Movement 2014 Review

Movement 2014 Review

For the retrospective behind Movement 2014, please visit the author’s post on Medium – Movement Detroit 2014: A Gonzo Reflection on Detroit’s Electronic Music Festival

Friday, Still Pre-Movement

We would be advancing into Detroit from nearly all corners of the United States: Mormon country of Utah, Pot Capital of Colorado, Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Skyscrapers of Chicago, Jerkwater, USA, and even the armpit of Michigan, Battle Creek. We work in your hospital, we sell your product, we market your company, we teach your children for god’s sake! No matter our location, profession, or background we were all descending on Detroit this very weekend for one reason — Techno. Not EDM, not House, DnB, Hip Hop, Speedcore, Nintendocore, not any other stupid fucking sub-genre you thought you created… No this was about Techno. It always has been. It is the one thing that continues to bring us back once a year, every year. It’s the one thing that has truly connected us from the start and will continue to bind us through eternity.

Ghostly:15 Detroit at the infamous St. Andrews Hall was the perfect way to set things off. I was expecting Matthew Dear to play some older Audion type glitchy, minimal Techno, but I can say he surprised the shit outta me and completely rocked the Shelter out. His Dj set quickly became a highlight of the weekend and we were just getting started. Adult was also fun to see. The live PA/instrumentation on the main floor and the Dj sets downstairs in the Shelter were a perfect combination for the 15 year anniversary of the Ann Arbor based record label. I hadn’t thought about it until now but there is a great lineage between Ghostly International and the Movement/DEMF festival. Ghostly starting in 1999, DEMF in 2000, both running strong, diversifying throughout the years, gaining audience and international attention.

After a night like that and skipping dinner for drinks, we mashed some coney dogs from a street side stand on the way back to the telly. You typically forget about those late night snacks after a night of drinking. That is, until you wake up the next morning and it tastes like you just finished. The gift that keeps on giving…

Movement Detroit 2014 Recap

Saturday, Opening Day

Saturday was a fresh day. We had two guests moving out and three more joining us with rooms at the hotel. Most festival goers were just making it into Detroit, checking in. We were already getting started. Half of the crew were attending the “Floating Frequencies” boat party and the rest were headed to the festival. The High Strangeness blew the doors open with their set on the boat. The five hour cruise first headed north up the Detroit River to Lake St. Clair where it made an about-face and steered back to Hart Plaza. The benefit boat party came to a close with Butane rocking three decks. “Easily the highlight of the weekend.” Ryan Boos of Acres remarked.

While half the crew got their sea legs and the rest was either still primping in the hotel or hadn’t quite flown in yet, I decided to hit Hart Plaza, get a few photos and see what was happening. Deadbeat at the Beatport Stage was doing what he does, putting down a nice, smooth dub set — perfect for a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the river. The sun was blazing quite hot there so I decided to roam around, feel some breeze and see how the setup for each stage felt this year. This also gave me the chance to check out a few of the Camp Detroit art installments for this year and meet a few festival goers. Some working the vendor tents and another group from Paris. I mistakenly asked if they were from Quebec after hearing their native tongue. After some introductions I found it was their first time in the United States. A small tour including New York, Detroit for Movement and a few other destinations. I instructed them on a few classic sights to check out while in Detroit, aside from the festival, such as the Michigan Central Station and the Eastern Market.

Next I headed to the cool, concrete refuge of the Underground Stage, a place I would be spending quite a bit of time this year, just like Movement 2013. Altstadt Echo of the Dub Monitor blog came on at 2:00. A quality dub-techno set and a perfect introduction for the acts to follow. I noticed they toned down the slightly overbearing sound the Underground Stage produced last year; while still keeping it clean and quality sounding. Though they did decided to pump the cellar full from a smoke machine. Here was my remark to the forces that be at 2:20pm.

We headed next to the RBMA Stage to catch one of the inventors of dub-techno himself, half of the great Basic Channel, Mortiz Von Oswald. I was expecting to hear some groovy dub in the sun. I instead wasn’t quite clear on exactly what I was hearing. The tracks were shit and he looked like an old man filing his nails behind a laptop, fiddling with his trackpad and hitting a key or two once in a while. Ya lost my attention and you disappointed me. So that was that.

Back down to the Underground Stage to catch our boys behind the Blank Code label, Project 313, gaining huge respect over the last few years. This is when things started to pick up a bit and I could tell it was going to be one hell of a night. They pulled off a great live set and were completely into it as always.

