High Five Magazine is covering Movement festival in Detroit for the second time. This year was announced like a very special edition because of Kraftwerk performing and of the 10th anniversary of the festival under the framework of a single collective. We also asked Detroit DJs and regular to tell us what this special week means for them.
It has been ten years since the Paxahau collective took over Movement festival. The festival itself is older, as it started with Carl Craig in charge of the artistic direction in 2000 then Derrick May in 2003 and finally Kevin Saunderson in 2005. We asked to some long time Detroit DJs to give us their impression on this week so unique for Detroit and where the city seems to adopt a Berliner way of life.
For Alton Miller, one of the founder of The Music Institute, this time evokes “pride because all the world for one weekend comes to Detroit to get a glimpse of what we have done and continue to do musically. I am very proud to be from Detroit and proud that I have played an integral role in this very big thing that was created here in this small town”. All the DJs interviewed told us about the deep metamorphosis of the city during the festival like BMG from International Transmissions who explains, “Movement for me is an incredible experience. Our entire city changes for a weekend. For one weekend a year, the town believes in techno, it’s in the air. Maybe what it’s like to be in Caribbean for Carnival”. The disco DJ Pontchartrain explains how “Movement always feels like home to me. I’ve lived in a few other cities before eventually coming back to live in Detroit, but I never missed the festival. It’s like a reunion, even for people who don’t live here, plan their lives around this weekend. Everyone that attends Movement understands why we are all here every year. It’s truly a bonding moment on a large scale – sort of Mecca, and a day to remember what this music represents for everyone”. This idea of techno being ten times bigger and more visible in the city than the rest of the year comes back in a lot of talks, like with Luke Hess who describe « the excitement of meeting new people from all over the world who appreciated the blood, sweat, & tears that goes into Detroit electronic music throughout its history and what it has done for the movement of electronic music & the city overall. And the hope that these people take away a feeling that only Detroit can give & spread it to their local communities ».
We start festivities on Wednesday night by going to our favorite Detroit place, MotorCity Wine, to listen to NF-2 Roach and Ray 7, both members of Underground Resistance, respectively mixing on turntables and playing drums. Ray 7 alias The Unknown Soldier is making our head spin when he is explaining with who he played over the years at the festival. “I have a few memories of festivals that I played in that are special to me, the first one being when I played with a group called UFM where the lead singer was Bill Beaver. Another time is when I played with INNER CITY live and when I played with CHAOS live and TEK BROTHERS live. And of course when I played with G2G [Galaxy2Galaxy] and LOS HERMANOS and RED PLANET. That year was very special”. The festival week will not be the same if Submerge was not opening its doors to the techno heads from all around the world. During five days, Experience Submerge, Three Levels of Techno welcomes people to visit the techno museum, buy records downstairs or enjoy the Detroit DJs who are playing almost non-stop. For Ray 7 “this period is the one to meet people coming from everywhere around the world”, Submerge being visited by new comers and regulars, both searching for history and a sharp musical selection. Nobody can do it like Submerge.
Serious business starts on Friday night with the Music Gallery party organized by the Sound Signature record label. The line-up is kept secret for people to have the surprise when they come, which reminded us of old school parties where only good music was important without wanting to brag with superstar DJs. The party takes place at The Baltimore Gallery, a small and minimalistic art gallery. For the last one edition of the party, Theo Parrish was joined by the Three Chairs gang. It goes without saying that we cannot wait to see who will play this night. Alton Miller himself is telling us about one of his best festival memory being a party with Theo Parrish in 2004. “My biggest memory of movement weekend is the time that tortured soul played alive set after me in the rain and did not miss one beat!!! This was the same weekend that Theo Parrish, Kai Alce and Larry Heard played a party together. Amazing!!!”. We advice you to go check Tortured Soul if you don’t know them, a music group from Brooklyn who is making a sweet hybrid music, blending soul and electronic music. The party is starting smoothly, people are chilling in the patio of this almost summer night while Theo Parrish starts his musical journey through Black Music, playing funk, disco, and many more. Specter is next, underground Chicagoan DJ who is playing a deep house, sometimes tribal, sometimes funky but always impeccable. Theo Parrish’ parties are bringing together people from different background and origins as well as a bunch of amazing dancers and there is no exception to the rule as this night is filled with beautiful dancers coming from all around the world to commune with Detroit around the love of music.
Saturday, Movement DAY 0.
We’re coming at the festival a bit late because we make a first stop by the contemporary art museum for a Music Discussion between Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. Although we are a bit disappointed that a Detroit institution is following the constructed narrative of the Belleville Three whether to acknowledge the actual actors of this early first wave of techno music like Eddie Fowlkes, it still is very pleasant to see these three artists talking about music, creation of techno, or Detroit. Adriel Thornton should have stay the moderator though, as he was rocking the introduction and the questions parts.
The first day of the festival will stay the best for us because it is always bringing a special excitement but also because the artists playing that day were definitely among the best we could see. We have been able to enjoy the jazzy or more beat house of Kyle Hall, and the minimal and perfect groove of ZIP, the founder of the famous Perlon Records and one of the artists we are proud to say he is representing the European scene in Detroit. We also discovered the great Dâm-Funk, Californian producer of a new generation funk, signed on several record labels including Stone Throw. The groove of Kenny Dope was probably one of the most perfect time of the festival, impossible to not dance on his selection filled with vocals and deep bass lines. Then came the moment we were waiting for, the live collaboration between Juan Atkins and Moritz Von Oswald as Borderland. The volume was not loud enough, but the live was amazing, like the perfect quintessence between the dub techno from the German master and the techno sounds from the American creator. As BMG explains it well: “I remember the first year of the fest, going to the main stage when the schedule was unclear of who was playing, and walking up to an impromptu live performance by Mark Ernest’s and Mortiz Von Oswald. What Basic Channel and Maurizio mean in Detroit is undefinable. Publicly everyone would give that love to Kraftwerk, but these Berliners are a part of the cell structure of Techno, they caused an evolution that will not be forgotten”. We had a really unpleasant moment when a horde of hysterical crown invaded the main stage’s dancefloor at the end of Borderland, waiting for Maceo Plex, and making comments like « who are these dudes? ». We don’t know who had the idea to put Maceo Plex between Borderland and Kraftwerk but it was certainly not a good one.
