Movement Music Festival: A Haven For Techno and House Purists

Words by Megan Caruso and Natasha Lenart
Featured Photo by Doug Wojciechowski / Paxahau

A week ahead of Memorial Day weekend and Detroit’s Movement Music Festival, Mayor Mike Duggan declared a week-long celebration of “Detroit Techno Week,” something he’s done for a handful of years. The proclamation issued by the city of Detroit honored the days when “thousands of people from across the globe gather in the birthplace of Techno to celebrate the heritage of Detroit and its musical influence over countless generations, new and old.”

The story of Movement starts back in 2000, when local Detroit Techno artists and friends created a free-for-all, volunteer-driven fest to share their music. Fast forward 19 years: the fest is one of the longest-running dance music events in the world, and it’s bigger and better than ever. Paxahau, Detroit and every artist on the bill stepped up in 2019 to bring us the best Movement yet.

GIRL POWER

Each of the 5 stages that graced Hart Plaza this weekend showcased at least one badass woman per day taking absolute control of the crowd. The female representation at Movement has never lacked, but this year, it was absolutely off the charts. Amelie Lens held a two-hour main stage set Saturday evening to heat up the crowd prior to Orbital’s anticipated return, while Charlotte de Witte held the same to lead right into Dubfire B3B Nicole Moudaber B3B Paco Osuna.

Ukranian Techno DJ Nastia rocked the Pyramid Stage, a set near a massive, terraced pyramid for optimal gorgeous views of the Detroit River and Canada just across. On Monday, there was British DJ Heidi. Oh, Heidi. Her bouncy funk-house cast a spell over the main stage, and we all have a massive girl-crush now.

Photo by Bryan Mitchell

Musical girl crushes were a highlight of the weekend, also including J.Phlip, Volvox, Maya Jane Coles, Umfang, Anna and Andrea Ghita.

A SETTING UNLIKE ANY OTHER

The Movement Stage in Hart Plaza is a towering amphitheater, where the stage sits slightly above the base of the floor, about mid-way up the wall. Huge stone steps provide the perfect perch for groups of friends on each level, and one big main floor at the bottom for those who prefer a crowd. This amphitheatre already exists year round, but it’s hard to imagine a better use for it than Movement’s mainstage.

The Resident Advisor Underground Stage is quite literally an underground nightclub in the middle of the outdoor event. Down at the bottom of the amphitheater at the Movement stage, through a small tunnel and under Hart Plaza sits a crazy room with a sunken floor where tons of people are crammed body-to-body to dance. The acid house was thumping, it was dark, it was hot, and it was awesome. The lights are so strong in the dark down here that all vision becomes pure color. The stone structure is a permanent fixture of Hart Plaza, and Paxahau took advantage of it to create a stage unlike any other at other festivals. This stage truly pays homage to how the techno scene began in Detroit – underground.

The other 4 stages are scattered around Hart Plaza, each with their own special flair. The Pyramid Stage sits right next to the river, but is a big concrete playground. Down along the river on the opposite end of the plaza, the Red Bull Presents Stage sits underneath shady trees in some of the only grass present in the grounds. The Stargate Stage sits on the inner side of the park next to the city, and a large circular statue that it’s appropriately named after. The Stargate statue was a gift to the people on Detroit’s 300th birthday, and it symbolizes a “tunnel of hope.” From the crowd, it’s a frame of the city’s beautiful skyline, illuminated in red, white and blue for Memorial Day.

THERE GOES THE SUN

What sun? Movement is traditionally the hottest, sunniest, most unbearably-humid day of the early summer – but this year, we all got a break. There were (almost) no sunburns, it rained for at least a few hours each day, and you were out of luck if you didn’t bring a hoodie to throw on at night when the wind picked up off the river.

Monday night, however, the rain was a welcomed guest. It began to sprinkle around 10pm, as Get Real was throwing down deep house that shook the stone floor of the main stage. Down in the valley of the large concrete steps, dark visuals towered above the duo of Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet as they alternated techno and house, melding them into one dirty, upbeat frenzy. Just as the rain picked up, VonStroke dropped “The Rain Break” to get us all funky-walking in the rain.

Photo by Doug Wojciechowski / Paxahau

It rained on all through GRiZ’s hometown headlining set following Get Real. If you’ve gotten to catch GRiZ on his most recent tour in support of his new album, Ride Waves, then you’re familiar with the sexy sax, the blur of rainbow beauty spiraling behind him, and the love and comradery of everyone on stage. Toss in the rain and this show was a full-blown spiritual experience. He played a Ride Waves set, and, despite leaning into his dupstep roots, his new music spotlighted another aspect of the Detroit music scene that Movement celebrates: funk and soul.

A year like this is hard to beat, but Paxahau may have some tricks up their sleeve for what will be Movement’s 20-year anniversary in 2020. Mark your calendars, because next year will be one you can’t miss. Until next year, and always: Peace, love and techno!

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