Movement, Detroit’s electronic music festival, returned for another year providing the city and music fans from all over the world three days packed full of techno, electro, hip hop and house. We wanted to change up our recap this year and instead of sharing the entire storyline we instead are sharing what we consider the 10 Best Performances of Movement 2018.
Ok, so number ten is not a performance, but stage setup is extremely important to the quality of a performance. While there were no major changes to the stages for Movement 2018, a few small changes made quite the difference. First I’d like to give a shout out to the Interdimentional Transmissions crew not only for their curation at the RA Underground Stage on Saturday but for bringing their overall presence to the festival by decking out the stage with their signature parachute drop ceiling. It made such a difference to the environment and was ideal for the stage setup. Not to mention the Underground Stage sound was amazing all weekend long (not an easy thing to pull off as past years have shown).
The placement for the Pyramid stage this year was moved from the North side to the East side with its back to the river. This new arrangement is essential for great sound and traffic flow. This stage has been plagued with a bottleneck of party-goers trying to enter and exit the stage co-mingled with a food stand right at the entrance and the overflow of people from the river garden. I’ve unfortunately had to purposefully avoid this stage over the last few years as it has just not been enjoyable. This setup is a must moving forward.
Not much else had been updated for the remaining stages this year aside from the absence of the fifth stage that was housed near the entrance for the past three years or so. While this stage actually had some great performances there in 2017 (namely BXT and other Detroit artist) five stages for a festival this size that is dedicated (mostly) to techno and house can be a bit much. What the removal of the stage did bring to Movement 2018 was some much needed space and organization for the restrooms. Paxahau had now (again) utilized this grassy front area for the restrooms, adding many more units with better organization. There is nothing worst than having to wait in line for restrooms during a festival. This move also opened up the large concrete area near the river. While this area was under utilized for this years festival, I could definitely see some potential moving forward. Even if the concrete area was shielded with fabric from above this would have made an ideal sanctuary from the scorching heat this Memorial weekend.
9. Will Sessions & Amp Fiddler feat. Dams Brown
Amp Fiddler is no newb to the game. He been puttin in work for some time. Regardless he has been on fire these past few years, not only with new material and releases but for his involvement in Movement festival performances. Three years in a row he has been leading some of my favorite performances of the weekend. First in 2016 with Will Sessions and Amp Fiddler, last year with BXT and now returning again in 2018 with Will Sessions and Amp Fiddler featuring Dams Brown.
8. Helena Hauff
The pace of the festival for 2018 didn’t really pick up until Helena Hauff hit the RA Underground Stage on Saturday at 7pm. Helena is at the forefront of the next generation of Djs: tough females playing hard, uncompromising music. The best thing about Helena and this new breed is they are not only breaking the mold from what the populous thought a female dj should play by laying down not only deep, hard techno, but also bringing a resurgence in electro. And not the electro that helped inspire the originators of techno to make music — hard, funky and danceable electro mixed with anything that feels great to the crowd. Looking forward to hearing more from Helena both in the form of performances and production.
7. Steve Bicknell
Seeing Steve Bicknell Dj has been twenty years in the making for myself and the crew. Being a very early part of the U.K. electronic and techno scene it would be hard not to mention his name within the history of European techno. Aside from twenty-five plus year career of throwing events and running labels, Steve has found a recent resurgence with the latest techno scene through tracks on the German juggernaut label Ostgut Ton and for a side project LSD with long-time friends Luke Slater and Dave Sumner (Function). His set for Movement 2018 was hard but not dark and grimy. It was groovy, danceable and unquestionably seasoned.
6. Ed Rush & Optical
I will admit I was slightly apprehensive about making it a point to see Ed Rush and Optical. While drum n bass has always had its place in the early American scene, for the most part it has fallen off my radar. I’ll still run across some stellar mixes I’ll add to the favs for the year but I rarely see a drum n bass show. Needless to say Ed Rush and Optical lead the charge on modern day DnB with their now classic debut album Wormhole. Their set Sunday evening was a refreshing throw back to those classic Jungle sets that kept me dancing into the morning during late 90’s raves. The set never backed off, never slowed down and every new track brought in was only more epic and powerful than the last. Thank you for putting me in my place.
5. Wu-Tang Clan
Every time you have a major hip hop act, or even performers so widely popular throughout the world, you will get some hesitancy and even backlash from those Detroit festival goers so deeply rooted in the city’s history of techno. I used to be one of those; and to a certain extent I still am. It is not because I’m not a true hip hop fan or have lost my love for the music, quite the contrary in fact. It is because most hip hop shows kinda suck. The sound is never that great and the vocals are typically sloppy. The tracks you groove to so often in your car, on the train or at home just don’t sound the same when someone is screaming them through a mic.
I won’t even get into the influence hip hop has had on techno, or even the fact that Djing would not exist without hip hop. But take a look back just at the history of Movement / the Detroit Electronic Music Festival — hip hop acts have always been there and deserve a place at the table. For twenty five years the Wu-Tang Clan has been synonymous with hip hop and carved out a unique style and branding that is often copied yet never replicated. Each of the original members are so immensely talented on their own they have each continued amazing careers in music and film. Even just to get all of the members (aside from Ol’ Dirty Bastard who died in 2004) on stage at one time, in Detroit no less, is a feat in its own.
