It's Memorial Day weekend — what are you up to? Perhaps you're headed out to fish upon those Great Lakes, or maybe you're headed to International Mr. Leather in Chicago? Me, I'll be at the Movement Electronic Music Festival, my 16th as a fan, journalist, and activist. I'll be there, managing my cell-phone battery life, making sure my earplugs are working, experiencing my spine vibrate from the sonic pressure, and from time to time smiling ear to ear. Here we present to you recommendations from the entire realm of Movement's parties, after-parties, shows, events, and goings-on.
1. Conferences, talks, films, tours
Will Berlin remake itself in Detroit? How did "Big Fun" actually get crafted? Is techno merely a musical footnote to the career of Coleman Young? I recommend you get your urban sonic psychogeographical game together starting Wednesday, May 20 at the Detroit-Berlin Connection Second Annual Conference (MOCAD, 4-9 p.m.), before heading to hear local legend Kevin Saunderson get interviewed by WDET's Chris Campbell (Crash Discourse, Detroit Public Library, 6-8 p.m.). Then on Thursday, May 21, check out the opening of the Coleman A. Young Collection (Detroit Public Library, 5 p.m.), and on Friday, May 22, be sure to visit the Michigan Sound Conference (Detroit Public Library, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.), and then catch some films at the Electric Roots Micro Music Film Festival in the evening (Charles Wright Museum, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.). Finally, Saturday, hop on a bicycle and get a tour of Detroit's musical history from the Music Institute to the Packard Plant and back from Wheelhouse Bike Shop. (Techno in the 313 Bike Tour, noon-4 p.m.). Whew.
2. The best bar for electronic music
6 p.m.-4 a.m. Friday, May 22, TV Lounge
TV Lounge is always the best bar in Detroit for electronic music, but this Friday is your best bet in terms of who's spinning there. Formerly Half Past Three, formerly the Blue Ribbon Bar, TV Lounge still holds down Grand River despite major real estate transitions all around. On Friday, you'll hear the smooth blends of Norm Talley in the alley behind the bar (Tunnel Effect) before checking out the big Chicago boom of Smart Bar residents Michael Serafini and the Black Madonna (Smart Bar x Resident Advisor Opening BBQ). And then numerous other DJs will join them after that. Take advantage of this sonic jewel now.
3. Fjord Agency
9 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday, May 22, Whisky Parlor
Is it the DJ that makes the party? Or is it the promoter? What about the sound? The location? The flier? Steven Reaume, manager at Grand Trunk and longtime party promoter, has been thinking about all of these elements since throwing his first parties in the Atlas Building in Eastern Market during the final years of the Reagan administration. He's throwing multiple events during the festival, but the key party here is Fjord Agency at the Whisky Parlor, a reinterpreted space above Grand Trunk. His longtime colleague, the Michigan-raised, California-mussed Marke Bieschke, joins him in planning for the night. Bieschke's haiku on the flier might hit close to home: "Are we model citizens? / Within this model world? / Or is our darker will possessed / by some celestial agency?" Electronic music, with its sonic voids and waves, piercing signals and ambient blessings, invites the citizen to cosmological constants as well as deep transitions.
8-10 p.m. Saturday, May 23, Movement, Sixth State
Twenty-nine-year-old Jeremy "Sinistarr" Howard has already attended 12 festivals, played at two, and more importantly has had a serious career for the last eight years as a drum and bass producer. What did you do in the last decade? I do not know him outside of his excellent drum and club Soundcloud mixes and productions, but I plan to find out more on Saturday.
5. Carl Craig and Mike Banks Live
10-11:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23, Movement, Thump Stage
Craig started this festival. And, despite a few early bumps, he now plays live and/or DJs at it every year. This is one of Detroit's major cultural wins of the last quarter-century, like having Marcus Belgrave still show up to jazz fest or Don Was continue to put together the Concert of Colors house band. Underground Resistance co-founder and musician Banks joins him on stage. That Twilight in Paris two-song EP, which featured Craig and Banks, as well as Detroit jazz legend Wendell Harrison, came out almost eight years ago but the ideas — layered electronic dots and dashes, building with elegiac key lines and blasts sampling themselves across the voids — are still unfolding.
6. The Formula
9 p.m.-4 a.m. Saturday, May 23, Drive Table Tennis Club
The formula here is simple: housemusicallnightlong, housemusicallnightlong! This excellent lineup features a cross-section of Detroit house heads and longtime critical faves including Minx and Pirahnahead, John Collins, and Baltimore's Karizma. Drive is in the Penobscot Building, which once held the illustrious WJLB, home of the Electrifying Mojo — a must for out-of-towners.
7. Deep Detroit: Juan Atkins, Kai Alcé, and Stefan Ringer
10 p.m. Saturday, May 23, 1515 Broadway
This party, likely sold out, is worth standing outside to hear the thump and to mix and mingle with Detroit and global music makers and their fans. The legendary Music Institute used to be located down the street. Alcé, whose party this is, remembers that moment well, and curates accordingly. This is the seventh incarnation of the party, and features Atkins, who is celebrating 35 years of producing music. The foreboding, subtle house producer Ringer, like Alcé based in Atlanta, opens up.
8. Hip-Hop artists not named Snoopadelic
Does anyone remember when DJ Defiant brought 50 MCs onto the main stage of the festival? If not, perhaps spend some time with the Red Bull stage on Sunday afternoon to hear some of Detroit's best, including Danny Brown and Waajeed. Yes, Method Man is performing at this year's festival, and so is Snoopadelic. But with numerous former P-Funk musicians throughout Detroit, the largest failure of this year's festival may be booking Snoop without a full live band. (Note: Afrika Bambaataa plays Bert's Warehouse on Saturday, May 23, as well.)
2-4 p.m. Monday, May, 25, Movement, Sixth Stage
I met Alex "ADMN" Dazin at Urban Bean Coffee House last week. And I am pleased to say that if the future of funk-driven dance music is in the hands of such good, earnest, musically trained post-post-hardcore, bassist hands, we just might make it through the next five or so festivals with our souls intact. This is ADMN's first festival, and his parents cannot make it. So if he sounds good make sure to tell his mom that he hasn't chosen the wrong career path.
10. Shawn Rudiman
9-9:30 p.m. Monday, May, 25, Movement, Sixth Stage
This has taken too long to happen. Hats off to Detroit Techno Militia for putting Rudiman on at the festival. I first met Rudiman at Kraynick's bike shop in Pittsburgh in 2005. He is as serious about his bikes as he is about his drum machines. He is very serious about Depeche Mode too. He is, actually, very, very serious. But as techno fans, we know how this story goes. As seriousness reaches toward infinity, the celestial force of the funk emerges. Wear black. Dance hard. Listen as Rudiman channels the disseminations of a lifetime of electronic body music. It will be a short set, so be on time.
112. Richie Hawtin
11 p.m. Monday, May, 25, Masonic Temple
Recommending a Ritchie party in 2015 is a bit of a cheapie. The globally influential producer and DJ does not need my help. And this is an official after-party, so it will get all the promotion it needs. However, given the recent turnover and troubles in the Cass Corridor because of the impending hockey arena, I vote that we all party as hard as we can on Temple, while we still can.
12. Full Energy
5:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, UFO Factory
After the dance, let Auxetic Detroit, the brainchild of Maggie Derthick (a dance music fan, promoter, and full-service industry underground technician) take you home on Tuesday. The Audio Rescue Team of sonic-scene professionals Alan Bogl and Michael Fotias, who handle sound at numerous events throughout the city all weekend, navigate your ears through your final transition. Detroit duo Ataxia will be featured.