Miguel Campbell, Matador, Richie Hawtin shine at Day 1 of Movement Electronic Music Festival
It was pleasant and clear for Day 1 of Movement Electronic Music Festival and the techno was ripe for the picking. We entered without hassle, weaved our way through the low maintenance crowds between several of the five stages, and were wowed by how enjoyable a festival experience really can be. Paxahau, now in its 8th year of promoting the event, took care and special attention to space the stages appropriately, control crowds in a realistic way, and generally make attendees feel more like human beings than cattle. The stage locations were interpreted quite literally in some ways, Beatport right by the riverfront, Electric Forest in a grove of trees, and the Underground Stage, well, in an underground parking area.
We started out our afternoon riverfront on a progressive note — Ariaan of 16 Bit Lolitas taking the crowd on a tour of clean sounds and good vibes. With 30 minutes remaining in the set, he revved the engine more with harder techno and more aggressive undertakings. A clear highlight, however, was the moment James Murphy’s vocals appeared on the stage’s airwaves. Ariaan played out an edit of LCD Soundsystem’s “You Wanted A Hit,” a move that was appropriately nostalgic and nonplused for fans of Murphy and DFA Records.
The Underground Stage fully lived up to its name. We descended the gray slab stairway into a subterranean enclave hidden beneath a Hart Plaza parking garage, passing a blue-haired woman in Star Wars tights gyrating to the thunderous bass reverberating below. The stage space below perfectly encapsulated Detroit’s gritty city feel. Imagine a dingy highway overhang outfitted with strobe lights, a phalanx of audio technicians, and an LED light adorned stage. The entrance was bottle-necked with fans, leading ambitious spectators to leap from the railing to the floor below
Fresh off her bath tub interview controversy, Nina Kraviz evidently took the stage with something to prove to her detractors. She went hard from the start, dropping relentless techno bombs before attempting to take her set down the rabbit hole into weird sonic territory. This effort unfortunately backfired, as her sound felt forced and ill-suited for the temperament of the mid-afternoon crowd, which began to clear out after it became clear Nina was playing with 3 a.m., rather than 3 p.m., in mind.
It is always impressive when an artist can make their own production the highlight of their live set. That’s exactly what Hot Creations darling Miguel Campbell did with “Rockin Beats,” showcasing a well-executed edit of his signature track as the centerpiece of his superlative Saturday set at the Beatport Stage.
Desolat’s Hector took the reins and delivered the perfect cool-down set for a crowd fresh off Campbell’s funk frenzy, employing an opposite approach to Kraviz’s. He kept the groove going with tightly arranged bass-heavy beats, which he patiently mixed through extended instrumental builds to create tension and provide a bit of a breather. It felt as though the festival organizers were curating a DJ set themselves and had executed a flawless transition. Matador followed strongly with an impeccable live set, taking advantage of the element of improvisation to keep the crowd totally on its feet.
We took a drum and bass detour to check out forward-thinking Dutch trio Noisia at the Electric Forest. The high-octane stuttered breakbeats were a refreshing change of pace from the afternoon’s unrelenting four-to-the-floor, and while the outfit can hold their own in techno as well, they kept things bassy for attendees seeking a sonic switch-up.
Movement-goers were offered the choice between Moby, Slam, Terrence Parker, and Andy C for the closing set of the Day 1, but it was Detroit, and it was the Main Stage — Richie Hawtin was the obvious answer. The Red Bull Music Academy stage positioned itself in the center of Hart Plaza, occupying a space that woud probably be best described as a cross between a sunken bandshell and Greek amphitheater. Crowded at first, we were able to wiggle our way through the crowd and down the steep stone steps to get on the ground. Hawtin occupied the longest set time of the day, clocking in at a solid 120 minutes, but his punishing techno bass lines, isolated and piercing resonant sounds, and aggressive EQing made time fly right to his final, intense three minute pitch shifting spree that left the crowd with jaws on the floor.
Photos: Andrew Potter