Since it’s inception, the rise in popularity of electronic music has birthed many destinations that have become centers of influence for it various genres, from Miami to Ibiza and beyond. When it comes to techno specifically, however, one would received mixed responses when asking ‘Which city can be considered the genre’s home?’ In recent years, it seems more and more of those responses would include mention of Berlin – home to some of the world’s most infamous techno clubs and a major influence in modern techno and its surrounding culture. Despite Berlin’s growing influence of techno worldwide, it doesn’t share the same history that can be found in the other answer most likely to be received – Detroit.
From the Belleville Three’s (Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson) pioneering role in the birth of the genre, to Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Octave One, and Richie Hawtin sparking a second wave in it’s expansion, Detroit role as the birthplace of techno will forever establish it’s role as an epicenter of the genre. Even to this day, Detroit is home to many talented artists that are committed to carrying its legacy forward. It would seem only fitting then, that an annual celebration of the genre, which brings together both artists and fans from around the world, be hosted in Detroit each year. The history that the festival celebrates is one of the many reasons why Movement will always maintain a special bond with the many techno-heads it attracts each year.
Movement 2017 marks my third time attending Movement. As a self-diagnosed techno addict from Chicago, the experience that Movement provides me within a short drive of my home city is unparalleled by any other. After attending the festival during a personal transitional period last year, I had been looking forward to this year’s festival and the friends I would share the experience with for quite some time. In fact, the month of May is easily my most anticipated month of the year, and despite the month also containing my birthday, the anticipation is strictly based on the upcoming Detroit magic.
This year’s trip began on a Friday morning. Together with my girlfriend and her roommate, we packed up the car and hit the road. The drive to Detroit from Chicago is aproximately 5 hours, but the time seems to pass quickly as the mutual excitement for our arrival is discussed with our favorite techno artists providing the soundtrack to the drive. We had left Chicago early this year to both avoid rush hour congestion as well allow ourselves time to settle in, grab some food, and relax before the weekend begins. Upon our arrival, we did exactly that.
As day transitioned into night, it was time to begin what will become four days of around the clock events. To start things off, I decided on the Blank Code + System + Communion Official Pre-Party hosted at The Works, a venue that I would become no stranger to this weekend. While I have historically started my festival weekend with the Smart Bar x Resident Advisor party at TV Lounge, I decided that this year I would focus on attending events which features artists I have less accessibility to back home, and with an impressive line up (Alessandro Cortini (live) , Black Asteroid, Audio Injection, Jay Denham, Surachai (live), Hypoxia (live), Belief Defect (live) , Mike Gervais, Joel Morgan, Joe Sousa, Centrific, Christian James, Monostatic, Heckadecimal, Dani Lehman, Jobot, Andy Fitton, & Rachel Palmer), the choice to attend the pre-party at the works was an easy one.
The night certainly lived up to my high expectations. The music and atmosphere provided a proper introduction to a weekend of techno madness. Within a few hours of dancing in the main room, I immediately felt the comfort of being back at Detroit, a city that often feels like my second home when I visit. Black Asteroid’s set easily became my personal highlight of the night. Bryan Black’s signature dark and industrial-influenced techno has earned him a position as one of my favorites and his performance at The Works proved no different.
While some may have their complaints about The Works, I have a strong appreciation for the venue. It’s three room set up allows event producers to provide a range of musical offerings, often aligned with the individual characteristics and vibe of the independent rooms – The Front Room, The Main Room, and The Patio. The most voiced complaint against The Works is typically regarding it’s history of over-selling larger events, which leads to a very congested crowd that can be quite uncomfortable. Luckily, Friday’s event, although well attended, did not feel oversold and allowed attendees to enjoy both the music and their personal space.
As the night became morning, it was time to head back to the hotel and enjoy the first of very few hours of sleep for the weekend.
As our group wakes on Saturday afternoon, it exhibits an undeniable synergy of excitement and anticipation for the festival to begin. Unfortunately, due to waking up a bit later than I had hoped for, I missed the first set I had planned to attend, featuring Detroit favorites, Golf Clap. Although I was unable to attend, many friends confirmed their set was as enjoyable as we have come to expect from their Chicago shows. The remainder of the day, however, went mostly as planned. Upon our arrival, we began the day with Matrixxman’s performance at the Underground Stage, which so happens to be the stage I remained at for the greater majority of the day, and weekend for that matter, as each and every artist that graced it’s line up was a treat not to be missed.
