Techno festivals may be commonplace in Europe, where Sonar, Love Parade and the like rule the summer circuit, but they’re a rare breed here in North America; but what America lacks in variety is more than made up for with quality. Detroit Electronic Music Festival – dubbed Movement in recent years – is an annual throwdown that has been taking place every Memorial Day weekend since 2000, bringing legends like Richie Hawtin and Carl Craig shoulder to shoulder with up-and-coming artists in an effort to pay homage to the Motor City’s pivotal role in the genre’s creation. This year featured the highest production quality of any edition of the festival yet, and generated the event’s highest turnout as well, passing well beyond the 75,000 mark.
Barring a solitary rain shower on Monday, the three-day weekend was blessed with gorgeous weather, a welcome relief for those who were met with thunderstorms and stifling humidity in 2007, and it set the festivities off on the right foot. Saturday morning started slowly, as Tycho delivered a blessed-out set of IDM at the Beatport tent and a crowd of ravers basked in Echospace’s echo-laden dub techno at the Vitamin Water stage. After that, it was full throttle straight through Monday night, as throbbing minimal techno – complete with an ace M_nus showcase featuring Richie Hawtin (below, left), Magda (below, right) and Heartthrob – sleek house and bumping hip-hop grooves pounded eardrums to a pulp and left many a pair of dancing feet bruised and broken.
Of course, the weekend wasn’t all blue skies and good times. Paxahau, the Detroit-based promoter primarily responsible for piecing Movement together, managed to pull in their record numbers this year with a less techno-centric line-up than usual that included acts like Girl Talk, Peanut Butter Wolf and Moby. The result: occasionally awkward vibes and a smattering of confused looking people who had come along expecting the low-slung hip-hop of the Cool Kids but were met with driving 4/4 techno blaring from every direction.
The promoters also went full-tilt with corporate sponsorship, fully embracing product placement from longtime sponsors like Beatport and Vitamin Water, while bringing fresh blood to the table like MySpace. Considering Paxahau’s penchant for plastering banners on every available surface, there was little room to turn without being smacked in the face with another advert; even the stages were rechristened with the monikers of the highest bidders. It created an atmosphere that lacked the soul of past events, while hopefully offering the benefit of allowing the festival to grow and ensure its future.
These are minor grievances, to be sure. At its core, the festival was yet another in an unbroken string of great successes for Paxahau, and proof positive why so many people return, year after year, to the bombed out shell of a city that is Detroit to spend their Memorial Day weekend partying in the Birthplace of Techno. Long live Movement!
Words: Carl Ritger
Images: Micah Weiss