Fest Nest

20 Ways We Raged Detroit’s MEMF

20 Ways We Raged Detroit’s MEMF

Movement Electronic Music Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend in the Motor City of Detroit, was by far one of the best urban cityscape-style festivals. And, it was refreshing to experience the city life and world-renowned electronic musicians without having to break the bank. The festival’s line up was noticeably more underground, and did not feature the commercial headliners other EDM festivals book, hence attracting a crowd of techno purists who were there for the music, and not because it was just the cool thing to do… Check out our Top 20 Memorable Moments from the weekend in the birthplace of techno, Detroit Rock City. 

Movement Electronic Music Festival, held over Memorial Day weekend in the Motor City of Detroit, was by far one of the best urban cityscape-style festivals. And, it was refreshing to experience the city life and world-renowned electronic musicians without having to break the bank. The festival’s line up was noticeably more underground, and did not feature the commercial headliners other EDM festivals book, hence attracting a crowd of techno purists who were there for the music, and not because it was just the cool thing to do… Check out our Top 20 Memorable Moments from the weekend in the birthplace of techno, Detroit Rock City.

1)  Richie Hawtin We can think of no better setting to see this techno legend perform than in front of his hometown skyline of downtown Detroit. Hawtin’s view, on the other hand, faced toward Hart Plaza’s amphitheater and the skyline of Windsor, Canada; the town in which Richie was raised. (Sidenote: Mayor Eddie Francis, undoubtedly a techno fan, recently awarded him the Key to the City of Windsor.) It was a special vibe for everyone, as Hawtin headlined the main stage on Saturday night, which was the opening night of the festival. Eager ears and fresh legs, in combination with Hawtin’s groovier track selection had everyone up and moving in a massive underground dance party. The LED screens featured Hawtin’s signature minimal and trippy visual effects. He played a DJ set and skillfully mixed and tweaked out tracks from his record label, M-Nus, and beyond. With about 20 minutes to go, Hawtin dropped a slamming version of “Little Drummer Girl” by Tiger Fingers with Jimmy Edgar, another Detroit local, on the remix. The amphitheater bounced to the break beats and deep synths while Hawtin added in his own dark electro synth effects. It just did not get any better than this. He seemed to deconstruct each track with his effects processor and rebuild them bigger, more acidy and deeper. It was a perfect-sized venue and even the perfect temperature outside. The music and production were intelligent and intriguing, and left the crowd eager for more underground techno bliss.

2)  Intimate Stages & Festival Grounds – In the age of the mega festival culture and arena-packed electronic music tours, it was nice to see a smaller and easily navigable layout. It was hassle-free to make your way to any vantage point on any stage throughout the entire weekend. At first glance, it seemed that the stages might have been too close together, with the risk of noise overlap. It was surprising and pleasing to find that there was virtually no crossover noise. The sound technicians obviously did their homework. You could walk right up to the sound sweet spot (center stage) at all times to prevent even the slightest hint of crossover sound from other stages. It was no problem to meet and find your rage buddies, or even escape the group for a breather. Hart Plaza provided plenty of larger-than-life public, contemporary art pieces and sculptures that served as great landmarks.  Many festivalgoers exclaimed, “Let’s meet back up at the huge pyramid thing,” or, “See you at the fountain in 10 after I annihilate this corndog.”

3)  Female DJs – EDM is traditionally a bro-centric genre of music. It was refreshing to see the abundance of female artists absolutely killing it this year. Some of our favorites were: MAGDA and Erika live (both Detroit locals), as well as TOKiMONSTA, Nina Kraviz, Steffi, Nicole Moudaber, Ellen Alien and J-Phlip from the Dirtybird crew.    

4)  Miguel Campbell – The weather was perfect at 5 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at the Beatport Stage. There was not a cloud in the sky. The sun illuminated the water of the Detroit River a cool blue hue and a breeze came across the water from Canada. The Windsor skyline, which included a large Caesar’s Palace Casino, provided the backdrop. Miguel Campbell’s sexy, groovy house music seemed the perfect fit for this atmosphere. The DJ and producer from Leeds, England was added to the Hot Creations team in 2010. His set featured many remixes and exclusives from his label, including goose bumps moments when he dropped some unidentified, deep and funky remixes of his tracks “Rockin’ Beats” and “Something Special.”  The crowd could not help but put its hands up, shuffle feet and shake booties, in a gesture of house music satisfaction.

