I showed up fashionably late for the second day of Movement 2014, obviously not following our advice from the 15 step Movement survival guide. Being a pro at this though, I avoided the long swelling line at the main entrance by slipping in at the Riverfront entrance. No line, no wait, no problem. I was in the festival for day two.
One act I really hoped to see but missed was Detroit’s own Jimmy Edgar who deservedly played the Main Stage this year. Jimmy has been signed to Warp Records since he was a teenager, but after more than a decade, he has really come to find his own sound in just the past year or two. He also started a label, ULTRAMAJIC. I caught him last time he came to Detroit and he threw down a nasty set at The Works. I assume he performed similarly but I’ll admit I’m only speculating.
My first actual stop of the day was to go see uber-talented Malik Alston and his live band rock out some sweet soulful D-town house music. The band was hot, complete with drums, bass, guitar, congas, two sets of keyboards, and three vocalists. They sounded like a cross between a funky R&B group, gospel choir, and a late 70s disco band. It was great energy and refreshing to hear music with such dynamic range played by human beings; no pre-programmed beats here. It had soul and spirit and set the vibe for the rest of the day for me.
As I walked to meet some friends at the Beatport stage to see the Martinez Brothers, I passed by the Moog stage and heard the unfamiliar and exciting sounds of Bicep. I really wish I had strayed over there. The music was unique and had a definite style unto itself. The Martinez Brothers were good, don’t get me wrong; they never disappoint, but I’ve seen them before and got exactly what I expected: thumping house music that’s easy to dance to. But I was thirsty for something new after that sweet little taste Bicep left lingering in my ear. And so I wandered to the deep dark depths of the underground stage to see Zeitgeber, a collaboration between Speedy J and an artist named Lucy, who is admittedly new to me.
The earth beneath Heart Plaza started to shift. These were the familiar intense rolling rhythms of Speedy J that I have come to love, but with an added layer of atmospheric drama. The crowd sucked it up and the scene down there was charged with great energy. I stayed quite a while but tore myself away to finally head to the Moog stage; the stage where I’d been sonically teased by Bicep.
And then it happened. It always happens; the first act you see all festival long that really brings down the house. Julio Bashmore stood there barely moving; this low-key, unassuming producer and dj from the UK rocking a Detroit Tigers jersey, a bucket cap, and dark shades. His music simultaneously banged and swung with elements of disco, UK step, and 90 house music sensibilities, all with the most luxuriously dirty bass lines pulsating and carrying the whole thing. This guy was born to perform in this city. When they finally made him stop playing, a palpable sense of loss washed over the crowd, but the appreciation was equally strong. Whether it’s loving or loathing, Detroiters always let artists who visit us know just how we feel. He must have gotten the message that he just threw down a damn fine set.
Bashmore’s afterglow was enjoyed by the act that followed him, Kode9, who had a bit of a slow start following Bashmore but then found his own groove. This was newschool electronic music. Heavily compressed bass music with dubstep and trap elements. It was so loud (compressed) it overtook other stages including Maceo Plex at the Beatport stage. In any case I hung around with my earplugs in tight and my reward was that I now ‘get’ trap and bass music. It’s like hardcore rap meets punk. It was fun for a bit but I had to move on. Had to take a much needed break.
Now a photo press pass gets you just about anywhere in the festival and a friend guided me to the VIP area behind the main stage to rest and refresh. It was another world within the festival. An odd bubble, not as diverse, obviously populated by higher-income patrons. It seemed from this vantage-point that we were watching an intense spectacle from what would otherwise be a very quiet park where you might take your kids. I saw pretty faces but felt less beauty around me. After making a 360 degree observation I counted just one person within view dancing in the VIP. I felt like I belonged here, but I wasn’t so sure about 90% of the people around me. Maybe this is a microcosm of the creeping gentrification that Detroit is currently coming to terms with. And no doubt, when I looked up at the buildings around me, the city had it’s big arms wrapped around the entire festival including the VIP, like a mother lovingly holding all her troubled children close to her heart.
But there are always gems around you. You just have to look. I met a young man named R in the VIP area who flew all the way from Vancouver, a six hour flight, all by himself and it was his first festival. He was there alone with his camera and knew next to nothing about electronic music. It was a beautiful site to see. I took him to see a hometown hero, Delano Smith at the Made in Detroit stage around the corner. Delano killed it. He played harder house and techno than I’m used to hearing from this oldschool Detroit master. He clearly was riding the edgy electricity that filled night air as the end of the second day approached, and the long afterparties would begin.
I unfortunately had to leave at this point to meet up with friends but I’m going to mention one more name: Robert Hood. This guy is a legend and last time I saw him years ago at Movement, he was the artist who really blew my mind. This year I missed a rare live set by him and I hear it was incredible. Later when I asked several people, including Malik Alston, who on the Sunday lineup rocked their world, it was unanimous; Robert Hood destroyed it.
On Sunday the artists brought their A-game to Detroit, the after-parties didn’t stop until the sun came up, and the weather was easily the best we’ve had in years for this festival. This year is one to remember. All love.