Reviewed: Movement Electronic Music Festival 2019
Movement Electronic Music Festival is more than just the longest running techno festival in the United States. Being held in the birthplace of techno can’t be a coincidence. Detroit has a proud history; being the backbone in many respects to the transportation systems in America for decades. It’s not called the Motor City for anything. Detroit has been through a lot of ups and downs in their history as a city but continues to show their determination and perseverance through a variety of avenues.
After Techno’s inception by Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May and Juan Atkins in Detroit, techno blazed its way across Europe, even helping to put Berlin back together again before reunification did. Music has a way of doing that, especially Techno, and in its birthplace, lifted a helping hand to the city when it has needed it the most. There’s a reason there’s a saying around the city “Detroit Hustles Harder” because they do indeed hustle harder than everyone else.
Movement is a beacon of shining light that continues to encourage unity through music. This was my first time attending the festival, but I went with a group of Detroit natives that have navigated the waters of Movement back from when it was called Detroit Electronic Music Festival or DEMF, and was a free event. The influence went both ways though. Being able to view the festival from a fresh pair of eyes was inspiring to those natives that have been 17 times.
Upon walking into Hart Plaza, it was easy to see why so many individuals travel here from across the globe to partake in the mostly techno and house festival. The gritty, post-industrial city landscape works very well in hosting five stages without too much overlap in sound. Most of the stages sported a unique element designed into the plaza, which made the grounds even more attractive.
The Movement Stage, which is the festival’s main area, utilized an amphitheater to give a tapered, stadium-style experience capable of stuffing fans in the bowl as well as behind the stage in VIP. The Stargate Stage has a huge structure, mirroring a ‘stargate’ similar to that in the show of the same name, running parallel to the lawn which when packed housed thousands from front to back. The Pyramid Stage, aptly named, runs along the Detroit River, Canada within sight. Next to the stage are steps that converge upwards, towards each other, creating a pyramid for fans to get a better look. The Resident Advisor Underground Stage is exactly as advertised: underground. Probably for good reason as this space hosted the dirtiest and hardest hitting performers of the festival. Did I mention loud and aggressive in a good way? Last but not least, the Red Bull Stage was also nestled near the river, overseeing a grassy knoll and slightly wooded area that over the coming weekend, wasn’t a friend to anyone wearing sandals due to mud caused by the intermittent rain showers.
On to the music.
Starting off seeing Kenny Larkin at the stargate followed by Art Department over by the pyramid steps was a great way to begin the festival and very telling on how the bounce around method would really be implemented through the entire weekend. Soul Clap touched on their synth-rich, jazz and jam styled house grooves that dominate their sets for a perfect pairing on the Red Bull Stage.
Strolling over to the Movement Stage saw Amelie Lens hammering the amphitheater with her heavy, take your breath away bass and pungent rhythm. The crowd in the front had their ears and hands full music wise. It’s no wonder why she’s on everyone’s radar these days. Wajatta, which consists of John Tejada, who needs no introduction to electronic music heads, and Reggie Watts, internationally renowned vocal artist/ beatboxer/ musician/ comedian, were over on the Red Bull Stage, combining creative vocals and sexy house jams before Disclosure.
The boys from England performed a DJ set this go around, starting off with one their staples ‘A Fire Starts to Burn’ and continued with ‘F Is For You’, ‘Holding On’ and a few others before trotting over to check out Loco Dice. Originally a rapper and hip hop DJ, playing support slots for performers such as Snoop Dogg, R. Kelly, Usher, Jamiroquai, and Ice Cube before switching over to produce his own hip hop infused techno in the early 2000s, he made sure the crowd knew why he was tasked with closing out the Pyramid Stage on night one.
The other two brothers from England, Orbital, made their Movement festival debut in fine fashion. Closing out the main stage with a high energy set that made use of their new material, as they just released their remix of Plaid’s ‘Maru’, and selections from years’ past. A fitting booking for the Techno and House festival as they continue to push the boundaries of their lineups.
After attending an annual Memorial Day BBQ, being able to witness DJ Godfather Ghettotech producer and multi-club owner from Detroit, work his skills on the ones and twos was a thing of beauty. He even has his own Boiler Room set in St. Petersburg at Present Perfect Festival back in September 2017 due to his black magic behind the decks.
