Electronic dance music is now more popular than ever, a highly-lucrative, internationally recognized phenomenon. It's also a well-integrated, practically borderless universe, with dance genres from all over the world mixed and matched with reckless abandon. This is great in some ways, but it's quite different than how things used to be. Before the internet age, genres existed almost entirely in their own private bubble; tight-knit, localized communities that had something entirely unique. Detroit's techno scene is one of the most important chapters in this decades-long evolution, starting in the 1980s and still going strong to this day.
Since 2000, Movement Electronic Music Festival has played a huge part in celebrating the city's techno legacy. Centered in downtown Detroit's beautiful, elaborate Hart Plaza (6 stages!) the festival runs from noon to midnight, before dispersing throughout the city into dozens of after-parties each night. The lineup is always stacked with Detroit techno legends, like Carl Craig and Kevin Saunderson, but it also showcases artists from outside the Detroit and techno worlds. Over the weekend we caught a diverse range of acts, too many to name them all. Great hip-hop was in abundance, with Method Man, Danny Brown, and People Under the Stairs all throwing down hard on the Red Bull Music Academy stage. Danny seemed pretty hyped to be playing for his hometown fans, while P.U.T.S. and Method Man paid Detroit respect from their respective west and east coasts.
Techno is obviously the dominant genre, making up over half of the lineup. Rather than boring you with a long list of names, let's just say it's the best techno festival on the planet, period. Our personal highlights included Ryan Elliott and Matthew Dear closing out the Ghostly International showcase, Nina Kraviz, Clark, and Paula Temple at the cave-like underground stage, and an oceanic main stage set from Richie Hawtin. Techno founder Juan Atkins gave a rare performance under his Model 500 alias, while Recondite, Anthony Parasole, and Midland offered some new-school flair.
The festival doesn't sneer at other types of electronic music, either. This year Movement welcomed everyone from Hudson Mohawke to Skrillex, who performed as one half of electro-house duo Dog Blood. Shigeto brought a little live drumming into the mix, alternating between his drum set and his other equipment with endless energy. Possibly the best set all weekend belonged to Sinistarr, a Detroit drum n bass master who delivered a mix of manic eclecticism.
Seeing acts like these perform alongside the original techno greats was incredible, multiple generations of dance music continuing to push and influence one another. One of these moments came at Disclosure and Kevin Saunderson's after-party at the Detroit Masonic Temple, where they and a huge entourage crowded the stage, acting like old friends despite coming from different backgrounds and eras.
So many festivals hardly seem connected to their location at all, but at Movement, it's about Detroit pride just as much as techno pride. It was humbling to visit a city that has struggled like Detroit has, and to feel the intense passion that could only be borne out of such a struggle. Movement is a celebration of techno's history, as well as an indication of Detroit's promising future.
Movement Electronic Music Festival
- May 23-25, 2015