Movement 2015

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  • Movement began with both a high and low point this year. My first stop at the festival was the Beatport stage, at the edge of Hart Plaza directly on the Detroit River. No more than half an hour after it opened, Midland was in the thick of a raucously energetic opening set. The party was already in full swing: feet stomped, tanned arms were raised in the air, beach balls bouncing across a packed crowd. Coupled with incredible weather—warm but not hot, without a cloud in the sky—it was a perfect festival moment, and the day had barely started. I wondered how Movement and its devotees could possibly keep up such a good vibe for nearly three more days—and I was thrilled, at the end of the weekend, to discover they had. On the other side of Hart Plaza, just outside the festival gates, things weren't going so well. Though waiting to get into a festival is an inevitability, the writstband line on Saturday afternoon was long—waits from anywhere between two to six hours, according to reports on social media. When I reached out to Paxahau, the festival's organizers, they said that the line was a result of the new a ticketing system they were using this year, "in addition to most will call customers arriving at once." Whatever the case, a number of ticketholders missed a large part of the festival's first day. Paxahau has implied in replies to Facebook commenters that they're working on some way to "make things right" for those who got caught in the worst of it. As the weekend progressed and I, a first-time attendee, got a sense for what makes this festival so special to so many people, I could see why missing a chunk of it would be such a blow. For plenty of dance music fans, Movement is the most important weekend of the year. This was already clear to me on Saturday. Midland provided an early highlight, but I enjoyed most of what I heard as I explored Hart Plaza. On the shade-dappled Red Bull Music Academy stage, veterans like Rick Wilhite, Kerri Chandler and Octave One proved their signature styles have staying power—Chandler sounded especially fresh, churning out rolling house that paired perfectly with the blue skies. Next door at the amphitheater-like main stage, the clean lines and smooth melodies of Innervisions affiliates Recondite and Mano Le Lough lent surprising intimacy to the festival's biggest venue. The Underground stage, occupying a tunnel-like space beneath the plaza, featured innovative techno from the likes of Kangding Ray and Paula Temple. Both played excellent sets, though the soundsystem was boomy and impossibly loud on Saturday, and it meant you had to work a bit (and fish out your earplugs) to appreciate the subtlety. Atom™ & Tobias, looking like a couple of tough guys in black t-shirts and leather jackets, had an easier time over at Beatport, where the sound was clearer and a perfect sunset lent some unexpected dreaminess to their driving techno. Throughout the day, the crowd was enthusiastic, the staff was friendly, and the overall vibe inside Hart Plaza was through the roof. I'd put it up there with any day I've spent at any festival. Sunday offered plenty of other big names. Though Movement didn't specifically call it one, the Underground stage was hosting an Ostgut showcase, with excellent sets from Anthony Parasole, Steffi, Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock, plus Berghain favorite Rødhåd. (The sound, for whatever reason, had also improved from Saturday.) On the main stage, Bob Moses played something close to a pop set, with Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance getting the crowd moving in the mid-afternoon heat. Danny Brown, Hudson Mohawke and People Under The Stairs offered an alternative to 4/4 at the RBMA stage, before things abruptly transitioned to classic Detroit sounds from Eddie Fowlkes and Model 500. It was hard to spend time away from Thump's Made In Detroit stage, though, where Ghostly International had curated a lineup heavy on less famous Detroit heroes. The music was pitch-perfect from about 5 PM on, when Osborne kicked off a live set of wildly varied but perfectly jacking dance tunes, punctuated by Derek Plaslaiko's hype-man antics on the mic. Plaslaiko provided one of Movement's most heartwarming moments, when he brought his baby boy on-stage and, in a moment vaguely reminiscent of The Lion King's opening sequence, presented him to the rapturous crowd. Following Plaslaiko was Mike Servito, who would go on to play three more sets across the city over the next 30 hours. The weekend would cement his status as one of the best Detroit-bred DJs working today, but even if you only caught this first showing, a brisk hour of adventurously blended jack tracks, you'd still have been impressed. From the final beat of the festival on Sunday well into the next day, much of the crowd keeps on partying—that's when some of the most famous afterparties kick off, from Interdimensional Transmissions' twisted No Way Back rave to Seth Troxler and the Visionquest crew's Need I Say More open-air at the Old Miami. By Monday, you'll see plenty of exhausted faces down at Hart Plaza. Rather than make things sluggish, though, it gives Movement's last day the air of a victory lap. Overall, I enjoyed the music more on the previous two days, but I still found some memorable sets, most notably Ben Sims' skillfully layered techno at the Underground stage and Joy Orbison's driving and typically eclectic turn at RBMA. (Orbison closed with Anthony 'Shake' Shakir's "Frayed," a rhythmically complex and downright weird cut you couldn't imagine working at too many other major festivals.) Much has been made of Movement's decision to book DJ Snoopadelic, AKA Snoop Dogg, as the closing act of a festival that for many is a celebration of techno DJ culture. Basically, if you weren't on board, there was plenty else to see; as many commenters on Facebook mentioned, he freed up room at other stages, where acts like Squarepusher and Hi-Tech Soul were playing. Still, it was strange leaving the festival while Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" echoed off the skyscrapers across the road from Hart Plaza—it hardly felt like the climax the weekend had been building to. That's not the memory I'll take away from Movement, though. For me, the festival is summed up by the enthusiastic crowd, the unpretentious but impressive bookings, the unique setting and the overall feeling that I was witnessing something special. I loved that all of the artists, whether huge international acts or cult local concerns, seemed genuinely honored to be playing there, and everyone at Hart Plaza, from the sleepy ravers on Monday night to the biggest performers, was bringing their A-game.