It’s been more than two days since I’ve eased myself back into life in New York after Detroit’s tenth annual Movement Festival, formerly known as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. I’m not sure what it is about the experience that makes writing about it so hard. Maybe it’s my lack of distance from the event — the fact that I came of age in the Detroit techno scene in the late ’90s, the festival the culminating event of every summer for the past ten years. Maybe it’s the joy of revisiting the cultural space that once provided the only meaningful context for my young life I could find. Or maybe it’s the bittersweet satisfaction of seeing, no, hearing and feeling the violent outcry of a city that never seems to get a break ringing out from its damaged core, the specter of recent blows to its already ailing automotive industry casting an uneasy shadow over the festival’s vibrant lights (The General Motors building is, after all, adjacent to Hart Plaza. It figures as a vague reminder of the once great city’s ongoing struggle.)
Because Detroit has always been a place where one can experience, in a deeply visceral way, the sharpest of contrasts between life, death, anomie, and post-apocalyptic decay. When I first heard the sound of techno 12 years ago, stepping into a rave at the infamous Packard Plant, I discovered in those pounding, anarchic beats a startling palimpsest of soul and warmth — a warmth Derrick May brought back during the festival’s closing set this past Monday when he dropped Aril Brikha’s 1998 breakout record “Groove La Chord.” But yes! About the festival…
This year’s personal highlights include:
– Steve Bug rocking the main stage with his trademark funky grooves
– Derrick May’s closing set, which would have blown off the roof, had there been one.
– The crowd a spasm of fever and arms during Loco Dice vs. Luciano
– Ryan Elliott rocking the Red Bull Music Academy Saturday
– Octave One: ’nuff said
– Ghostly’s Todd Osborn and friends tearing shit up with a brutal mix of minimal, electro and acid house at the Blank Artists showcase (Saturday night festival afterparty)
– Los Hermanos rocking the main stage with a sublime live performance of Detroit’s own DJ Rolando’s classic “Knights of the Jaguar”
– Ghostly’s Mike Servito and Derek Plaslaiko along with New York’s own Bryan Kasenic (aka Spinoza) of Beyond Booking throwing down mad beats at No Way Back (Sunday night afterparty)
– And, of course, Audion dropping dark, wicked grooves Monday evening at the underground (or Made In Detroit) stage.
All in all, it was an amazing weekend. Techno-philes, if you didn’t make the trip to the D this year, be sure to book plans for next year now. Hotels are reasonably priced and there’s nothing quite like experiencing the spirit of techno brought back to its roots. And when you hear the pounding rhythms of Jeff Mills’ “Steps to Enchantment” filling all the Motor City’s majestic and tragic evacuated spaces, you’ll know that your recession dollars were dollars well spent.
Words & images: J.Peter