5)  Corndogs Galore – Although Midwesterners are well known for cheese curds and golden lagers, Detroit’s culinary staple is the Coney Island Hot Dog.  This style of preparation did not originate in Coney Island, NY but rather refers to the origin of the all-beef frank, which is then covered in an all-meat beanless chili, diced white onions and a strip of yellow mustard. As for the Midwest techno festival fare, it only seemed right that corndog vendors had a dominating presence. We counted eight vendors with different corndog offerings at the festival, which could obviously be paired with the traditional chili topping. Our favorite version was the pretzel dough wrapped dog. Brilliant!

6)  Stacey Pullen – Last time we saw Stacey Pullen was in the front room of Treehouse in Miami Beach while a headliner, whom we can’t recall, was in the big room that night. What we do remember about that night was a charismatic Stacey Pullen playing some very danceable tunes. We are sure not to forget how he took over the Red Bull Music Academy main stage on Sunday night from 9 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. Pullen became an innovator of Detroit techno under the mentorship of Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson. His DJ sets are well thought out and have atmospheric moments, but drop some serious basslines when the mood is right. His set featured releases from his record label Blackflag Recordings, and his recent release called “Circus Act,” which also had a Nic Faciulli remix accompaniment. This track exuded the vibe of the set he played at Movement. It was energetic and progressive with organic samples of horns, vocals and bass lines. Pullen’s latest release, “Any Which Way,” saw major play in Detroit. Keep your eyes peeled for Stacey; he is a touring machine. He is on his way to a memorable main stage performance near you.  

7)  After Parties – In a true electronic music festival fashion, there were a ton of after party options. It was nice to see a festival not lock in their headliners for exclusive performances only to be seen at the festival. The event itself ended around midnight. For the seasoned and pro rager, this was just too early to call it quits. Many of the parties went well into the next day, such as the events held at the Old Miami venue; an ironic name being that these shows really reminded us a lot of old school WMC parties in Miami, FL. There was even an event held on a riverboat, dubbed the “ Bass Boat.” Some of our favorite after parties were: JAK Attack with Richie Hawtin & Friends, The Dirtybird Players at the Fillmore, Circoloco featuring Carl Craig and Lee Curtiss, Life and Death featuring James Holden and Maceo Plex, Red Bull Music Academy party featuring Seth Troxler and friends and the Hot Creations party with Jamie Jones and Lee Foss. 

8)  Boiler Room – Live web casts are achieving better quality fest feeds, and are more accessible than ever before. BoilerRoom.TV is one of the best sites for underground electronic dance music performances. You can watch all of your favorite DJs and producers do their thing live, or replay previous recordings. Sometimes the parties are at nightclubs, but most of the time they are streamed from non-traditional party locations like a hotel penthouse, pool, studio, or in this, case the VIP/backstage area of a festival. The HD cameras are usually strategically located over the DJ booth, but the best part about Boiler Room is its focus on the people. Patrons were encouraged to come behind the DJ Booth and check out the artist’s skills while showcasing some rad dance moves for the camera. A small pop-up tent was assembled backstage with some fold out tables, sound and cameras. Add to the mix MAGDA, Stacey Pullen and Richie Hawtin, and you have yourself a Boiler Room situation. Did you see the pink Melodysiac sticker briefly on camera? Check it!
9)  Technology Area – As attendees tried to escape the heavy bass of the Underground Stage and give their eardrums a rest, they more than likely stumbled upon the Technology Area. It was located in a glassed-in art gallery space that had been taken over by some of the best names in audio, sound and DJ equipment. It gave people a look behind the music, and even behind the turntables. The MOOG booth was hands-down the most interactive. They had the “Little Phatty” synthesizer, “Sub Phatty” synthesizer, and an “Etherwave” Theremin to jam on. They were hooked up to headphones and some cool looking analog visuals on old-school tube TVs in front of each station. A company called SUBPACK put on another cool booth. There were bass vests or seat backs that are used in studio to feel the thump of the bass while not destroying your ears in the process.  Producers could actually feel how their basslines would vibrate and hit on large sound systems, all the way down to 5mhs, while not making a sound.  We immediately thought of some thumping silent disco applications! Some of the other popular displays were put on by: Ableton, Allen and Heath, Dubspot, Xone, Serato and Traktor.

