When average Americans close their eyes and try to summon up a quintessential image of techno culture, chances are they’re going to envision a sweaty, white “Euro Rave,” action-packed with grinding club-druggers. Little does the average American know that not only did techno music originate in the States, but that it was a predominantly black, urban movement, spearheaded right here in Detroit.
Saturday, May 29 through Monday, May 31 at 12 p.m.
Hart Plaza, Detroit
$60 for three day passes
Movement, also known as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, is an annual testament to Detroit’s often overlooked past as the hotbed of techno and electronic music in general. And, with a 100-artist lineup boasting talent from 13 different countries (including Germany, Chile, Spain and Argentina), Movement also showcases the international spiderweb of splinter genres that the “Detroit Sound” has spawned over the years.
Since its foundation in 2000, the festival has erupted into a gargantuan five-stage gala, attracting techno fanatics from across the globe.
“It’s a pilgrimage — it’s a Mecca of this stuff,” said Jason Huvaere, Movement’s executive director. “It is a full-blown 36-hour block of programming, plus all the after-parties spread all over town. It is, without a question, the single highest concentration of creative individuals that the city attracts. I mean, we sell out every hotel in town … Detroit just lights up for the weekend. This festival makes people want to vacation in Detroit.”
But unlike the star-studded lineups of blockbuster indie festivals like Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo, Movement’s lineup is likely to look like Greek to anyone who isn’t a hardcore tech-head.
“One of the beauties of this festival is that we’re able to showcase music that people here may not be super familiar with,” Huvaere explained. “It’s not designed, nor was it ever designed, to be a popular music festival … Most of the music that we work with is from artists that have a lot of momentum in other parts of the world. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is just to keep Detroit up with the current momentum and the current pace of the world festival circuit.”
While the festival certainly sports its fair share of local talent and musicians staying true to the funk-and-disco roots of classic Detroit techno and house music, it also plays host to an eclectic slew of electronic offshoots — from breakbeat and jungle to hip hop and dubstep.
Detroit native Juan Atkins, largely credited as the pioneer of techno music along with high school buddies Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson (all of whom will be performing at Movement this weekend), sees the festival as a showcase of Detroit’s transnational influence coming full circle.
“Even jungle and drum-and-bass music has definitely had a Detroit influence on it — all of that came from one foundation … It was like a ping-pong effect: When the ball comes in their court they put a spin on it, and when it comes back we have to react to that spin,” said Atkins, describing the international back-and-forth that has shaped the evolution of electronic music.
But while Movement is certainly a colorful window into this cross-cultural fugue, it’s also a conscious attempt to counter America’s deep-seated trends of ignorance and segregation.
“Everything is sliced up into racial categories in the U.S.,” Atkins explained. “You have the black urban radio station and then you have the pop station, you have the rock station. In Europe, they don’t have those separate stations. Everything is cross-marketed to everybody. Our music got exported, got popular, and then the white kids started making that sound in Europe. And then it got accepted in the U.S. and (European producers) exported their records back to us, so that when they came back here everybody assumed, ‘Oh, this is a white form of music.’ ”
Atkins is headlining Movement 2010 under the moniker Model 500, along with fellow Detroit techno kingpins Richie Hawtin (Plastikman) and Kevin Saunderson (Inner City). Atkins describes the festival as a “wake-up call” to America — a sonic and cultural melting pot celebrating Detroit as the homeland of the transnational big bang that is electronic music.
And according to Huvaere, whether you’re an electronic festival junkie or a first-timer, “you only get a chance once a year to see one outside in a park like this … And the kind of acts that we bring in are really more of a high-end, not-able-to-see-them-very-often type of a thing. For a lot of these acts, they’re only going to be here once a year, and that’s for the festival. So if you’re interested in the music and you want to see it in a cool venue, there isn’t anything to really compare this weekend to.”