Movement Festival celebrated its tenth year at the intimate Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit—the birthplace of techno—for yet another another unforgettable Memorial Day weekend. Since its inception, the festival has arguably become one of the most prominent electronic music festivals in the world. With Paxahau placing strong focus on incorporating Detroit’s vibrant techno heritage, honoring the sound’s pioneering artists, as well as looking forward in terms of acts encompassing the future of underground club, Movement is a festival that triumphs all of its kind. With famed acts like Kraftwerk, Boys Noize, Caribou, Kevin Saunderson, Justin Martin, MK, Tale of Us, Seth Troxler, The Black Madonna, among countless others scheduled to take the stage at the three-day festival, there’s no question why so many attendees continue to return year after year. The appreciation for the sound’s Detroit origins both by the local attendees, those coming from all over the world, and even the artists, was nearly palpable throughout the entirety of the festival.
Fans crowding the Main Stage to catch John Digweed’s standout set at Movement 2016
Amidst a booming renaissance of it’s own, the city drew a massive and wildly diverse crowd trekking from all over the world with one thing in common: their love of music. Filled with eclectic showcases, surprise popups, and such a diverse lineup boasting an extensive amount of legendary pioneers of the sound as well as newcomers alike, Detroit was without question the place to be during this past Memorial Day Weekend. Despite the technical difficulties, last-minute lineup changes—most notably Danny Tenaglia replacing Richie Hawtin due to visa issues—and, of course, the unpredictable weather, the party still went on…as did the after parties, after-after parties, and so on.
It is quite difficult to narrow down three days of sets from legends and future superstars playing vastly different sets, ranging from g-house to minimal techno and everything in between, but we made serious efforts to highlight the top five acts of this year’s festival:
5. The Black Madonna Marea Stamper, aka The Black Madonna (Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times)
Coming in at number five is Marea Stamper, better known as The Black Madonna, who, through the chaos and commotion, quickly flipped the switch and was able to put on a hell of a show. Thus, her Sunday performance on the Movement Main Stage is beyond deserving of being deemed one of the Top 5 acts of the weekend. Prior to Stamper’s set time, during Honey Soundsystem‘s performance, one of weekend’s many sporadic downpours began. However, the crowd remained unfazed, dancing, with smiles plastered across their faces. By the time Stamper took the stage though, the rain was long gone. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning. When she went to plug in for her first song, there was a loud sound followed by smoke, indicative of a fried mixer. Quick to her feet, she switched mixers and reassured the crowd, stating: “I have a better Journey for you.” That she did. Being a natural, she quickly began what would end up being one of the top sets of the weekend. Cue her edit of Uptown Funk Empire’s “You’ve Got To Have Freedom,” and the switch over to the Underground Resistance’s “Transition Acapella,” and the crowd was roaring–introducing an energy unparalleled by most of the acts on the bill, and thus, securing her spot on our list of noteworthy acts of the weekend.
4. Boys Noize
In 2015, Alex Ridha, better known to fans as Boys Noize, played the Movement Main Stage alongside Skrillex as Dog Blood. This year, Ridha returned to Detroit, making his first ever solo appearance at the festival, this time hitting the decks below the Main Stage. Beneath Hart Plaza’s concrete venue is Movement’s appropriately named Underground Stage where Boys Noize played his first U.S. gig since the release of Mayday, just a few days prior to the festival. While his new material introduces a sound that varies from what’s expected of the signature Boys Noize rave techno sound, introducing more of a blend of techno and hip hop, little emphasis was placed on it during the German native’s underground set.
Despite being a humid and sweaty mess, Boys Noize’s set, part of the festival’s famed Acid Showcase, packed the Underground Stage with a crowd of fans eagerly jumping around to the music. Midway through his set, he finally dropped “Would You Listen,” a track off of his new album, which was equally well-received by the crowd. He then proceeded to shift back to the funkier Boys Noize set that the fans have come to know and love. Highlight of the set: dropping his edit of “Smack My Bitch Up,” however, the high energy set in itself is what set Boys Noize’s performance apart from the rest.
3. John Digweed
Among acts not to be missed throughout the three-day festival, John Digweed is an obvious one. Digweed is a staple in the scene, and the festival specifically, having played three of the last four years. This year, his Main Stage performance attracted a considerably large crowd, all dancing wildly to the thumping bass and melodic sounds throughout his set. With Movement being one of few North American appearances for the world renowned DJ, his appearance was dubbed a must-see and it did not disappoint. Blessing the Motor City with two straight hours of pure bliss, John Digweed is beyond deserving of a spot on the Top Five.
2. Kevin Saunderson
Photo: Lars Borges
Widely regarded as one of three of Detroit’s ‘founding fathers of techno,’ it’s no wonder Kevin Saunderson’s Movement set comes in at the top of the list, just behind the festival’s main headlining act. Saunderson curated an impeccable showcase for the third year in a row, taking place on Monday, the final day of the festival. The lineup included legends and newcomers alike. In addition to himself and his sons (Saunderson Brothers), the ‘ORIGINS: Elevation’ showcase at Thump’s Made In Detroit stage included noteworthy acts like Guy Gerber, MK (Marc Kinchen), Bruce Bailey among others.
Being a key player in running the festival in the past, Saunderson’s curation proved, once again, to be impeccable. With diverse acts like MK and Guy Gerber drawing massive crowds to the stage throughout the last day of the festival, this specially curated showcase naturally finished with a 90 minute tech-house set from the legend himself, reiterating his importance as a pioneer to the Detroit sound and the festival itself.
Despite it being the last day of the festival, the Movement attendees’ energy remained at an all-time high, especially as Saunderson closed the night out the night, ending his set with “Sweet Dreams.” As is evident from the crowd’s cheers in the video, Saunderson delivered a set that will not soon be forgotten.
1. Kraftwerk 3D
With Caribou closing out the night on the Red Bull Music Academy stage, Nic Fanciulli on Beatport, the legendary Carl Craig headlining Thump’s Detroit Love showcase, along with options like Len Faki and Claude Young, Kraftwerk‘s Main Stage appearance may not have been the obvious choice for all attendees. However, with so many options at hand, it was necessary to keep in mind that most every act on the lineup arguably owes a majority of their careers in their entirety to the German foursome’s catalogue. Kraftwerk’s contribution to dance music is immeasurable, laying out the foundations of what now exists today. Thus, catching the Grammy-winning act’s Movement debut Saturday night was personally a no-brainer. The group drew a massive crowd to the already packed Main Stage. Though some left after Maceo Plex, the headlining act was able to fill the entire bowl in its entirety, with eager fans awaiting their set, equipped, of course, with their signature 3D glasses. The group, bringing along their famed production and visuals, took the crowd on a musical journey that has earned them the number one spot on our list of highlights.
Kraftwerk solidified their place as the festival’s main headliner by delivering a chill-inducing set equipped with a flawless 3D visual backdrop. Despite how crowded it was, there was little disappointment following their mind-blowing 90 minute performance, playing classics like “Pocket Calculator” and “Trans-Europe Express,” as well as a number of other tracks that have since come to define modern day electronic music.
Kraftwerk’s 3D set is likely one of the most significant bookings in Movement history, as few acts can stake claim to playing such an integral role to the genre. Though some fans griped about sound spillover from surrounding stages, there is no questioning the historical nature of these pioneers’ performance at this year’s Movement 2016.