10)  Moodymann –
Another huge Detroit pioneer and innovator, whose real name is Kenny Dixon Jr., delivered the goods to the main stage on Saturday afternoon. He has been releasing eclectic electronic music since 1994, and is heavily influenced by soul, funk, jazz and rock. His style is most represented by his release from 1999, “Shades of Jane,” which has become a Detroit fest anthem and was heard many times throughout the weekend. His sets are always memorable, and this day was no exception. His music stretched beyond boundaries, and wove through heavy and groovy house music basslines into funk and jazz classics. , often sampling many different musicians and piecing them together in a psychedelic way. His stage presence on this day was quite gangster, as he wore a fedora-style hat and ski mask. He had two bodyguard dudes to either side of him with matching attire who stood frozen like statues with their arms crossed. One interesting fact we learned is that he has a huge following in the black roller skating scene.  He hosts “Soul Skate” parties at the Northland Roller Rink and attracts more than 2,000 skaters from all over the US.

11)  MAGDA – This Detroit-raised female DJ was heard all over town during Memorial Day weekend in the Motor City. With two sets at the festival itself, the Boiler Room and on the Made in Detroit stage, she also played several after parties. We loved the way she opened her Boiler Room set with a female vocal sample beautifully singing, “Move your asses, empty your pockets.” Then, the eccentric basslines she is know for kicked in and everyone complied with the first part of the request. Her sound shifts from minimal, stripped-down techno, all the way to funked-out space disco. Magdalena Chojnacka now splits her time between Detroit, Berlin and Poland. She was first signed by Richie Hawtin and M-Nus Records in 1998. She became Hawtin’s sole opener, and toured the world. Now she stands on her own. Her releases on the record label she created with Marc Houle and Troy Pierce, called Items and Things, are definitely worth a listen.

12)  Detroit Pride and The Red Wings – Everyone in attendance at the festival seemed stoked on the city and what it represented for techno music.  Many repeat attendees wore their swag from years past, sporting slogans like: “Detroit Techno City,” “Made in Detroit,” and “I love you, but I’ve chosen Movement.” All the vendors had some sweet designs on their apparel to show their support for Detroit. One of the best was a t-shirt that read: Detroit People Mover. It had a picture of a turntable right below it. On top of all the techno love going on, the Detroit Red Wings hockey team was in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs semifinals. There were hockey jerseys galore, due to the fact that there were games on two out of the three nights of the festival. One of those was a home game and the Joe Louis arena where the Red Wings play is one block away from the Movement festival grounds. We wonder if the players were jamming to some Richie Hawtin while in the locker room to get pumped up? Hockey and techno: a match made in Detroit heaven. 

13)  Squarepusher (Live) – Many audiophiles have this live show as a bucket list item.  Squarepusher performed tracks off his new album, “Ufabulum,” live, with his full integral visuals on 3D mapped LED walls and helmet. It was nice to get some proper dark drum and bass on the Red Bull Music Academy main stage. The very minimal black and white visuals and industrial electro intros built up through break beats and grimy downtempo rhythms. Almost each track progressed into analog synth-laden drum and bass. Squarpusher created an acid-infused, abstract, energetic and alien-like atmosphere. It could have been too experimental for the house heads, but many respected Squarepusher for taking techno to its limits and back again during his performances.         
14)  Gramatik – The Electric Forest Stage was the place to be if you were in search of a little something different. The duo of DJ/producer playing on Ableton Live with an Akai APC40 controller and live guitarist was just what we mean. Gramatik had the crowd bouncing to 85 BPM trap tunes into bubbly dubstep, all the while keeping an improvisational and soulful feel.  The live guitarist, F.A.Q., added a nice vibe to the set and kept the crowd entertained and busting out air guitar solos everywhere. As the duo from Brooklyn, NY began to crush its latest release, “Bluestep,” the crowd jumped and raged, as young girls crowd surfed near center stage. With the festival’s lineup rich with techno and house heavyweights, the vibe at the Electric Forest stage was on-par with what you would experience in the woods of Rothbury, MI. The trees, hammocks, flat brims and hula hoopers all around the stage competed the heady transformation of this section of Hart Plaza.

15)  People Wearing Black – If you ask experienced travelers and music festival veterans from South Florida about what to wear when raging elsewhere, they would most likely tell you to tame down your brightest outfits containing neon. The locals were sure to pick you out as a tourist if you did not. Even with our tamed down color schemes, it was surprising to see how many people were wearing black at Movement. If the person did not have any Red Wings apparel or jersey on, it was black pants, shoes, shirts and hats. Most of the time all worn together. Almost every artist had some type of black outfit going on. It was neither gothic nor grim looking, just plain classy, simple and cool. Black is back!

