Brandon Wilner takes in trap, techno and Drake-sampling deep house at the treasured Detroit festival.
The three different brands of rental scooter littering the sidewalk outside Movement this year were a good illustrator of the current stage of Detroit's storied resurgence. On the one hand, there's been a loss of faith in the public sector. Services like streetlights and trash collection simply went untended to leading up to the city's declaration of bankruptcy in 2013, leaving people to rely on the private sector and their own ingenuity to meet their basic needs. As such, some outside investment in, say, scooters, is a welcome interjection. But on the other hand, these scooters may give the city a reason not to invest further in public transit systems. They're a palliative instead of a solution, as well as a way for city officials to make their downtown's façade resemble San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Locals say that Movement, which falls annually on Memorial Day weekend, offers a similarly confused image of the current state of the music community. There are still world-class record stores, great venues and amazing DJs in Detroit, but a successful party on a regular Friday night might only pull around 50 people. This isn't the impression you get at Movement, which is a round-the-clock squall of packed dance floors. But even if the festival and its many afterparties are an exaggeration of the norm, the level of passion and interest shown by tens of thousands of people across the three days prove that rave still runs deep in Detroit's DNA.
Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
Movement got off to a stuttered start on Saturday, as the crew shut down operations to allow an electrical storm to pass. The interval knocked programming across the festival off kilter. Marie Davidson, who played Red Bull Stage, reset the environment with the day's only live performance that wasn't mixed fluidly in the style of a DJ set. She opened with "The Psychologist," whose disturbed, 110-BPM plod shouldn't have been the perfect accompaniment to a then-sunny day on a grassy knoll. But it took on a Balearic feel.
After a visibly frazzled start, Davidson snapped back into character during "Naive To The Bone." She expressed her gratitude to be playing in Detroit before picking up the track's monologue, which she delivered in a more lecturing tone than the recorded version. At one point, she interrupted the lyrics to show her appreciation for the history of Midwest raves: "I'm talking about Terence McKenna here. Maybe some of you know him?" She then launched into the frantic acid of "Lara," and sounded right at home.
Similarly to Davidson, the Burden brothers were tasked with bringing Saturday's Detroit-centric Stargate Stage up to speed after an unfortunate false start. They wasted no time in taking their hardware-based live set from zero to slamming, quickly reaching full-on acid and a flurry of magnificently resonant claps. Lawrence Burden's signature, intensely focused head nods kept the rhythm for the onlooker. The melody from "Black Water" brought about the festival's first real surge of excitement, and Ann Saunderson's unforgettable vocal was a perfect reminder of the spirit that Movement celebrates.
It takes confidence and experience to head to Movement with a bag of hypnotic rollers rather than party-starters. For this reason, Detroit's Norm Talley was the perfect choice for an early set at Stargate Stage on Sunday. He took a patient approach, quickly and smoothly transitioning between tracks without working the blends too much. He engaged the sparse yet enthusiastic dance floor with deep classics like DBX's "Losing Control" and "Kao-Tic Harmony" by Rhythim Is Rhythim. On the list of Omar-S tunes I expected to hear at the festival, "Surpass" didn't sit very high, but under a gray sky at around 5 PM, Talley played most of its plaintive ten minutes, reminding dancers of Detroit house's expressive range.
Gucci Mane has been sober since his release from prison in 2016, but his music—and especially his live performances—remains anything but. On Sunday evening at Red Bull Stage, he rapped about weed, MDMA and codeine, while visuals strewn with Percocet pills, rolled-up dollar bills and the word "high" flashed across the screen. This preserved the original spirit of the music, as well as acknowledging the difficult times that allowed him to create it. He balanced the druggy iconography with animations of his own face, as if to celebrate that he's now more focused on self-preservation than recreating the conditions that gave the world gems like "I Might Be."
Mane still has all the energy any fan could want, and his tracks featured the wildest sub-bass found anywhere at the festival. He also did what no other performer could get away with, cycling through instantly recognizable hits such as "Lemonade," "Freaky Gurl" and "My Kitchen." He couldn't help but please the masses.
The rain returned for the festival's closing hours, causing many to head off before its official conclusion. For those who stayed at Red Bull Stage, Yaeji kept everyone rapt by packing her hybrid live/DJ set with a broad range of stylistic surprises. Drake-sampling deep house? Yep. The gorgeous piano stabs of Mitch Wade Cole's "Does Everybody Dream"? Absolutely. A booty bass version of SFP's "My Love Is the Shhh!"? Hell yeah. Footwork, jungle and electro were somehow also all present. Yaeji's talent is making all this sound like natural extensions of her own music—even when she's tease-singing the chorus from Red Hot Chili Peppers' "By The Way" over a UK bass track.
Later, Yaeji mixed out of an electro cut while repeating the refrain to her anthem "Raingurl," introducing its bubbly bassline without missing a lyric. She then jumped out from behind the decks to enjoy the moment with her audience. The drizzle had swelled throughout her performance, but it didn't seem to matter—she had given people reason to rejoice in the downpour.
We've compiled a YouTube playlist with some of our favourite tracks from Movement 2019. Check them out here.
Resident Advisor hosted Underground Stage across three days at Movement 2019.
Photo credit /
Bruno Postigo - All except Marie Davidson
Red Bull Content Pool - Marie Davidson