A full report on the Movement Detroit techno fest. Plus: DJ Toph One returns, Soul Slam, more.
SUPER EGO One of the googly-eyed insider pleasures of attending a massive thing like the Movement Detroit Electronic Music Festival over Memorial Day Weekend is catching a glimpse of who's checking out who: elder legends Anthony "Shake" Shakir and Danny Tenaglia peeping ever-smiley Berliner Cassy's driving afternoon set on Monday's main stage; a slew of unexpected European fameballs shimmying awkwardly at hometown hero DJ Godfather's rapidfire booty bass blasts; a dream DJ-booth Detroit traffic jam of Stacey Pullen, Mark Kinchen, Kenny Larkin, and Terrance Parker; Boston's wacky Soul Clap getting down on every sideline I could see; and everybody peeping Public Enemy in Sunday's main stage headliner slot to see who stole the soul.
PE revved up nicely into its classic, cavernous hip-hop cacophany, with Chuck D in fine voice and a randy Flava Flav as old school hype-y as ever. (He's got a Twitter y'all, and we need to help open his friends' restaurant at 15 Mile Road and Van Dyke.) No, Underground Resistance did not show up to take Terminator X's place behind the turntables, but we all knew the words — including Ice-T, making a surprise media appearance at one of the best-vibed, eclectic, well-run Movements I've been to (five out of 12).
Kids wanted to dance, too — all 30,000+, drenched in 90-degree sweat for three days of the best DJs in the world. The big overarching narrative in the global techno community right now is how it should react to the bland pop successes of the likes of David Guetta and Tiesto on the one hand and the watered-down dubstep youthquake of Skrillex and co. And yes, there were a fair share of Deadmau5 tees and tattoos among the nubile — but nothing sounded anything like all that at the fest.
And no one seemed to care, really. Abstract pop thrills could be had from Major Lazer, SBTRKT, Roni Size, and melodic pop-tech popularos like Seth Troxler, Jamie Jones, and Slow Hands. But what to say about the hordes of smiling teens freaking out over Dopplereffekt's darkly hypnotic true-electro pounding, or swaying along to No Regular Play's breezy, sculptural grooviness, or whinnying madly when Lil Louis broke Diana Ross's "Love Hangover" into the slow part of his "French Kiss" — and then Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" when it got all fast again? Fucking Detroit. Love it.
So yes, smart and sophisticated techno is thriving — no doubt about that, really, after all it's been through. Case in point: Sunday night's huge KMS 25th anniversary party which celebrated founder Kevin Saunderson seminal label with an insane fanboy blowout, featuring Inner City and Carl Craig's 69 project live, as well as techno inventors Saunderson, Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Eddie "Flash" Fowlkes together onstage, on four decks setups. And that was just the most-hyped of the satellite parties, which blossomed like wild fennel along the cracked concrete streets of the D.
I caught up with an only slightly bleary-eyed Saunderson after his label's shindig, and before he was set to go on as the penultimate main stage act. (Closing honors went this year to Jeff Mills a.k.a. the Wizard, whose spacey hijinks predictably killed). KMS is releasing an anniversary box set at the end of this month bursting with juicy classic cuts and new barnstormers. You can read my full interview with Saunderson on the Noise blog at SFBG.com later this week. But one thing he said struck me in particular, especially in metaphorical relationship to the Motor City.