When mentioning how I planned to spend my Memorial Day weekend to friends and family, there are few cities in the world that elicit quite the same response as when Detroit is mentioned as your target destination. Those who know automatically get it, but those who don’t, simply haven’t a clue. See, for most, references to Detroit conjure forth images of a dying American city, whose deleterious decline came about as a result of the near collapse of the United States’ automotive industry. A place where boulevards wide enough to accommodate a Cadillac in every one of it’s 6 lanes lay as empty as the 40 floor high skyscrapers -built of art deco majesty- that proudly stand beside them. While the picture before you is no lie, it makes up but one half of Detroit’s reality.
Happening before your eyes but in places you can’t quite see, is among the more underground of electronic music’s underground scenes. As manufacturing jobs disappeared abroad, a new life force began to occupy what had become of the emptied out warehouses and loft spaces in between- its name was techno. I wont get into the long and complicated back history of the Movement Festival- formerly known and often, still endearingly referred to as DEMF (or the Detroit Electronic Music Festival)- though this oral history by RA is especially interesting, as is the short documentary on the first year of DEMF below, for those who want more of an inside scoop.
Home at Hart Plaza
Ironically enough, the heart of North America’s first electronic music festival is Detroit’s Hart Plaza, which connects the Red Bull Music Academy, Beatport, Made in Detroit, Electric Forest and Underground stages- each packed with festival goers as diverse as the scene itself. Movement itself is a 36 hour party, with nearly 100 acts gracing each of Hart Plaza’s 5 stages starting from 1pm until 12am, making it impossible to catch everyone you want to see- techno itineraries are a must!
While I had personal highlights that spanned nearly all stages of the festival, it was at the “Made in Detroit” stage, which celebrated the city’s notable talent, where I found myself dropping anchor. Among the talent gracing the “Made in Detroit” stage were hometown heroes Al Ester, Bruce Bailey and Alton Miller as well as crowd favorites Daniel Bell & Magda, all of which made it abundantly clear why we were in Detroit in the first place. Movement’s jam-packed schedule, however, meant that I couldn’t afford to stay in one place; besides, curiosity was getting the best of me, so I decided to mill about to get a taste of what each stage had to offer.
For those with musical palates that range on the heavier side of techno, the concrete jungle of Hart Plaza’s Underground Stage is where you could find Brenden Moeller, Silent Servant, Nina Kraviz, Nicole Mauderbaur, Ben Klock, Deadbeat and Drumcell hammered out heavier handed techno sets. A scene for professionals, fans crowded around a subterranean pit, misted by fog machines and set ablaze with lasers. This is also where I found -and joined the ranks- of some serious dancers, who pounded the pavement with intricate footwork a stone’s throw away from crowds so thick you could hardly make your way through.