In addition to this year’s outstanding line up hosted at the Underground Stage (which I should mention was a welcomed improvement over last year’s OWSLA bullshit), it also seemed to feature an vastly improved sound stage, a noticeable contrast from last year which marked the first for the stage’s current layout. The sound felt very balanced throughout the audience area. It was clear enough to enjoy the intricacies of the music and powerful enough to ensure that every bit of the energy was felt.
Following Matrixxman was a highly anticipated performance by Rrose, a live set by Headless Horseman, a back to back performance between Adam X and Perc and then an a live set by Function, which closed the stage out for the weekend. Each artist exceeded expectations in their performance, solidifying Saturday as my favorite day at the festival. While I truly struggle to choose my favorite set out of this particular bunch, I would most likely give that distinction to Adam X and Perc whose back to back performance as AX&P left the dance floor soaked in sweat.
Following Function’s performance was Richie Hawtin’s ‘Closer’ at the main stage. I find myself in quite an odd predicament attempting to give a review of it. As many of my readers know, Richie Hawtin is one of my most admired artists and the Closer performance was one I was looking forward to attending quite a bit. Our late arrival to the stage, however, found us at the back of an extremely packed crowd, finding it difficult to immerse myself fully into the set, which caused the over all experience not to sit too well with me. The music itself was fantastic and quite enjoyable, but the appeal of the overall performance seems to have been missed by me. Having discussed it with many friends who share a similar appreciation for the artist, I was certainly the odd man out, as most had nothing but incredible reviews to share. In the end, I hope that I am able to find a video of the performance or hopefully have the ability to see Closer performed again in order to properly evaluate and express my thoughts on it.
Saturday Night’s after party of choice was the Belleville Three and Richie Hawtin, which was hosted at the Masonic Temple. When evaluating my after party options, the choice seemed obvious to me, despite quite an assortment of offerings that appealed to me musically. Although this event was a highly anticipated one for me, by the end of the event I found myself questioning if I had made the right decision. Regarding the Masonic Temple itself, although I have enjoyed prior experiences with the venue, this year I found the crowd to be odd – to say the least. Despite being a festival weekend, I always felt that the after parties in Detroit avoided the dreaded crowd that comes with festivals – the odd combination of experienced music fans, party tourists, amateur youth, and those that always appear lost which come together to form a crowd that often times feels extremely disjointed. Unfortunately, that is exactly how the crowd at the Masonic Temple felt on Saturday night.
Perhaps the crowds lack of focus was the result of being a ‘festival influenced crowd,’ or perhaps it reactionary to what felt like very flat sets. We arrived during the performance of the Belleville Three, the techno pioneers that performed for the first half of the event. While I was quite excited to catch them perform together, I found there to be a noticeable lack of synergy in their performance, as the set seemed to go in different directions and lacked the flow I would have expected out of three. I have always been critical of back to back performances in general, only having an appreciation for them when the outcome is greater than the sum of its individual parts, which wasn’t the case with their performance. As Richie performed to close the second half of the event, I found myself similarly wishing for more. I can’t quite pinpoint if my assessment was perhaps the result of the high standard I hold him to or my perception being influenced by my disappointment earlier. Either way, we decided it was time to venture back home to get ready for what would be a very long Sunday into Monday.
Arriving back at my hotel for some early morning stimulant abuse, it wasn’t long before I was heading back out the door. After meeting up with some friends, who had also still been out from the night prior, we arrived back at the Works. We would be attending the first of it’s kind day party there, which began at 7:00 am. The event was produced by Synthetik Minds, a newer techno promoter primarily based out of Los Angeles and Chicago, and would be the company’s first entry to hosting a party in Detroit.
Gracing the decks in the early morning were two personal favorites from Chicago, Lowki and Jason Patrick. The event began with Lowki opening up the room with a dub techno set that invigorated those in attendance despite the early hour and post party exhaustion many of us were feeling. Following his set, Jason Patrick took to the stage, which provided the perfect cap to my first day (…into night…into morning…) of the festival. Jason is one of my personal favorites out of the Chicago locals and proves himself as a top tier selector each time he performs, with his performance on Sunday morning remaining consistent to my expectations.
