Movement Detroit 2015 Recap: Techno, DJ Snoop Dogg, and the Saunderson Family Affair
Motor City once again proved the strength of its techno culture and the pure badass-ness of its people.
Photo by Bryan Mitchell
After months of a slow boiling anticipation, Movement Detroit descended on Hart Plaza in the urban jungle of Detroit, Michigan May 23-25, boasting its house and techno music authority loud and clear. Hart Plaza rests on the city's waterfront edge nestled next to the Canadian border and guarded by the lustrous, and somewhat intimidating, GM building. This year's fest was possibly the best-selling yet, according to organizers, with attendance surpassing 100,000 over three days. But as with anything, when something goes from underground to aboveground, there are always some changes.
It was obvious that Paxahau, Movement's organizers, had attempted to smooth as many of the fest's rough edges as possible, but the big crowds got the best of them at the entrypoint. On Saturday afternoon, a malfunction in the ticketing system caused a massive backup at the will call line and enraging the typically good-natured dance music fans. The three to four-hour wait drove fans to Movement's Facebook page for answers and help where they saw an inadvertently deceitful photo of the very empty VIP admission line, intended to signify that doors open. Paxahau eventually added an apology and swore to significantly increase staffing next year, though some damage had clearly been done.
Still, if there's anything more medicinal to sour times than music, I'll be damned. Dirtybird's BFF's Catz 'N Dogz, analogue gear master KiNK, and funk ambassadors Soul Clap, set the table on Saturday at the waterfront Beatport stage, calling the hungry dancers to dinner. The THUMP stage held things steady all day, from Gaiser's sweet, swirling darkness to Detroit's own Stacey Pullen, and his unbridled virtuosity. One Pullen first-timer even stopped dancing for a moment, looked at her friend and said, quite assuredly, "I think I'm going to stay right here all weekend."
As expected, every Michigan girl traipsed over to the Red Bull Music Academy Stage for Disclosure. If they were lucky, caught some of Eats Everything beforehand. For some, the moment the lyrics "When a fire starts to burn" from the track "When a Fire Starts To Burn" started to pump through the speakers was a cue to see Richie Hawtin close out the night.
By Sunday, the entry line situation had been resolved. A disinterested looking Art Department performed one of their final shows as a two-piece at the Movement main stage, only to be upstaged by the infallible Loco Dice. Later that night, the Boys Noize and Skrillex mash-up, Dog Blood, brought out the bangers in droves. Despite being surrounded by plenty (and I mean plenty) of illustrious techno and house mavens, a little bit of head thrashing was almost a relief. There's no shame in lapping up the glitch goldmine of "Next Order" while underneath a pseudo-cement underpass.
While the music met expectations, it's the production that exceed them, proving the oft-heard mantra of the weekend, "Detroit Hustles Harder." From the six intricate outdoor stages, the cement pyramid at the Beatport stage (essentially an adult jungle gym), the Plaza walls-turned-chalkboard, the milieu was authentic. No decoration ever distracted you from the real reason you were there—the music.
Movement also partnered with Opportunity Detroit to provide a surplus of new amenities on site. The New Technology Area, tucked in the depths of the Underground Stage, offered the gear-heads a place to ogle equipment from the industry's top brands, including Roland, Serato, and Elektron. Over at the waterfront you could find an expanded grassy plateau with a man bun-approved menu of craft beers at the Biergarten. Adjacent to that was the This Is Detroit art exhibit, a Movement mainstay, this year commissioned by Novation. Six paintings were proudly plastered with depictions of Detroit's rich and storied musical history, each speaking volumes of the pride deeply ingrained in the city and its people.
Family vibes abounded as Kevin Saunderson, one of the original techno DJs, masterminded the Origins showcase at THUMP's Made in Detroit Stage on Monday. Saunderson's two sons, Damarri (25) and Dantiez (22) performed under the watchful eye of their father, who later closed the stage with a rare collaboration with one third of techno's Belleville Three, Derrick May. Under the mighty "Transcending" sculpture (the giant ring-like thing you see in everyone's Instagram photos) a group of seasoned vets instigated a friendly B-boy dance off at while the Saunderson Brothers proudly displayed their house and techno music birthright. Fellow Michigan native Derek Plaslaiko even brought his grinning baby son on stage to wave goodbye at the end of his set on Sunday. For those who weren't related by blood, the level of open, genuine solidarity with strangers through music and dancing is the kind of picture Detroit needs to keep painting.
By Monday night, if you hadn't stumbled over to the Slow's food stand for its legendary Detroit Southern fair and found yourself KO'ed in a hammock, you didn't miss Snoop Dogg's erstwhile DJ alter-ego Snoopadelic. Letting Big Sean's anthem "IDFWU" play through, untouched and in full is a crime under any circumstance but doing so at Movement warrants full blown banishment. (Purists were purring over at Saunderson and May at that hour anyway.)
Each day of the festival trickled into the night, which trickled into afterparties. Saturday's Innervisions party at Leland City Club, in tandem with Paradigm, THUMP, and Paxahau, was the perfect extension of the evening's music, shadowing Dixon from one set to the next. The Dirtybird 10 showdown at The Fillmore on Sunday with Claude VonStroke and his minions added years to the life of the old theater, I hear. Anyone who made it out after midnight on Monday is probably still not feeling their feet again.
Movement Detroit's annual revelry is the pinnacle of underground dance music. Like Detroit itself, has endured the highs and lows of changing financial and economic times, but this year once again validated the strength of Detroit's techno culture and the pure audacity of its people. As someone who lived across the border in Windsor, Ontario but have only now experienced the brilliance that is Movement, it's with absolute certainty that I say Movement is a festival never to be missed again.
Rachael left all her sanity at Eats Everything's set and will likely never find it again, but find her on Twitter.