Monoloc was up next again at the Underground Stage as the remainder of the night here concentrated on CLR artists. Monoloc has typically been one of my favorite Djs off the CLR roster and he came through again tonight. Brian Sanhaji continued the pounding beats at 6:00. The visuals by Oktoform at the Underground Stage greatly enhanced the music of each performer — starting off slow and intensifying throughout the night. The visuals are one of the better aspects of the Underground Stage, something that just cannot be pulled off at any other Movement stage. Though each stage has it’s advantages, visually speaking. The Made in Detroit Stage also boasted some good LED visual effects and of course the Red Bull Stage made it’s presence known.

To supposedly accommodate for the surplus of acts this year, Paxahau added a sixth stage to Movement 2014 —  the Silent Disco Stage. At one point I was just walking through the corridor of vendor tents, on my way out the gates I believe. A young gentleman wearing shorts, a tank-top, and bulky headphones over his ears took a moment from his frisbee tossing to scream at me, “Hey bro! Want to hear something New, Original, Disco!?” A statement such as that, deserves no response. As I walked on I thought to myself, New? Original? Disco? — Why in the fuck did you decide to put those three words together? Why here? Why now? Why me? I realized some time ago that I must have somewhat of an inviting look that ensues strangers to brandish me openly with their opinions and promotions. That is until they get close enough to peer into my eyes when they inevitably realize they have made an irreversible mistake.

Prior to this I thought the Silent Disco stage was just another smaller stage; an attempt to utilize a grassy knoll not far from the porta-johns in the north eastern corner of Hart Plaza. I remained ignorant to the headphones gig. After this unfortunate infraction it became clear this was a branding stunt “Powered by Ford and Sennheiser.” A decent enough idea I suppose, to test out headphones if you happen to be in the market, but if I wanted to experience Techno through a set of quality phones I can do that in my basement. I travel to Hart Plaza every year to experience the crowd and the rumbling, pulsating bass and beats that I can feel in my bones. I suddenly had a flash-back to DEMF/Fuse-In, early ‘oos when the festival was grossly invaded by corporate sponsorship to “keep it afloat.” After seven years of successful, and presumably profitable Movement festivals, Paxahau had now decided to raise ticket prices and whore out their attendees.

It was now time to break from the Underground for a bit. Time to roam around, catch up with a few friends and see how the rest of the stages where shaping up. Dan Bell, as DBX live, set the Made in Detroit Stage off for the night, creating a unique and memorable minimalist performance using his own pitched vocals. I heard from several people his set was the best of all Saturday and probably one for the entire event. Stacy Pullen continued his energy though was taking it a bit too far on the break-downs. The crowd didn’t seem to mind and was eating it up.

I headed back Underground to catch just a bit of Chris Liebing‘s 3 hour set and see what he had in store for the crowd at Movement. It was a Liebing set what can I say. It was good, bangin, he took a few left turns here and there as he said he would, using his extended time slot wisely. Now it was time for UR presents: Timeline – live at the RBMA Stage. I felt with a collective so extremely tied to Detroit as UR and a chance to showcase their history and talent this was to be an epic event. It was a good show; pulling out live instrumentation, saxophones, with elements of jazz and funk — a true live electronic group feel with a real Detroit Techno vibe. A great way to close the night.

DEMF 2014 Review

Sunday, Remember, You’re on Assigment

As a journalist you walk up to the festival with a plan. Take observational notes. Immerse yourself into the crowd, get a feel for their nature, demeanor and intentions. Take lots of photos. Take a few videos. Record or set or two using your new Tascam iM2 stereo condenser microphone. Mentally record each arresting music set for later journalist use. Remember. Just Remember.

This plan remains at it’s height moments before you walk through the gates. It slowly diminishes each step you take. By the time you’ve made your way to the first prominent VIP bar, to quickly spend your daily ration of drink tickets, you struggle to recall steps 2, 4 and 6. By the time you’ve made it to your first stage you artificially feel good about accomplishing a few goals already. You’re off to a great start, you think. Halfway through the day dust is closely approaching and you disregard entirely the assignment you were sent for. Reasoning with yourself you are now part of something bigger. Being here, right here, right now is the assignment itself. Attempting to accomplish any formal journalistic approach would be disrespectful to the history of Movement/DEMF and the city of Detroit itself. This, of course, is a logical excuse conjured up by your playful, child-like subconscious, allowing you to except the fact you have once again become the crowd. You are now the participant, not the observer.

I planned on catching Heathered Pearls on the Beatport Stage at Noon to open up the festival but just couldn’t make it in time. I was not missing the stripped-down, post-industrial sounds of Orphx live Underground at 2:00. The music was good, not as hard, or deep as I’ve heard from them before. But there was something off at the Underground Stage at this point. The visuals were basically nonexistent and they just could not get the sound right. First it just seemed a bit quiet, then there were highs out of one corner, mids somewhere else, and the lows were coming so far from the left I actually thought it was bass from the RBMA Stage invading the Underground. It kinda ruined the set for us. We even tested a few different areas both “up top” and in “the pit” of the stage — there was no sweet spot.