Having the Wu-Tang Clan as any time slot other than the closing act of Movement 2018 just wouldn’t make sense. The crowd showed up at the main stage Monday night and the sound was proper. While there was noticeable issues in getting the 9 members mics properly mixed throughout the show, the energy and sheer dominance the group brought to Movement was legendary. You could feel their love for the fans and immense appreciation for what the world has given them the opportunity to share. They took all 25 years of talent, strife and affection and put it into this performance. Some members stood out through the set, like Method Man with his energetic and jovial presence, primarily during his signature “Method Man” track off the group’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and RZA as he led the audience through history priming each track with an introduction.
The only shame for the performance was the abrupt closing as the mics and music shut down promptly at midnight. While the city rules and regulations keeps the festival at strict closing guidelines the need from the audience and Wu-Tang themselves to give a final shout-out and thank you to the crowd was apparent. Following the rules is not something this set of artists has ever been known for or good at. Nor should they be. In fact their raw, unconventional ways gave an entire generation (or two) the acceptance they needed to create art in its purest forms.
4. Tin Man live
Tin Man’s productions have long been a favorite for me. Before I first got the chance to see him perform live at Movement 2016 I was expecting a chiller, toned-down set (at least in comparison to the remainder of sets for the weekend). It is true, in comparison, his performances are not as fast and heavy as most for a Movement weekend, but he does pick up the tempo for his live sets in contrast to his production. His live set at the Smart Bar Opening BBQ at TV Lounge was an amazing concoction of lush, beautiful 303 bass lines and Roland drum sequences at just the right BPM for the set time. This created a rare space in time that harmonized the sound, crowd and atmosphere into a delightful relationship pulled through by the classic sounds of acid house and techno. Tin Man is the master of the 303. Period. No one is using the Roland TB-303 Bass Line quite like Tin Man. He has truly brought these simple synthesizers to their full potential. Tin Man has lead the rebirth of Acid for over ten years and continues to bring the most thoughtful sounds to this sub-genre.
Shoutout: The entire Alley for the duration of the party at TV Lounge Friday was off the hook. While I usually find myself glued to the Patio for the night, this year the Alley was where it was at. Aside from some Garrett David and Palms Trax to close out the night the selection of performers in the Alley controlled the night. Starting with Bruce Baily and moving into Sassmouth, who not only kept the crowd moving but showcased her immense skills as a resident leading the sounds into electro and acid in preparation for Tin Man, and ending the night with the turntable skills of Dez Andres.
3. Adam X
Adam X has been an influence and involved in so many scenes throughout the globe over the years. While obviously known for bringing his uncompromising style of music to his hometown of Brooklyn but also across Europe, he was one of the most consistent Djs in the Detroit scene in the late 90s and early 00s. Now residing in the epicenter of techno, Berlin, he has firmly earned his place amongst techno legends. His set at the Tresor afterparty Saturday night this year truly gave life to the night. The party was going well that much is for sure with Anthony “Shake” Shakir lighting up the Gallery and Silent Servent warming up the Ballroom. But Adam X brought the party to the next level and set the tone for the remainder of the night when he stepped to the decks at 2am. Showing his true talent as a seasoned Dj he through down a flawless set without any monitors. While at times Adam can take you a bit too far down the EBM path, this night he layered in just the right amount of industrial toughness and scary vocal tracks to keep the crowd amazed and on their feet. His musical taste peaked as he through in Portishead’s “Machine Gun” from their album Third sped up and backed by pulsing techno that filled the Tangent with enlightening waveforms.
Shoutout: Following Adam X, Dasha Rush put on an amazing live set and after her Noncompliant brought the heat to the ballroom. In addition, Dan Bell’s sunrise sets have been a perfect addition to the Tresor party these last two years. You can’t find a better to spend a few hours closing the Tangent garden after a night of partying.
2. Dj Premier
I had a real dilemma between my number one and number two picks for this list. I cannot think of a more talented producer then Dj Premier. He has constructed the absolute best east-coast hip hop from early on in the game. Not to mention he was half of one of my all-time favorite hip hop acts Gang Starr. The sheer mastery he brings to the stage and sampling is un-matched. His set on Monday was exceptional. It was a tribute to the greats of hip hop (MCA, Biggie, Tupac, Nas, Rakim, MC Guru, Prodigy and more) while showing Premier’s immense knowledge and education in music. He knows how to work a crowd. By far this was the most audience participation I’ve seen at Movement (possibly ever, aside form dancing). He made us put our guard down and just have a good time. He straight-up schooled listeners by first binging in the original tracks from the most well-known hip hop samples, chopping them up with ol’ school mixer and turntable tactics and arranging as the samples we’ve come to know so well. While doing this all live and on the fly, he then hyped the crowd on the mic for the oncoming hip-hop anthem that included the sample from the original track he just compiled. Absolutely phenomenal. Every Dj/performer who took the stage throughout Movement weekend should take note of the colossal skills this man presented that day — y’all ain’t got shit on this.
1. Laurent Garnier
Wow Laurent Garner puts on a good show. He still Djs with the spark and energy of someone 30 years younger; as I can only imagine him in his early days Djing throughout France and Europe in underground clubs, massive outdoor raves, on the radio and even in his own home. I felt like his set transported me to some old school Euro rave where every track he pulled was at the peak of its popularity. He had a commanding stance that was in complete control of both the music and the crowd. He whipped through tracks and mixes with complete ease, carefully selecting his next direction while not being too confined or conservative in the process. The absolute highlight of the weekend.