I wish I could have stayed at the event longer to enjoy some of the many other talented artists on the line up (Bisharat, Gabi, Alexander Technique, Ramiro Bernabela, ADMN, Krames, Dirty Dan, Template, Motionen, and Kleinfeld), but realized that I was approaching perhaps the longest stretch of my Movement 2017 experience and would require some rest before it begins.
After finally catching some sleep, I woke up on Sunday afternoon to find the rainfall predictions for the weekend were true. Still tired from the back to back events experienced the day prior, and knowing full well that being covered in rain would be a poor way to kick off the long series of events ahead, our group decided to wait out the rain in the hotel room. Fortunately, this was occurring on the lightest day of the festival, in terms of artists I was most anticipating. It did however cause me to miss two sets I did want to attend, my friend inSoul at the Origins stage and Daniel Avery at the Pryamid Stage.
Once the rain began to slow, we decided it was time to head to the festival, arriving in time to catch the intense live performance of Sleeparchive at the Underground Stage, which proved an exceptional way to begin the day. Following his performance was DVS1, a legendary techno selector who has easily earned his placement among my top most appreciated artists. His extensive knowledge of techno as a genre, earned in part through his massive personal record collection, lends to every one of his sets being a journey through the genre that captivates the dance floor in a fury of sound, with intermittent breakdowns that re-intensify the crowd just as they let their guard down. His performance at the festival proved no different, and easily was my personal highlight of Sunday at the Festival.
Perhaps most controversial of the headlining artists came on Sunday night as Movement welcomed Testpilot, the techno alter-ego of Deadmau5. Although I have been quite critical of Deadmau5 in the past, most directly due to his drama-queen like twitter antics and hypocritical criticism of gimmicky artists (while being no stranger to gimmick himself), I was very much looking forward to catching the performance. The last (and only) time I saw Deadmau5 perform was in Chicago during Reaction NYE, where I was impressed with his performance and enjoyed the amount of techno he played even under his standard moniker. I had also previously listened to his first live performance as testpilot, a back to back performance with Richie Hawtin, and found it enjoyable.
Unfortunately, as the time came for the set to begin, the rain had resurfaced and intensified to the point of delaying its start. After waiting some time and fighting an unnecessarily frantic crowd, we decided to leave the festival and forego what ended up being a total of a 45 minutes performance from the artist. While friends that attended the set mentioned it was quite enjoyable while he was able to play, his on stage antics during sound cut outs, including reported tantrum-like behavior and rudeness aimed at the event staff, was another stunning example to me of his lack of professionalism.
After a short rest period at the hotel, it was time to head to my most anticipated after party, Interface – Scene, for what would be my final visit to The Works this year. Featuring an absolutely stacked line up of proper techno artists (DVS1, Ø [Phase], Tommy Four Seven, Luis Flores (live), Janice, Denise Rabe, Plural, Raiz, Project 313, Corbin Davis, Subversive, John Kaberna, Lindsey Herbert, Oktaform), the Interface – Scene parties are the kind of events I live for – all night, ruthless, raw techno with minimal-influenced production and a loud sound system. To me, parties such as this are what separate the music heads from the techno tourists.
Despite my love for the event, it does suffers from one major flaw – one that is the most commonly voiced complaint about larger events being held at The Works – it is simply oversold. From the moment you enter the front room of the venue, extending through the hall way and main room and to the very edge of the outdoor patio, the venue is overly packed, or ‘ass to dick’ as many of my friends decided to describe the unfortunate crowding. Not only does this flaw inhibit your ability to really dance, it leads to overheating of the event space (a danger to intoxicated individuals), constant shoving and difficulty to navigate between stages. Most notably, it also poses a major risk to attendees that may not be able to easily escape in the event of an emergency. Thankfully, the complaints seem to have been heard this year, as event organizers have mentioned they are investigating using a larger venue for next year’s party, which is great news, especially as the dance music community still mourns the lives lost in the recent Oakland Warehouse Fire – a wake up call for event companies to always focus on the safety of their patrons.
