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Go deep (8/11/2010)
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At least for five days and nights, the party doesn't end. Movement 2010 and all its associated events unofficially kick off a summer season of frolic in the sun after months of mid-north gloom; officially, it's a celebration of the music that snares the world with repetitive rhythms made expressly for maximum joie de vivre.
Yeah, pardon our French, but Detroit techno is the gift that keeps on giving, 25 strong years later, more respected now, it could be argued, than it ever was. And we can't stop finding new ways to talk and write about it.
By the way, when we say "techno," it's in the universal sense. Under its heavy wing we find house and electro, drum 'n' bass and even dubstep, which territorial locals have been slow to embrace. When people mistakenly call Movement the "Technofest" — as they did its earlier versions, Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF) and Fuse-In — they stumble upon the honor of all electronic pop genres and a multitude of subgenres too. So why quibble? They honor it rightly because techno and Detroit are synonymous from here to Shanghai and back again.
Some quick backstory: The 11th edition of the festival, which began as a free event in 2000, sputtered under the weight of political insiderisms and outside economic realities (i.e., the city of Detroit could not front or subsidize an event that required flying in and housing international talent, never mind making sure local artists and grunts got paid), before the big ship got turned around in the harbor by Paxahau, a local promotions and production team that was more than able to do the job. It became a paid event in 2006 (check that: under the helm of Kevin Saunderson in 2005, when it was called Fuse-In, admission to the festival was $5 each day) and has never looked back. Best of all, techno all-star producer, DJ Carl Craig, is back as creative director. He was fired from that position just before the 2001 DEMF by then-director Carol Marvin in a rash move that still sends shudders down the spines of many in the Detroit music community.
The giant, self-sustaining rave at Hart Plaza now costs $60 for a weekend pass to take in more than 70 individual artists doing their abstract-funky-groove thing. People pour in by the thousands each day. Spasmodic dancing and curious chin-scratching break out at five tweaked-out supersonic stages — and all points in between. Everyone gets paid and love, appreciation and satisfaction reign over all. Much better than the alternative: no festival in the motherland, kids.
Of course, if you have more than $60 to invest, we advise blowing it on any number of afterparties connected (or not) to Movement. See our picks for where to go clubbing in our hard-rocking sidebar in these pages.
As for the fest itself, yes, we have some favorites we'd like to steer you toward, some must-sees that don't come around here often, and Detroit talent that seldom (er, never) gets a chance to play before such crowds in its hometown. Let's make it simple and go the official festival day by day:
The Vitamin Water Stage (pre-sponsorship name: the Main Stage in the bowl) is book-ended by the fabulous Hawtin brothers, all the way from reunified Berlin. Golly, if they still lived across the river in Windsor they wouldn't have to come so far to perform. All our petty regional parochialism aside, we endorse Matthew Hawtin, who opens the fest at noon with an ambient set (he's one of the best ever at reducing the pulse to life-support only, and recently released a mammoth mix CD of ambient classics on Plus 8), and brother Rich Hawtin, whose 11 p.m. live performance as Plastikman is one of the few he's doing in that guise anywhere in the world. It was, we're told, sublime at Coachella.
Also highly recommended on the same stage: Mark Ernestus (2-5 p.m.) and Scion (5 p.m.) of Kreuzberg's famed Hard Wax dynasty. These guys are responsible for projects and labels such as Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, Burial Mix, Rhythm & Sound, Vainqueur and Main Street — all crucial elements in the Detroit-Berlin techno trajectory.
At the Red Bull Stage (at the waterfront, on the east end of the plaza), check Martyn at 6 p.m. He's a Dutchman living in suburban Washington, D.C., making dance music so resourceful and elegant that tags like DnB, dubstep, funky house, abstract hip hop all pale. Bass stars Flying Lotus and Kode9 namecheck him and his imprint — 3024 — often if that means anything to you. It should.
We hate to rush along but urge a stop at the Made in Detroit Stage (yes, it's the dreaded old Underground Stage, though reportedly now sound-enhanced for better quality) to see Detroiters Niko Marks, Kyle Hall (still 18, last we checked, and rocking the big systems in the UK and on the continent with regularity), Rick Wilhite and Theo Parrish pay it forward from 4:30 to around 11 p.m. That's a nice party. You can't see everybody, but if one more can be squeezed in, check Brit vet Kirk Degiorgio on the Torino Stage (trust us: it's somewhere in the plaza, not in Italy). His interplanetary soul-jazz leanings on projects like As One and Future/Past made him an honorary Motor City man back in the late '90s and early '00s. Welcome home, mate.