16)  Noisia – After a reggae infused downtempo set from The Bug – Live at the Electric Forest stage on Saturday evening, the crowd was ready to be energized. From the moment Noisia took the stage, it was like a jumpstart from a car battery and the people were revved up. The Dutch trio has been making stellar drum and bass, breaks, electro and dubstep since 2003. They have remixed Pendulum, The Prodigy, Amon Tobin, Mark Knight and in 2012, released their album Split the Atom, on Deadmau5’s label, mau5trap. Their music and mixing were on-point. Their energy from the stage radiated throughout the crowd, and helped to set the proper tempo for fancy footwork. They engaged the crowd over the microphone often, and pointed out their unreleased tracks created especially for the Movement crowd and Detroit.  NOISIA (Stylized as VISION flipped 180 degrees) warmed the enthusiastic crowd up nicely for Andy C who was on next. 

17)  Brodinski – The last time Melodysiac met up with Brodinski was at the Fool’s Gold Rap Party in Miami at the Red Bull Guest House during WMC. Although playing an all-hip-hop set, it was apparent that Brodinski knew his way around the DJ booth. His turntabalism and mixing were unorthodox, yet very effective. Impromptu beat juggling and precise scratching and sampling were no sweat for the French DJ and producer. His set at Movement was rated by many as the breakthrough set or surprise artist of the festival. Maybe this is because he has not been around that long; only since 2007. Many house heads are still getting to know him and see him live. He has since mixed a FabricLive series, performed on Boiler Room, and created his own label called Bromance. He was absolutely jamming out in the DJ booth, matching hip-hop beats with acid house and beyond. With so many performers matching beats perfectly with “sync” buttons and laptops, it was nice to hear the DJ mix in a creative way with vinyl and CDJs. 

18)  Nicolas Jaar (Live) – As the rain fell on Monday afternoon, people adorned colorful ponchos and carried umbrellas. Despite the hazy weather, the amphitheater was nicely filled with many in anticipation of a proper live deep house performance. Nicolas Jaar, the 23-year-old hailing from NYC, always keeps his audience on its toes. He’s always sure to play something surreal, improvisational and deep. With his Korg keyboards set up, he transitioned seamlessly through slow-and-low house music. The music was a nice, mellow soundtrack for a rainy day. The set picked up a notch when the vocals from Scout LaRue sang beautifully to Jaar’s 115-BMP deep house tune “With Just One Glance.” Umbrellas were bouncing to the beat in a very Mary Poppins-like dance routine. Jaar added some live vocals and played another one of his recognizable tracks titled, “Time for Us.” The rain never let up that afternoon, and neither did the sexy beats from Mr. Jaar.

19)  Cajmere – A blue tarp was stretched and tacked down over the DJ booth of the Beatport stage on Monday evening. It was flapping in the windy rain coming off the Detroit River. All you could see was a shiny bald head and the signature aviator shades of Cajmere sticking up. His noggin bounced and bobbed to the beat, making for a kind of dancing head illusion. Cajmere, AKA Green Velvet, is a fellow Midwesterner, coming from another small city on Lake Michigan: Chicago. He is a pioneer of Chicago house. His jacking-style music was represented well during his set at Movement, and an encore was just what we needed following Cajmere’s raging Treehouse set at OVUM & Friends during WMC. The peak came when he played his own alias’ track, “The Percolator.”  The vocal sang in a deep male voice, “It’s time for the percolator,” and then that funny coffee machine-sounding sample kicked in. It actually sounded like the fat rain drops falling from the sky and was quite amusing. Cajmere smiled at his rain dancers as all the hands went up for this classic tune.

20) BE-AT.TV – If you have never checked out this Web site, it’s high time you do. It broadcasted live in HD from the fest, and also makes recent recordings available. The staff uses multi-camera setups with audio and, visual quality that is unmatched. They were stationed at a different stage from Movement each day.  Day One at the Red Bull Music Academy Stage. Day Two at the Made in Detroit Stage and Day Three at the Underground Stage.  Relive the experience, or check out the festival for your first time from the comfort of your couch with ton-demand and compatible DVR functionality.  It’s almost better than being there… Almost.     

Photos by Melodysiac © 2013




June 12th, 2013

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