- Katie Steen/Daily
By Katie Steen, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 30, 2012
This Memorial Day Weekend marked my third year attending the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, otherwise known as DEMF or Movement. What began for me as an overpriced people-watching session during prom weekend has become an annual, earsplitting, Detroit-pride rite of spring.
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DEMF has been around for over a decade, attracting tens of thousands of some of the most devoted electronic music fans from around the world, and includes artists responsible for not only the festival, but for techno itself. And, of course, nothing beats spending Memorial Day bathed in River Walk breeze and noise pollution among the neon, furry-booted, Morphsuit-donned, proud, beautiful freaks of DEMF.
The first act to catch my attention on Saturday was British DJ Greg Wilson, who had filled up the expanse in front of the Main Stage quite successfully with unexpected remixes of tracks like “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” But I didn’t spend too much time vicariously experiencing better eras; I was eager to check out the always cozy and crazy Red Bull stage, staking out a good spot to gaze upon the mysterious mask of SBTRKT.
On my way over, I spotted the Fushigi master in his standard spot near the “CIGARETTES CANDY” tent, his magical sphere slithering over his arms while he eye-flirted with transfixed onlookers. He would later be replaced by a struggling imposter half-heartedly waving around and dropping glow sticks.
At Red Bull, I shifted my weight from foot to foot while waiting for SBTRKT, remembering that there’s not much of a point to arriving early at any act at DEMF. While it’s pretty impossible to feel alone in the loving swath of Movement attendees, crowds remain pleasantly detached for the most part, leaving space for you to start a dance circle, swing some glow sticks, climb a stage structure, leap off a stage structure, drink anything under the rainbow, smoke anything under the rainbow, Double Dutch jump rope, parade under arm tunnels and find friends (all of which occurs in the Red Bull crowd).
Londoner Aaron Jerome (SBTRKT) was arguably one of the most anticipated acts at DEMF this year for his 2011 self-titled LP that has given him a huge following due to its poppy nature and vocal additions. Most of his performance was not LP material, instead involving its fair share of rap remixes but also a painfully cool remix of Radiohead’s “Lotus Flower.” Yet Jerome did play “Hold On” and “Right Thing to Do,” immediately followed by an onslaught of crowd-surfers flung around with abandon like Spandexed rag dolls. SBTRKT finished with “Ready Set Loop” and “Wildfire,” a discordant but popular track off the studio album that almost everyone in the crowd seemed to recognize.
The finale of SBTRKT transitioned into Roni Size, a British DJ who seemed to enjoy shouting his name a lot and kicked off his set with an auditory seizure. Maybe I would have danced till my neck snapped like everyone else in the crowd seemed to be doing, but, exhausted from SBTRKT’s set, I decided to leave Red Bull.
Over at the Main Stage, Chicagoan DJ Lil Louis was playing something soothingly funky and less assaulting than Roni Size’s set. I’m not exactly sure how many minutes I stood in some unbreakable trance induced by the larger-than-life screen behind the Main Stage — this year it was flashing a morphing neon beating heart-skull-Darth Vader-alien-squid creature.
Finally I was saved from DEMF screen hypnotism by the rhythm of “French Kiss,” the main hit of Lil Louis popularized in 1989. The thing about “French Kiss” is that it involves much more than just a kiss. There are a few minutes of the moans of a woman in orgasm, which went largely ignored by the audience for a while until Lil Louis slowed down the actual music and let the lady finish like a true gentleman. The rest of the crowd took note, commencing with a simultaneous fist bump accompanied by some clapping and woos.