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The Return of Movement! (festival weekend recap by Paul S.)

Detroit's ravers and clubgoers refer to Memorial Day weekend as Techno Christmas, because that's when the Movement festival (formerly DEMF) has taken over Hart Plaza for over two decades. Of course, it ended up being cancelled the last two years because of COVID, but at least last year there were a series of free Micro-Movement events at a few clubs in the city, including the first major event at Spot Lite, which immediately became my favorite venue in Detroit pretty much as soon as I walked in the door, and everyone else I've brought there seems to feel the same way. Honestly, I've had my ups and downs with Movement, there were a few years where I either didn't go at all or only went if I could get in for free. I've come back hard the last few years, though, and after two years without the festival there was no way I was going to miss it. This year, I think most everyone who went would agree that it was such a relief to finally have the festival back. 
The entrance to the festival used to be a nightmare, but thankfully over the last few years they've worked it out so that the line to get wristbands and the line to enter the gates are both spread out far from each other, and the traffic flow moves pretty quickly. I didn't bring a bag so I had nothing for security search, so all I had to do was scan my wristband and I was in. With six stages running simultaneously, I generally tend to channel-surf and check out at least 10 or 15 minutes of every performer I'm interested in rather than stick to one stage or stay for an artist's entire set. I also tend to prioritize artists I've never seen before or who don't play Detroit often. Even still, there's still a ton of sets I missed entirely simply because I had to be present for someone else. When I first got there, Spot Lite regular Ladymonix was at the Stargate stage near the front entrance, playing some house perfect for the sunny yet not unbearably hot afternoon weather. I visited the Underground stage, typically home to harder techno, and this year they've moved it from its usual space to an adjacent area which used to be a food court at one point. This way there's no lengthy ramp to enter and exit the space, so there's no risk of a fire hazard, and it's a much wider, roomier area, lined with a wall of speakers, so the sound is evenly distributed and the bass was just unbelievable. Hiroko Yamamura was holding it down when I got there, and former WCBN DJ Erika was on after, but I didn't catch her set this time. Jerk X Jollof, who focus entirely on music from the African and Carribean diaspora, played at the Waterfront stage and I stuck around for nearly their whole set. As soon as I walked in the area, they were playing amapiano, and I can't tell you how happy I felt hearing those log drum basslines on a massive sound system for the first time. After their set, Eris Drew and Octo Octa played a characteristically vibed-up set at the Pyramid stage, overlooking the river. Over at the Detroit stage, a small, comfy area near the entrance reserved for upcoming local talent, Henry Brooks was playing something resembling headrush-inducing progressive breaks, then Rebecca Goldberg did an excellent set of spacey analog techno.
Stage-flipping for a bit more, I ended up right front and center for Jon Hopkins' main stage right at sundown. After an epic intro, he played a surprisingly party-friendly set, with less of the more cerebral sound of his albums than I expected. It was exciting in any case. Nastia came correct with a hard set which ended with some jungle, right before electro master DJ Stingray 313 closed out the underground room. I caught a tiny bit of Carl Craig at the Stargate stage before heading out to Tangent Gallery for the Tresor 313 event presented by Interdimensional Transmissions. Anthony Shake Shakir was playing when I got there, but instead of doing his set on the stage, he was in a wheelchair DJ'ing on the floor next to the sound guy. An assistant was handing him records, a lot of them skipped, and he wasn't always making an effort to beatmatch or do clean transitions. It was quite sobering to be honest, but and it felt special nonetheless. IT's Ectomorph (BMG and Erika) played a DJ set, which they've only started doing recently, and then Wavejumpers performed. They just released a record on Underground Resistance, and one of their members is the brother of the late James Stinson of Drexciya. The set was a mixture of tracks from the record and reworked versions of Drexciya classics. It sounded pretty good but it was from 3 to 4 AM and I was just exhausted and didn't feel like staying, even though I really wanted to see Batu who played afterwards.
