This is what makes Movement feel special—rather than just a techno festival, it's an ode to techno and the city where it was born. It connects a local scene to the global community it helped create, and an older generation to the younger ones it inspired, directly or indirectly. And despite having all the hallmarks of a big, international event, Movement is a local tradition and a family affair. If techno really means something to you, it's hard not to get caught up in it.
Movement pulls together artists from all over the world, but a cast of locals anchors the lineup. For me the best part of the festival was the Made In Detroit stage, a stretch of concrete hugging the edge of the city's downtown area. There were underground favorites (Delano Smith, Anthony 'Shake' Shakir), unsung heroes (DJ Minx, BMG), promising newcomers (Golf Clap) and the kind of acts that are often called "legends" (DBX, Stacey Pullen, Kevin Saunderson). My favorite was Eddie Fowlkes, whose Monday night set struck a perfect balance of warm house melodies and monolithic drums (and, to his credit, began with a very dicey remix of "Tom's Diner" by the Dutch duo Bingo Players, which would have surely sounded too cheesy in anyone else's hands).
The Beatport stage had some great moments too. Dixon played there at sunset on Sunday, slowly unfurling a measured set (as he does) that began with the elegant glitch of Atom TM's "Ich Bin Meine Maschine." Tiga went surprisingly deep the following night, offsetting his party bombs with subtle selections like Donato Dozzy's "Destination Eskimo Pt. 1." Boys Noize was supposed to come next, but he cancelled, leaving the task to Dirtybird artist J. Phlip. It must have been a big moment for her, closing a stage on the final night of Movement, but from where I stood she looked unfazed, calmly smiling through her explosive drops.
Movement's biggest acts played the RBMA stage, an amphitheater that's fairly modest compared to the main stages at other festivals. Moritz Von Oswald DJ'd there early on the opening day, massaging the gathering crowd with summery dub techno. Tale Of Us made a big splash on the Saturday night, dishing out colossal techno for a crowd that clearly adored them. Next up was Underground Resistance presents Timeline, a live act that combined techno with elements of jazz, funk and afro-beat. This one really split opinion: some people I spoke with found it transcendently good, while others were left a little cold—one friend said the only thing that kept him there was "a sense of duty" (I liked it, but wished they'd gone lighter on the sax).
The weekend's iffiest music was over at the Moog stage, which mostly blasted rap, trap and drum & bass all weekend. To be fair, this greatly pleased a portion of the crowd—along with techno devotees, Movement attracts its share of young people just looking for a party. And some of the music here was fantastic. Hyperdub boss Kode9 brought the house down on Sunday. As weird and modern as his records were, they clearly struck a chord with the young, hip-hop-bred crowd: DJ Rashad's "Pass That Shit" (the one that goes "light-it-up-motherfucker-light-it-up") got huge cheers and a sea of rap hands, easily the best response I saw all weekend.
Move D played on the Moog stage, too, and though his breezy house tunes worked in the afternoon heat, the set was marred by a jumping needle. "Movement wasn't prepared for vinyl, can you believe it?" he bellowed over the mic. "But it's alright, we'll see this thing through." This wasn't the weekend's only technical snafu. The RBMA stage had severe sound problems during Loco Dice and Carl Cox—the final stretch of the final night, in other words, which is kind of a big deal. And the Underground stage, despite supposed improvements over the years, still suffered from poor acoustics (small wonder, given the bizarre shape of the all-concrete space). Unfortunately this area was home to Movement's headiest techno acts—i.e. those who most needed clean and clear sound. In a room that seemed to swallow kick drums whole, the likes of Function and Voices From The Lake didn't stand a chance.
That said, the Underground stage has a powerful allure. Its atmosphere is dank and raw, as if you're dancing in a sewer or an abandoned subway station. And some artists made it work, most notably Robert Hood and Jeff Mills. Hood pulverized the room on Sunday night, finishing his live set with a surprising bout of neon stabs and diva vocals. When Mills closed the festival on Monday, the sound was sub-optimal to say the least, but his set was engrossing nonetheless. Dancing in that damp pit someone near the end, I found myself falling into a bit of a revery. The room was flooded with smoke and purple light, reducing Mills' figure to a faint silhouette. His futuristic rhythms throbbed all around us, and for one slightly cheesy moment, I had a sense of being irresistibly close to the source of all this. I don't think I was the only one.
Photo credits: Aaron Jones (Jeff Mills), Bruno Postigo
(Dixon), Trevor Dernai (J. Phlip), Joe Gall (Move D)