Voices from the Lake were up next at 3:00 Underground. I’m a huge fan of dubby, atmospheric techno and Voices from the Lake (Donato Dozzy and Neel) embody that sound fully. Their full length album gained much praise and that is truly what I was expecting. Some smooth atmospheric techno to ease into the afternoon. What we received was something so, so much more. The set still incorporated their signature sounds but it was a lot more upbeat, similar to Dozzy’s recent release on Stroboscopic Artefacts. Dozzy bounced continuously behind the set of gear and controllers as Neel grounded the duo by his side. Needless to say I was thoroughly impressed with this set and it was definitely one of the best of the weekend.

After that we needed a few hours to mill around, chat with friends and grab some delicious food truck tacos. Zeitgeber was coming on at 6:00, and we knew the rest of the night would be a blur of demanding techno. I had listened to a few Zeitgeber sets, typically a bit more subdued than either Speedy J or Lucy playing on their own. Which is expected given the nature of the music they create together. Well they have definitely fine-tuned their performance together for a more festival dance crowd. Again, another top, top set for the weekend. The perfect combination of atmosphere and left-field tracks from Lucy and the relentless, mechanical beats from Speedy J. Easily one of the best electronic performance duos currently. Check out their recent Awakenings Podcast for an idea how their performances have evolved.

Getting a chance to see Function perform live was on the top of my list. His album Incubation was one of my top 5 techno albums last year. This, combined with the fact he was a driving force creatively behind the (now historic) Sandwell District collective. I had heard some impressive recent live sets from him and this set was just as good, yet I was there to witness it live, in Detroit, at Movement, on the Underground Stage with massive sound and hypnotic visuals.

Sandwell District Interface47-Scene22 Movement 2014, courtesy of Blank Code.


Oscar Mulero came on next at 9:00. Mulero has been one of my inspirations for ages. He plays the hardest, darkest techno of anyone around and his productions are not only equally as hard but he has also produced some of the more inventive electronica-type techno and more recently deep, driving techno. I did not catch most of his set because I knew it would only be hours before I saw him again at the Interface/Scene afterparty and I needed to make my way to a few other sets before the night was through. It’s about this time at night, when the sun has set and the mood starts to change, that it can become difficult to easily traverse through the crowds with a group of friends. So it takes a bit more time to get where you want to be.

We were able to catch a bit of Mike Huckaby‘s set on the Made in Detroit Stage were he left heads hurting from the constant bobbing. Richie Hawtin of course was closing out the RBMA Stage for the night, starting at 10:00. Much has already been written about the awe that Rich left everyone in that night and his absolute perfection and dominance as a world-class Dj. Truly one of the greats. He left 20,000 spectators speechless.

I couldn’t miss out on a bit of Rob Hood live on the Underground. He played a live set on that exact same stage a few years ago that was great. If someone were to ask me what true minimal techno is I would simply just point to Rob Hood and continue walking. He even spiced things up a bit this time around by having his own daughter join him on stage to incorporate some vocals into his production.

Next was the Interface 47 – Scene 22 after party. An absolute banger set from Cell Injection (Drumcell + Audio Injection/Truncate). This duo just knows how to destroy a crowd. Next was a set I’ve been waiting for since I discovered Techno — Regis. The epitome of Techno. I couldn’t hold a producer in higher regard and now was my chance to finally see him Dj. We bumped into Dave Sumner, aka Function, sleeking through the crowd. It was clear he had something devious on his mind. He had conjured up a plan to join Regis on stage. I didn’t quite grasp the gravity of this request at the time. As stated, I’m a huge Sandwell District fan and when Sandwell District played out, it was Regis + Function. I won’t get into the details on this post but SD is no more, both as a collective group, record label and performance duo. There was a falling out of sorts among good friends. They had not played together in years. Now here we (the awestruck crowd) were witnessing a surprise Sandwell District performance, back from the grave. Not only did I get to see Regis Dj, I was able to witness a short rebirth of one of the most influential techno collabs of the last decade. “Regis made me scared in the after hours, like a villain plotting in Gotham.” Ryan Boos proclaimed.  A true techno fan could not ask for more.

After that amazing event we still had Oscar Mulero to finish us off. He was clearly in a mode and was on point rocking three decks. As always, the Interface – Scene after party puts the icing on the Movement cake every year. You never know what you’ll witness, but you’ll always walk out happy.

