 2018.

The End
Movement 2018 showcased some of the best and brightest in techno, not from just Detroit, but from all corners of the world. The weekend ended on an epic note, almost like a cliff hanger that left me and all of Detroit thirsty (hah, get it?) for more. See you back at Techno Christmas in May 2019.

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