Sunday I saw hard-driving Underground stage sets from Uun and Lady Starlight, plus more vibe-heavy open-air selections from Natasha Diggs and Ash Lauryn. I actually ducked out so I could get dinner at Pie Sci and then see Jeff Mills' film Mind Power Mind Control at Cinema Detroit. It's basically a montage of various promotional clips he's done for his albums and events over the years, edited into an hour-long dream sequence. His two newest albums were for sale in the lobby, and I got him to sign one of them while I caught up with some former WCBN DJs and MEMCO members who also showed up. Back to the festival, 2manydjs (aka Soulwax) were playing indie dance stuff like their Marie Davidson remix rather than the mashups they became infamous for two decades ago, but I only caught a short bit of their set. ANNA and Adam Beyer both played massive techno sets fit for the main stage. Paula Temple played one of the absolute hardest sets of the weekend, and then Blawan, who I'd been wanting to see for over a decade, followed suit, surprisingly playing all vinyl and not recognizably playing his own tracks, although he is known to change sound from record to record. His set was the same time as Juan Atkins', and he was focusing on the 40-year history of Detroit techno, but I only barely heard the end as I was leaving for the night.
Monday I made sure I was at the underground stage right at 4 PM to see HAAi, an Australian DJ whose psychedelic breakbeat techno style I've been addicted to for a few years now. Like a lot of DJs this festival, she tended to play harder and more four-on-the-floor stuff than what she typically produces, though her signature sound definitely shone through. After Detroit's Huey Mnemonic warmed up the main stage, Overmono played a set of their own material, and it just served as a reminder of how much of a presence they've been on club music the last few years, as it was just hit after hit. I wish there was more U.K. bass at the festival, but I'll be able to hear more of that when I go to Dekmantel this year. I saw a few minutes of Duck Sauce just so I can say "Ha, I saw Armand Van Helden once". Playing super-happy disco house, they were standing in front of a giant inflatable duck mascot, which was pretty awesome. Flying Lotus had to cancel his original timeslot in order to attend his sister's wedding, but he was able to play the festival after all, replacing the always controversial Nina Kraviz, who's getting dropped from lineups left and right over allegedly being pro-Putin. FlyLo is always a big draw, but I don't think the crowd was quite ready for his set, which spanned multiple genres and didn't always stick to music that was danceable; I think he dropped a Little Snake track at one point, and the audience didn't know what hit them. I appreciate change-of-pace sets like that. Dax J played another intense set in the underground, and where the underground stage used to be, there was an exhibit about Detroit dance history presented by the Underground Music Academy, with pictures and text about several key figures, particularly unsung heroes and architects of the scene. I took pictures of every individual entry, and Stacey Hotwaxx Hale happened to be right there as I got to hers, so she posed for a picture next to it.
I caught bits of a few more sets, from DJ Minx (who curated her own stage this year) to Tammy Lakkis (whose Obama-approved EP was a standout release last year), and even though Jeff Mills was headlining the main stage for the final 2.5 hours of the festival, I had to head to the waterfront stage for a b2b by Goldie and LTJ Bukem. Drum'n'bass is always under-represented at Movement (I know, it's not as popular here as techno or house), but the few acts they book tend to be some of the genre's biggest, and seeing two of its originators together was a real treat. MC Armanni Reign provided high-speed verses and constantly asked the crowd if they were having a good time, and the DJs swerved from harder-edged tracks to more euphoric ones, with a short injection of house near the end of the set, including an Underground Resistance track (Goldie was wearing a UR shirt, I think identical to the same one I was wearing at the time). This was another day when I was really tired by the end, but wanted to stick around for as long as possible because it was such a special event. Luckily the waterfront stage has lots of space to sit on the ground and relax without being too far from the music. As usual, the entire festival was such a momentous gathering of thousands of interesting people united by a love of dance music. While there's plenty of other major dance festivals, absolutely no other ones pay as much respect to Detroit's legacy of innovation, and nothing else compares to the energy of Movement. 


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