Four Tet is next, this other European artist that make us proud. He is playing a set that will stay in the annals of good music, with treasures from his collection that would drive crazy more than one DJ in Detroit. From African sonorities to disco music, from hip-hop to r’n’b, from house to everything else, the artist makes us live the perfect moment, while the sun is slowly setting down on the river surrounded by freshly green trees. Karftwerk is ending the day but the crowd is so compact that we didn’t see the 3D show. We will dance anyway under the stars and on their tremendous music sometimes vintage, sometimes timeless, and perfectly orchestrated.
Sunday, Movement DAY 1.
Little detour by the famous Spectacles shop to start. This shop is selling the funkiest shirts of Detroit and a DJ is usually playing every day during the festival like this hot Sunday afternoon where he playing hip-hop classics or the funkiest tunes. Customers from all over the world are stopping by like these two Chicagoans that never miss the festival since its first free edition in 2000. The owner Zana, owns the shop since 33 years and was running a record shop before that. Even though she is selling more clothes than vinyl records today, her passion for music never left and she knows all the Detroit actors of techno music better than anyone, for the most saw them started a few decades ago.
When arriving to the festival, we are going straight to see Magda. She is playing the perfect minimal set that is no surprise when you know that the lady grew up in Detroit. It is in Detroit that she started to be interested in electronic music, in Detroit also that she started DJing and doing the warm-up for Claude Young and Daniel Bell, just before Plastikman offered her her very first residency. While looking at her on the stage, we can feel that she is deeply happy to be in her hometown to play. If we can criticize Movement in some ways, it is also fair to say when they are making dope choices like choosing the great Amp Fiddler to play with his new project in collaboration with Will Sessions. Fiddler is a keyboardist, singer, songwriter and producer from the D as well as a musical icon of the city. He played in Funkadelic, worked with Prince and Jamiroquai, and reinvents himself constantly with his musical projects like the one he’s playing tonight, with the Detroit music group Will Sessions. The live show is a perfect balance between funk, soul, house and probably one of the best moment of the festival, especially with the vocal trio Dames Brown on stage.
Last but not least, the great Eddie Fowlkes on the Detroit stage is here to end the night. He starts all smoothly before banging more and more. We will surely remember the moment when he played Transition from Underground Resistance like an allusion to Mike Banks, founder of UR, who introduced him to Dimitri Hegemann in the early 90’s, boss of the budding Tresor.
The night ends in the Russell Industrial Center, an old factory of which half of the space has been rehabilitated as artists’ studios, for the most underground party of the weekend, Excursions. The party from Chicago is making a stop during Movement in Detroit and offers people an excursion in the multitude of deep house sounds from Chicago, whether it is from the Black or the Latino communities – both being fundamental in the history of house music. A journey through deep house, neo soul, jazz, funk, afro, latino with a lot of sweet people, some hots dancers (already there at the Theo Parrish’s party) and an amazing vibe built around our love for music. As the hosts said it themselves: « Excursions is for all the music lovers and dancers. Come through, listen to the sounds, and dance to the vibe. Let your guard down, sweat, let the music uplift you, and let your collective souls dive deep in the groove of this Excursions… ». We could not have say it better.
Monday, Movement DAY 2.
Third day is way quieter. We stop by at Movement to enjoy the house of Bruce Bailey, this iconic character of the Detroit scene who is always playing the best groove. We don’t resist to go check DJ Godfather, best representative of the famous Detroit Ghettotech who is playing some really dirty lyrics on tremendous beats. You have to shake your booty, it is why this music has been made for. We’re leaving Movement to finish where it all started, at MotorCity Wine where Norm Talley is playing a perfect set, groovy and chill. Exactly what we need.
We sadly missed the Soul Skate of Moodymann that the DJ is throwing every other year during Memorial Day weekend. The competition is one of the biggest roller skate competition of the Midwest, and we heard the moves of the roller skaters are as epic as the music that is been played all weekend long. Moodymann, whom BMG remembers his set on the very first edition of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival: “Another great festival memory from the first year was seeing Moodymann play on the MainStage, now the first festival wasn’t a sure thing. No one knew if it would work. And it was free, so there were children there, and tons of average Detroiters. It had been a huge risk, but by the evening times there were huge crowds. So sensing this feeling and responding to it perfectly, Moodymann played Gil Scott Heron’s « We Almost Lost Detroit. » Very moving moment”.
A track that evokes the Detroit Electronic Music Festival for you?
BMG: “A few Transmat classics like « Strings of Life » a song I am normally saturated on, but the feeling in the crowd when it is played will bring to the edge of tears of joy, this pure elation, like you are hearing it for the first time. That kind of magic happens all weekend. Another is « Shades of Jae« , something else happens when that’s played. Or UR’s « Timeline« .
Luke Hess: “Best Day in Detroit Artist: Reference (Luke Hess & Brian Kage) Label: Planet-E”
Pontchartain: “Definitely « Jaguar » by DJ Rolando. It’s the start of summer, you’re by the water, there’s beautiful people everywhere, and all anyone wants to do is feel good and dance. That song is perfect for all of those things.”
Photos credit Alexandre Da Veiga.