Hitting up DJ-T-1000 was a must too, as his hustle in so many industries, as well as his skills on vinyl, are admired through the industry. Just nailing it down, track after track for the bit of his set that was witnessed.
Charlotte de Witte is no stranger to a good techno set. However, she started off as an electro DJ, receiving her first big break by opening the mainstage at Tomorrowland in 2011 as Raving George. Since then, she’s made a 180-degree turn, making huge headway in the techno circuit with her first release as her real name in November 2015. Staying true to form, her brand of “melancholic, hard and dark music” was on full display.
The Stargate Stage packed from end to end as rising star Fisher played his selection of tech house and Dirtybird style jams. For only having released his first solo single in June 2017, he’s made quite the splash in the scene. Chris Liebing and Richie Hawtin, both DJing in Denver coincidently for Movement weekend as well, put on techno clinics as it was near impossible to tell when Liebing handed over the speakers to Hawtin.
Dubfire b3b Nicole Moudaber b3b Paco Osuna closed out my Sunday night at the festival. It’s rare that you see b3b sets in the industry stateside so this was a no brainer, not to miss set. They’ve had massive success performing as this arrangement, and this two-hour marathon was no different. Having elected to skip Kevin Saunderson b2b The Saunderson Brothers to see the aforementioned b3b set, it was a no brainer to catch them all plus Derrick May and Patrick Topping at the Official Movement After Party: Origins at the Magic Stick.
On the final day of Movement, Detroit stars and Country Club Disco label bosses Golf Clap opened the Movement Stage with their known style of booty shake tunes and a very sizeable crowd.
Sliding the few feet from the Movement Stage, I caught Danny Daze putting on quite the show under the Stargate. Even after two days of dancing, people we still going strong to the beats he was mixing together. Bouncing back to the amphitheatre, I’m greeted by MK and a sea of people moving blissfully to his music. The legendary producer has been making feel-good house anthems on and off for over 15 years. The in-between time used to produce music for Beyonce, Jaden Smith, Mary J Blige and more, so he knows a thing or two about putting on a good show. The Dirtybird queen J.Phlip, who closed out Movement a few years ago, kept the momentum from Daze by the Stargate fresh, up tempo and bumpin’.
Time for some more techno please.
DJ Tennis over at the Pyramid Stage, had a much different atmosphere vibing around his set as the Life and Death label boss led the crowd with illustriously layered basslines, tribal tunage, and fast-paced, almost trancey leads. Down the river, The Red Bull Stage was blessed with an hour of Audion live, Matthew Dear’s techno alias. Back over at the pyramid, Tale of Us continued on the path of DJ Tennis and brought us to the Afterlife, undoubtedly featuring a selection or two from their label, as their bone-crushing blend of melodic techno was a favourite of mine of the entire festival.
Get Real, or better known as Green Velvet & Claude von Stroke, lived up to their combined prowess and showed Detroit how back-to-back sets are done on the main stage. Green Velvet even did the ‘Perculator dance’ to his track ‘Perculator’. Hot Since 82 has continually set the bar high for groovy, peak time gems nestled in with consistent, head-banging jams on his Knee Deep in Sound imprint and beyond with tonight on the Stargate Stage being no exception. To end the enduring three days, Yaeji put on her finest as the heavens opened up, as it had often that weekend. Singing ‘Rain Gurl’ in the drenching downpour made it just that more special. As with her productions, she bounced around quite a bit genre-wise, microphone often in hand, sampling her live lyrics then altering and inserting them back into the mix.
After all that, Movement finally closed its doors after another successful and record-breaking year, bringing in a little over 99,000 patrons in the span of the three-day Memorial Day weekend. Much has been said about the subject and its lineup this weekend, but what cannot be understated nor overlooked was the diversity clearly present. More than any event or gathering, music-driven or otherwise, I have attended in quite some time. Detroit is a misunderstood city looking in but once immersed, you witness its kind nature, rare architecture, and killer choice in tunes.
Props to Ryan Richards, the production manager for the Stargate Stage. The lights were on point all weekend. Also, Island Noodle can’t get enough praise for crushing the food game. Until next year!