Head for the Main Stage again for Detroit chef-cum-New Zealander Recloose (sorry, we still remember him from the sandwich line at Eastern Market's Russell Street Deli), Chicago legend Larry Heard (now based in Memphis), Derrick Carter and Inner City, featuring Kevin Saunderson. Not bad, eh? Check performance times on your Paxahau iPhone app (it's free, by the way).
Red Bull rolls out Starski & Clutch, DJ Godfather, Glaswegian badass boy wonder Hudson Mohawke, Phat Kat and Guilty Simpson with the Will Sessions Big Band and Mr. Scruff. Holy shit, did we miss anybody?
The Beatport Stage (near the river, at west end of the plaza), features a nifty German tripleheader with criminally underrated Martin Buttrich (now living in New York City), festival fave Cassy and the return of day tripper Ricardo Villalobos, who has not performed in this country since doing Hawtin's Minus afterparty at the old Panacea club in 2002. A huge catch for Paxahau, this is an exclusive North American date for Villalobos, who did play Montreal's Mutek in 2006 and 2009 while saying he would not step on U.S. soil while this country occupied Iraq. The CIA was still in charge over there, Ricardo, last we heard. But, heck, it's nice to see you anyway.
The Made in Detroit Stage remains hot thanks to appearances by K-Hand, Anthony "Shake" Shakir and Rob Hood (all hail Cooley High School!) and the return of former Southwestsider and Underground Resistance commando Rolando. And say hello to Derrick May on the Torino Stage. He should be killing it from 9 p.m. until a melodramatic thunderstorm shuts down the power 'round about midnight. That's a fantasy scenario that steals a scene from DEMF 2001.
More stellar Detroit-raised activity on the Main Stage with Luke Hess, Stacey Pullen, Kenny Larkin and Model 500. The latter featuring, of course, that Belleville kid Juan Atkins, who branded a futuristic amalgam made from German, British, Japanese electro-pop, P-Funk, UFOs and cosmic cars as techno — the one perfect word to describe the indescribable, as it turns out.
On the Red Bull Stage, catch classically-trained Francesco Tristano, who has performed with Carl Craig and solo at a recent memorable show at downtown's Cliff Bell's; Moritz von Oswald Trio, headed by Ernestus' longtime collaborator in the Hard Wax stable, Sasu Ripatti (better known as Vladislav Delay) and Max Loderbauer (Sun Electric, NSI); Hamburg's DJ Koze, Michael Mayer of Kompakt, Simian Mobile Disco and Booka Shade.
Beatport presents a nice lineup on its stage, including Secrets (Detroit's Matt Abbott), Italoboyz, French nutjobs dOP, Radio Slave and Chris Liebing (ripped partner of Speedy J., who is not in the festival though plays one of the recommended after-parties.)
It's femme power at the Made in Detroit Stage, which features Jenny Lafemme, Punisher, Jennifer Xerri, Minx and Magda, who stayed in Hamtramck long enough to attend Grosse Pointe Liggett School, go away to college in upstate New York and hang out at Motor around the corner from her house before heading off to Brooklyn and now Berlin. Sigh, if she still lived here we could give her a lift downtown from the old hood, but, hey, stop us if you've heard this one before.
Also playing Monday: Monty Luke, a onetime Metro Times contributor, and Argentine dreamboat Barem, who sounds nothing like Jim Morrison but kinda looks like him circa 1967, sure enough.
As for our own wish list of who we'd like to see play Movement? Kraftwerk gets mentioned every year, but who needs that? That was then and this is tomorrow. If anything, we'd like to see more developing regional scenes represented from places like Bristol and Manchester from the UK; Eastern Europeans from Poland, Slovakia and the Balkans, more Mexican and South American artists; somebody representing Africa, the source of the kick drum that started it all.
In all, this lineup is better than last year's, much better, and competitive with the best of what DEMF/Fuse-In/Movement has offered over 11 years. Know that.
Memorial Day weekend, Saturday-Monday, May 29-31 at Hart Plaza, Jefferson at the foot of Woodward, downtown Detroit.
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