In a yearly ritual, each May tens of thousands of partiers from across North America make the pilgrimage to techno’s birthplace. Pouring into Detroit through planes, trains and automobiles, electronic music enthusiasts fill the downtown hotels, restaurants and taxis like no other time. Local businesses welcome visitors, thankful that they’ve chosen The Motor City as their holiday destination on Memorial Day Weekend. There is a prevalent feeling of comradery as strangers share laughs with one another in elevator rides and Ubers, knowing everyone is here for the same reason. It’s more than a reason…it’s Movement.
For this year’s event, one noticeable change was that several stages had different names. What was once the Beatport stage was now the Pyramid stage, while the former Made in Detroit stage became the Stargate stage, appropriately named after the giant circular statue it sits next to. Made in Detroit changed their sponsorship to the smaller local stage, providing backing to the up and coming stars likely to fill the festival’s main amphitheatre in years to come.
Something consistent with previous years, was the seamlessness of the event. Thanks in no small part to festival organizer Paxahau’s continual quest for improvement, Movement remains one of the best-run events in North America. In the wake of other festivals going bankrupt (Pemberton) or ending in sheer chaos(Fyre), it is incredible to see what was once a small Detroit production company, host over 100,000 people during a three-day span without any major hiccups.
Day one of the festival got off to a bumping start, with Cassy playing the Stargate stage. Situated next to the main entrance, the blonde-haired performer provided the soundtrack as friends travelling from afar were reunited with one another, arriving at the festival and dancing to the sounds of her techno.
Over at the main stage, all-time heavy-hitters were scheduled in sequence, making it difficult to venture elsewhere. Josh Wink got things started, playing his groovy spaced out techno, followed by Nicole Moudaber’s thunderous and driving bass. Yet despite the high bar set by the performers before them, the show was stolen by The Belleville Three, as Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson played side-by-side for the first time at Movement. The founding fathers of Detroit techno played one of the best sets of the weekend, layering track-over-track of soul-infused music, reverberating through the night sky with beats echoing from the skyscrapers surrounding Hart Plaza.
Day two got off to soggy beginnings, with rain starting in the mid-afternoon. Despite the weather, a resilient crown packed the festival grounds, anxious to see another jammed lineup of talent. Windsor’s own Heidi helped ensure spirits weren’t dampened by playing another sex-infused, booty-shaking, party-tune-packed set that has become her calling card at Movement in recent years, making her a perennial favourite. Putting her own spin on the classic-black techno uniform, adorned in leather overalls with matching shades, the performer grooved behind the decks, inciting the crowd to respond by dancing in the mid-afternoon showers.
At the main stage, Joseph Capriati was ratcheting up the intensity, shifting gears towards a much darker and driving techno. As the Italian artist moved through his set his sound felt three dimensional, with the bass vibrating down to your core. Having never seen him play before, he was one of the surprise sets of the weekend for me, and I’ll be sure not to miss him again.
Following sundown, the showers that had persisted throughout the afternoon gained intensity. Casual precipitation changed to driving rain, sideways in direction. The crowd made every effort to withstand the elements, but as bursts of lightning lit up the night sky and cracks of thunder overpowered the speakers, festival organizers had no choice but to shut down some stages early. Mid-way through Dixon’s set, his stage was shut down sending us scurrying for the gates and a preliminary exit from Day two.
Following a visit to Seth Troxler and Visionquest’s famed Old Miami party on Monday afternoon, our entrance to the festival was later in the evening, coming just in time for three of techno’s heaviest hitters, Paco Osuna, Chris Leibing and Carl Cox.
Since first stumbling on Paco Osuna in Toronto years ago, the Spanish artist has been a favourite of mine, and his Movement performance was no exception. Peppering the crowd with a stylistic blend of percussion, synths and bass, those in attendance responded with enthusiasm, dancing wildly as steam billowed from the dance floor. Leibing picked up where Paco left off, raising the bpms and the intensity. Pounding his way through track after track of relentless techno, the CLR label boss brought his trademark much to the delight of the fans in attendance.Closing out the festival was none other than the big man himself, Carl Cox. I’ll be the first to admit that when listening to music at home, he is not one of the performers I normally turn to, but watching him play to a packed bowl at the main-stage is an altogether different experience. From the pounding tunes, to Carl dancing harder than anyone else, to every time he gets on the mic to say, “Oh Yes, Oh Yes!”, there are few who can rock a crown like him. Carl didn’t disappoint and gave Movement a fitting send-off for a fabulous weekend.
Reflecting on another amazing Movement weekend, what sticks with me the most, is that after attending this festival for 17 years, not only does it not get old, it keeps getting better and better. It’s more than just a well-run event at a good venue. It’s even bigger than the collection of stars gracing the stages over the three-day party. What makes Movement special is the people. There’s the old school ravers, goths, millennials, techno grandmothers and those who hustle hardest. Everyone is in harmony. There is a collective energy radiating throughout Hart Plaza and all of Detroit, persistent throughout the weekend, infectiously happy, spreading good vibes to all in attendance. It’s what keeps me coming back year after year.
You win again Detroit. You win again.
Photos by Josh Shanahan and Lisa Bristow