Before Movement festival, I had the opportunity to visit Submerge, the face of pioneer techno label Underground Resistance. The main floor showcases a techno museum and the basement is a record shop. After deciding on my purchases, I headed to the cashier to pay. A guy who looked like Kyle Hall walked up to the front. It was Kyle Hall. He was selling a stack of his own records as a special promotion for Detroit. When the cashier asked Kyle what genre it was so she could categorize it, he responded, “I don’t know. It’s not any genre. It’s just Detroit.”
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As I entered the golden gates of Hart Plaza on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think about Kyle’s response with a huge grin on my face. So simply put, it reminded me the thing I love about this festival. It’s not about defining genres or worshiping artists—it’s about dancing to a beat that moves you in the city where it all began. It’s Movement. It’s Detroit.
With an extensive list of marathon-style parties spanning over five days, Detroit during Movement gives Miami Music Week a run for its money. Across six stages, over 130 artists, and surrounding venues that host events with stacked lineups each year, it makes for a slew of options to choose from each night. Each well thought out event—whether pre-party, after-party, or after-after-party—brings something unique to the table, incredibly hot in its own right. As the schedule planning headaches get worse each year, the parties get hotter, but that means they’re doing it right.
On Saturday, I made my way over to the Beatport stage to catch the last bit of tINI’s set. The techno goddess presented her signature deep basslined grooves to a crowd that moved freely throughout the floor. The dynamic set had a casual vibe, and for those ready to dance under the relentless sun, unanticipated tracks and natural transitions served as a rightful start for the weekend.
Over at the Red Bull Music Academy stage, things got hot as Benoit & Sergio’s live set simmered the crowd. Crafting lurid beats fit with hooks and melodies, the atmosphere increasingly filled with high energy. The duo’s simple and catchy vocals made for a perfectly playful setting.
Back at the Beatport stage, Crosstown Rebels’ commander-in-chief, Damian Lazarus (and his legendary beard), took the decks ready to mesmerize a packed crowd. Tale of Us led fans on a musical voyage that carried deep beneath the horizon as the sun began to set. Ever since their set at Old Miami last year rebelled the forces of nature, I feel I owe it to the gods of techno to check them out whenever they're in town. The thing that sets the Italian duo apart from other artists is their ability to tell a tale without any specific expectations beforehand. Meanwhile, Daniel Bell commandeered the dance floor of Hart Plaza’s special gem, the Made in Detroit stage. Known as the don of minimal techno, Bell treated us to an impending live performance under his DBX moniker. In the early 90s, he entered the burgeoning techno realm as Cybersonik, joining Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva’s Plus 8 label. Longtime fans and newcomers alike joined to experience a mid-tempo set with the perfect amount of funk to keep the crowd moving. With the stage situated near the entrance of the festival, quirky drum kicks and eccentric synths poured onto the streets of Jefferson Avenue. Soulful rhythms and elevating grooves echoed across the concrete as Bell’s live show came to a conclusion. Movement closed out with powerhouses Claude VonStroke, Stacey Pullen, Chris Liebing, and the highly anticipated presentation Timeline from Underground Resistance—a perfect nightcap to a successful day one.
The second day brought an even bigger crowd—a good portion running on little or no sleep from the night before—as fans piled into Hart Plaza ready for round two of nonstop techno madness. Eager to bask in the warmth of the sun and the musical prowess of Sunday’s stellar lineup, I headed to the festival earlier in the afternoon. After catching duo Adriatique at the Beatport stage followed by a live performance from Martin Buttrich, I decided to see what all the fuss was about at the Moog stage, which replaced the former Electric Forest stage. The Moog stage had one of the less intense spots of the festival, at least in terms of sun. Surrounded by trees on a hill beside the Detroit River, festival-goers found it a perfect laidback spot to cool down. However, the actual dance floor still turned it up with acts Move D and Bicep. Next up on the roster at the Beatport stage was the Berlin-based Innvervisions founder Dixon, satisfying the dance floor with melodies and layers. Spinning magic, he commanded the crowd with a gripping set that fit flawlessly with a backdrop of the sunset behind the decks.
Taking the reins of the Beatport stage, Maceo Plex had arguably the most anticipated act of the weekend (for me at least). Maybe it’s because people were still shitting themselves over his Maetrik set from last year, they knew it’d be a tough act to follow. I saw him throw down one of the filthiest sets I’ve ever seen at Miami Music Week’s Last Resort party this year. It’s literally all I could think about for the next two weeks. Moving onto the steps of the pyramid to get a better view, I was so anxious I lost sight of everything around me for a brief moment. Just eyes glued to the stage, fans took their positions on the dance floor, ready for takeoff. Just minutes in and Maceo Plex had already blasted us off into an outer space of auditory sound. Navigating us through futuristic rhythms, all surroundings were soon lost again. Like in actual outer space where nothing can carry the sound waves of vocal cords, Maceo Plex concluded his set rendering me speechless. Best set of the weekend straight in the bag. Sunday closed with other noteworthy acts like Richie Hawtin, Mike Huckaby, and Robert Hood.
Entering the last day of the festival sun burnt, strung-out, and undefeated, party goers were still desperate to vibe to the final beats that would reverberate out of Hart Plaza. In the afternoon on Monday, the sounds coming from the Made In Detroit stage were superb. One of my favorite tracks of the weekend was Dantiez Saunderson’s “The Harp” featuring La Rae Starr, a recent release on the infamous KMS Records, founded by his father Kevin Saunderson. Every time I see him play, he throws down some of the illest beats. He has skill that goes far beyond producers double his age, which goes to show age is definitely just a number in the game of techno. Another favorite of the third day was Eddie Fowlkes warming us up with sounds of house. Not only did Kevin Saunderson play a back-to-back set with Seth Troxler—he hosted a special showcase called Origins dedicated to classic techno music.
Due to Boys Noize having to cancel, Dirtybird queen J.Phlip took on the daunting task to close the Beatport stage on the final night of the festival —and apparently it was her birthday too. She made asses shake on the dance floor like it was nobody’s business, and all while looking so effortlessly cool. I think everyone had a crush on her by the time the set was over—straight or not.
Meanwhile parking lot-turned-sewer that is the Underground stage, Jeff Mills (the Wizard) hypnotized the relentless crowd with dashing rhythms and an orchestration of time travel. Despite the full-force exhaustion that had set in a long time ago, listeners gathered for one last beat—because as the quote from the movie Groove reminds us, “The shit ain’t over ‘till the last record spins.”