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Monday, Stages Swell and Speakers Fade

{The following is a combination of opinions from Monday, Movement 2014. Many thanks to my trusted comrades.}

Monday, Monday, at this point your legs barely work and everyone is still sleeping. The city itself and the creative talent that has helped drive techno in Detroit for years definitely shined… for today, it was all about the Made in Detroit Stage.

Kevin Saunderson’s son, Dantiez Saunderson started early at 3:00 with his dad standing proudly behind him; playing a solid Tech House set with good mixing — but not the funky or killikill tracks Kevin selects. He laid out a groove which warmed up the small Monday audience and set the tone for the Made in Detroit stage. This stage stood out as the best sounding stage with a beautiful atmosphere; which became pertinent later in the day.

Next up Heidi rocked a harder Tech House set with her translucent blonde curls flowing in the air pushing up from the Detroit River. Dj 3000 won over the old school heads with an all vinyl set. No gimmicks. No effects. A classic “bringin it” set the Detroit way. There were a few hicupps while the stage hands moved gear around for the next setup, but he held his ground like a pro and banged it for the next hour –mixing funk with Detroit Tech House — producing sustained energy. He also happens to be a super friendly dude and kindly gave Ryan one of his CDs. Ah, reminds me of the old days…

One thing that needs to be address right now is the programming for the Moog Stage. It was almost complete shit for the entire weekend. I avoided that entire area like someone knocked over a bulging portable toilet full of shit-sounds — because that is what it sounded like. Listen I’m a purest-techno-snob that is clear, but I (have) applauded Paxahau in the past for breaking new artists at Movement and adding a wider pallet to the sound spectrum. But clearly, some mistakes were made. Lets just leave it at that and see if we can move forward amicably.

One mistake they did not make was bringing Bonobo to the Moog Stage. This guy is true musical talent. His productions are top-notch and highly regarded across many circles, including mine. I’ve heard a few Dj sets of his and was not truly impressed. Well he just so happened to be surprise highlight as he earned his Detroit stripes. He played much harder than expected — managing to incorporate some of his more chill sounds but adding beats below and progressing into some nasty Tech House. His mixing was legit, matching beats and dropping some (un)usually good House that was unique to his set.

Dj Seoul & T. Linder rolled through the Made in Detroit Stage with a large group of supporters. They bumped the BPM just a bit too fast though, playin old bangers but nothing that stood out for our taste. It was right around this time the sound was noticeably clipping on a few stages. Jeff Mills was putting on a clinic yet the Underground was pumped full of smoke machines and the highs where cranked so loud it started to sound like a washed out cable channel.

Mills was still coming correct but missing Kevin Saunderson on the Made in Detroit Stage to end out the Origins lineup he procured for the day seemed like blasphemy. Making our way we passed by the RBMA Stage it sounded like two columns of speakers got straight blown the fuck out. The only good sound from the RBMA was behind the stage in the VIP area. But Saunderson rounded out his origins on the Made in Detroit Stage with true, classy Detroit style — getting funky but not cheesy, mixing flawlessly. 45 minutes flew by before Seth Troxler came on to join him. In true Godfather essence Saunderson controlled the mixer and tempo while Troxler added tracks and layered sounds as he was in the presence of a master. Old school meets new school in perfect fashion.

The sleepers of the weekend were Octave One – live. They destroyed it and closed it down to a full floor. Hard, deep techno that was pure D-E-T-R-O-I-T! Sick analog beats with thick bass lines and machine drums.

Another Memorial weekend had come to a close in Detroit. The weather was beautiful all weekend long. Not a hint of rain and barely a wink from a cloud. Movement 2014 was solid this year — with over 130 acts and 107,000+ in attendance they have hit another millstone. Paxahau continues to out due themselves, staying true to Detroit with a keen eye on international talent as well. With the rise in ticket prices there should be no excuse for sound failures though. I also don’t want to see Paxahau take a step down that slippery corporate sponsorship slope. People know what it takes to keep the festival coming back every year, but don’t have douche-bags hounding you to check out their corporate stage while you’re minding your business.

Detroit Hustles Harder ’cause they work for their money — otherwise they know someone will take their place.

Detroit will prevail through the depths of hardship and within those depths she will continue produce some of the most prolific sounds known to man.

Movement 2014 Review

5 thoughts on “Movement 2014 Review”

  1. This was awesomely! I could actually picture everything that you described. I busted out laughing when you mentioned the guy with the headphones. That’s got to be a stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of! I’ve heard people mention clubs like that. Are you fucking kidding me?! This makes me not want to miss another year.

    1. Glad I could bring you to Detroit even though you couldn’t be there physically, I suppose that was the true intention, even though I didn’t realize it, until now. Thanks.

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