With that out of the way, it is important to note that the event was top tier in every other regard and easily the most enjoyed event of the weekend for me. My attendance focused on catching Tommy Four Seven, Luis Flores, and Ø [Phase], all of which delivered exceptional sets that were as intense as they were sophisticated. This marked my first time catching Tommy Four Seven perform, an artist I have been a fan of for quite some time, and he exceed any preconceived expectation I had. Luis Flores’ live set was showcased a driving techno sound with incredible depth and character and followed up quite well on the intensity showcased by Tommy Four Seven.
Interestingly, when Ø [Phase]’s set began, I found myself questioning how much I was enjoying it. While the tracks were enjoyable, I felt a drop in intensity and energy following both Louis Flores and Tommy Four Seven. My concerns were premature, however, as the set properly built upon its foundation over the duration of his performance, drawing you in through mesmerizing sound and driving you to exhaustion as the ferocity peaked. I truly find it hard to pick a set as superior here, as all three were uniquely testaments to the individual artist’s character, but Ø [Phase]’s set certainly was a top contender for the weekend.
I unfortunately did not make it in time to catch Dennis Rabe’s performance. As a member for ARTS, a Berlin based record label that has caught much of my attention lately, I was excited to see what he brought to a DJ performance. In addition, I didn’t stick around for a second helping of DVS1, even though I really wanted to. Unfortunately, the heat from the venue caused me to be dripping in sweat and with plans to attend the Need I Say More event at Old Miami, I knew I needed to head back to the hotel for a shower and quick refresher.
After the nearly boiling hot shower was needed after leaving the sweat box that was The Works, it was off to Old Miami for Seth Troxler’s infamous ‘Need I Say More’ party. As usual, my arrival to the event is immediately greeted by a line that wraps around the block, packed full of eager party goers at all levels of intoxication, from those joining directly from after parties to those just rising from a full night’s sleep. As tradition, Seth himself could be found occasionally walking the line, sharing a discussion with those waiting and encouraging them to persevere through the wait so they can enjoy the fun inside. The line is never without it’s own entertainment as those waiting share laughs on everything from festival experiences to watching Claude VonStroke be walked to his ride after what appeared to be quite a bit of party indulgence.
This year there was a lot of talk among friends about if Old Miami was worth it. Comparatively, it doesn’t offer the extensive techno-focused lineups found at many of the other weekend events. From a production standpoint, while the outdoor atmosphere provides an incredible ambiance for a day party, the production value isn’t up to the standards set by many of the more traditional parties. In addition, the biggest consideration seems to come from the wait to get through that extremely long, and at times slow moving, line before being able to enter. If one were to focus solely on these characteristics, it certainly doesn’t seem worth the time. My answer to those people, however, is that they are missing what makes Old Miami worth the wait, at least for me.
Every year Movement brings together music heads from across the country (and beyond) to celebrate their passion for techno together. Throughout the festival and after party scene, I continually encounter more and more people I know, including many of my more distant Chicago and Detroit friends. During the festival, I find it difficult to spend any meaningful time with these people. Between everyone running between sets and the large crowds found at each stage, even meeting up briefly can seem like a difficult task. The after-parties prove no better as their often dark environments, intense music and extremely loud sound systems (Note: these are certainly not complaints) don’t provide the best environment for catching up. That is where Need I Say More at Old Miami comes into play. Opening at the early hour of 7 am, it gets its start away from the hectic schedule of the festival and after parties. Rather than another hot and sweaty club or warehouse, it chooses an open-area yard as it’s venue, large enough to allow everyone their own personal space and small enough to maintain an intimate appeal. Once inside, it welcomes you to let your guard down and be you, allowing you to relax in the midst of a weekend that can be anything but relaxing. It accomplishes all of this while still presenting top tier music performances and maintaining a proper party environment. It feels just as much at home for those heavily partying as it does for those taking it easy. It gives you an opportunity to chat with some friends in the shade, or cut up a rug under the sun on the dance floor. Personally, it is an escape from the schedules and intensity of the weekend where I can count on meeting up with a lot of friends and enjoying more quality time with them.
