Hello cruel world, welcome to the Detroit party. Forget all your troubles, lay down your cares, everything is waiting for you ... downtown. Recession? What recession? The global economy is contracting? You don't say. It's time again to put your money where it'll do you the most good: dancing to the music of more than 70 DJs and live acts at the Movement Festival proper — beginning Saturday, May 23, ending Monday, May 25 — and dozens of after- and pre-parties that stretch out the weekend into a nearly weeklong messy, sweaty, contagious, contiguous blur.
This isn't to naively suggest that the experience of pushing it to the human limit will be curative. But in the techno nation we trust. It's a place of perpetual beginnings. The fourth festival produced and programmed by Paxahau Promotions, which followed the first six headed up or assisted by Detroit techno royalty (Carl Craig, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson, Submerge Recordings), can be likened to a cultural marketplace based around exhilarated electronic music exchange. Artists from out there (Germany, England, France, and from across North America) hit the Motor City to share their skills. And it's a testament to the local creative community that its relationship to the rest of the world even exists on this enormous scale. Not many places have a regional art infrastructure with the mechanism to touch so many people — and we mean really touch them, heart and soul — as does the authentic Detroit music machine. It's mighty real, baby, all about being alive in the present, dreaming up new ideas for the future. It says this: there's but one direction and that's forward.
So, ahem, yes, we take seriously this business of being responsible for a legacy that began as homemade sonic experiments in DIY laboratories in Belleville (of course), on the city's east side (hey, Pershing High!) and west side (hello Cooley and Mackenzie), in Windsor, in vast, hellish suburbia — or wherever the delightfully subversive Detroit Technoland of the Mind first appeared on your radar. New recruits are always welcome, natch. Delirious fun that has to be experienced to be believed awaits at the riverfront.
What you do when you get there is up to you. We recommend moving stage to stage, with periodic drink and food breaks, and bodywatching on the grassy knoll above the RiverWalk.
Who are the stars of this riotously colorful scene? It's you and you and you ... this thing isn't about drooling over finally seeing Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen enshrined on a pillar, separated from his adoring audience way below. Nah, it's about the freedom to get friendly with sine waves at ear level, responding to what you like, ignoring what you don't. Open and close your mind and let it play itself like an accordion: you'll get the idea. Still, there are a bunch of don't-miss picks over this three-day and three-night carnivale that even the most dedicated pre-verbal or post-intellectual raver will want to know all about.
Saturday's most decorated performer is Carl Cox, a London-based legend who has been pounding out techno-house-broken beat hybrids since Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were in power. Grrr: Ever wonder where all that aggro comes from? Now you know. Cox is on the Vitamin Water Main Stage for a three-hour (and we hope) three-turntable set beginning at 9 p.m. Also on the same stage on Saturday: Steve Bug, Francois K and Drumcell. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Come early for action on the Beatport Stage, where ex-Detroiter, former WDET radio late-night treasure Liz Copeland (now based in Denver) begins spinning at noon. Also on the same stage: the festival debut of Heidi, a former Windsor indie rocker turned London-Berlin tech-house frequent flyer, San Francisco's Nikola Baytala, L.A.-based Londoner Damian Lazarus and festival favorites Marco Corola and Adam Beyer.
Heidi says growing up across the river from Detroit "helped shape me into the person I am today. It's like no other city in America. People come together and no one cares where you come from. It's about unity." Hear that, kids? That's what we're on about.
And Baytala, also making his first appearance at the festival, called Detroit's inspiration and influence on electronic music "timeless."
More Saturday highlights include everything on the Made in Detroit Stage, beginning with Stacey Hale, 1-3 p.m., and ending with headliner Mike Huckaby, whose career has gone into interstellar overdrive in the EU ("but, no, I have not moved to Berlin," he says). In between are Mike Clark, Delano Smith, Norm Talley, Shaun ("I did move to Berlin") Reeves, and Rick Wade.
On the Red Bull Academy Stage, dig live action from Seattle's (and Ghostly International's) the Sight Below, Kate Simko, North Corktown's Kevin Reynolds, the Exchange Bureau and Krazy Baldhead. Somewhere in the middle locate a DJ set by dance commando Ryan Elliott.
GODS AND MONSTERS
Sunday highlights are just as numerous: check your schedules for exact times on the Main Stage for Detroit house music goddess (and she is) Minx and soul warrior Osunlade; Dennis Ferrer and headliners Loco Dice vs. Luciano. At Beatport, we say don't miss the Detroit debut of the Wighnomy Bros, purveyors of freaky house, hypno-hip hop and some of the strangest techno ever made (thank you for coming, Robag Whrume and Monkey Maffia). Made in Detroit offers original west-siders (now in Atlanta, dammit) Octave One, German dark electro lord Anthony Rother and new Metro Times contributing writer Monty Luke. And on the Red Bull Stage, hang around for a live set by Neil Landstrumm, and DJ zaniness from (Detroiters) Starsky & Clutch in the afternoon, and RJD2 and Z-Trip closing out the night.
On Monday, the Red Bull Stage stays hot with Windsor's Kero, followed by another live set by L.A. rising star Flying Lotus. Watch for London's Benga, the only true dubsteppa on the festival lineup, and Afrika Bambaataa, in the late afternoon and early evening on the same stage. Made in Detroit hosts Lee Curtiss, Seth Troxler, Seoul vs. Linder (on four turntables), Buzz Goree, Craig Gonzalez and a live set by Audion (known to his friends and family as Matthew Dear) to close it out. At Beatport, we want to get there early to see the return of the prince of sublime frequency, Clark Warner, at noon, another peak at BPitch Control's Ellen Allien at 5 p.m., and Montreal's Tiga at 6:30 p.m. For sheer heft of talent, it's hard to top the Main Stage on the festival's final day. Try this: up and coming dub tech-house groover Luke Hess, Quentin Harris, Carl Craig, Los Hermanos, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May. Look up, that's straight up D-techno love and raw power coming right at your face, punk.
It's a monster weekend, a badass regional wonder, an international showcase featuring some of the best of what's bubbling up from the underground. It's all ours.
Dance the night away
by Hobey Echlin, Monty Luke & Walter Wasacz
Or must-sees of Movement '09
Party till you puke
by Walter Wasacz
A not-so-scientific roundup of Movement subsonic afterparties and other mind-warping ephemeria
by Walter Wasacz
Handy know-nothing’s guide to techno lingo
Movement Festival weekend passes available at the gate at Hart Plaza are $60; one day pass is $30. For more info go to myspace.com/detroitmusicfest.