Sure, the line for Old Miami is brutal, but holding the line also ensures the comfort of those in attendance and avoids the over crowding seen at other events. Once you make it to the front, on the other side is a unique escape from the weekend that brings friends together without foregoing the music that brings us together. My time spent there was thoroughly enjoyed both in terms of the people I shared it with and the Black Madonna’s performance, which made up a majority of the time I was in attendance.
As it came time to head out from Old Miami, our group headed back to the hotel to get ready for the final day of the festival. From here, I take a quick detour over to the festival to catch my good friend Asher Perkins on the Pyramid stage, who delivered a set on part with the high quality I have come to expect of him. Following the set, I head back to the hotel to join the others and begin getting ready for the rest of Monday. At this point it almost seems like time is moving too fast. All year we have looked forward to this weekend, and now we were entering its final stretch.
After grabbing some food, we begin making our way back to Hart Plaza and back to the underground stage where we will once again spend our entire day at the festival. As we enter we are able to enjoy the end of Chicago-based DJ Hyperactive’s set and meet up with other friends. It isn’t long before I once again lose myself completely into the incredible music. Following Hyperactive on the underground stage is Rebekah performing a live hybrid set, a dj set by Drumcell and a back to back performance by Ben Sims and Truncate. While my original schedule had me sneaking out from the underground stage to catch a bit of Mind Against and Recondite, I became spellbound by Rebekah’s performance, losing track of time and thus, my intended schedule. That change was without regret, however, as I thoroughly enjoyed her performance and wouldn’t have wanted to miss any part of it. Drumcell followed her set properly, providing his signature merciless approach to techno that made me reminisce about catching the Cell Injection (Drumcell b2b Audio Injection) set at the underground stage, a highlight of Movement 2015 for me.
Some poor planning surrounding a quick trip back to the hotel room ended up costing me the opportunity to see Ben Sims and Truncate perform, a set that I have heard nothing but glowing reviews about. However, the realization of how exhausted I had become hit me all at once as we arrived back at the room and I knew that I would not be making it back to catch the end of the festival. In addition to missing the end of the festival, I also decided to pass on the Dirty Epic presents: Anthology event that night that I had tickets for, and still to this day am constantly being told what a mistake I made by missing it. At some point though, you have to realize you can never catch everything and there is always next year. For now, a good night’s sleep before our drive back to Chicago is just what the doctor ordered.
Movement 2017 Overall
We came, we saw, and we danced. In the prior two years I have attended and reviewed Movement, I have often referred to the weekend as simply ‘magic,’ a description that remains just as relevant this year.
There were some notable improvements this year. The festival seems to have responded quite well to criticisms faced in regards to last year’s line up by offering an undeniably reborn focus on what makes Movement and Detroit special for those of us that make the annual pilgrimage – proper techno. The underground stage – the stage in which I called home for most of my time at the festival – saw considerable improvement in sound treatment and production value, as well as better organization as the stairway became traffic-heavy between sets. The will call issues that plagued last year also seemed to have been completely resolved. Overall this year’s experience felt much more controlled and provided a smooth experience for those in attendance.
My complaints this year remain fairly small and insignificant, with one notable exception – this year’s VIP areas. Although I had VIP access as a member of the media, I felt the newly placed VIP stages, particularly the one featured at the pyramid stage, were planned with premium ticket sales in mind but without consideration to how it would impact general admission attendees. Even as a VIP-access attendees, I still much preferred the traditional set up of the ‘pyramid’ at the pyramid stage. I hope that this was simply a trial period and is reset back to last year’s placement, although the continued growth of the festival may imply otherwise.
Even now, it still seems like the weekend came and went much too quickly, especially considering how much of the year prior was spent looking forward to it. I guess that is what makes the annual pilgrimage one of the easiest choices I make each year. Even now, as I type my review for my Movement 2017 experience, I am already thinking about how much I can’t wait for 2018. I left the festival with a true appreciation for all the experiences it provided me, having shared them with an incredible group of people and having enjoyed the many musical journeys the artists led us through. As a writer, I was happy to share my experience with you. As an event producer and an amateur/aspiring artist, I was happy to leave with rekindled inspiration. As a techno-head, I was happy to once again enjoy the best damn genre of music in the city that birthed it.
Until next year Detroit.