It’s more than just a festival; it’s a movement.
I first heard those words sipping a beer with a shirtless guy wearing an army backpack on Jefferson Avenue in the heart of Detroit, but it wasn’t until I had run the gauntlet–three action-packed days at Movement Electronic Music Festival–that I realized how true these words were.
Each Memorial Day Weekend, Movement takes over Hart Plaza along the Detroit River, and turns the downtown core into a nonstop party. Although it may not have the brand name recognition that other festivals like Ultra or Electric Daisy Carnival do, it should be on every dance music fan’s bucket list. Speaking of lists, here are 9 reasons why we love MEMF so much.
1. The City
Everyone has probably heard the horror stories of “The D”–the rampant crime, the dilapidated buildings, the bankruptcies–but what people don’t realize is that Detroit has a rich musical history. The city is the birthplace of techno, and its residents are proud of that fact (just ask them). On top of that, there are a lot of beautiful sites to be seen in the city, including Comerica Park, The Detroit Institute of Arts, and Detroit Historical Museum.
2. The People
With roughly 100 thousand people in attendance, MEMF brings people from all walks of life. Seriously though, I saw children as young as four and people as old as 65, and all of them were having a good time. Sure, in the VIP section there were lots of snobs standing around trying to look cool (and failing), but they were a small minority. The festival grounds were teeming with rambunctious ravers in all shapes and sizes, ranging from neon-colored enthusiasts to Bohemian-style hippies. The best part about the crowd? No jackasses. A spokesman for Detroit police said there were no arrests during the weekend, and that they had little interaction with festival-goers.
3. The Music
More than 120 acts played 133 sets across six stages, ranging from local underground artists to international stars. Fans were able to experience a host of different genres and styles, including soul, R&B, hip hop, jazz, and, of course, a metric ton of tech house, techno, and deep house. Even bass lovers went home happy–the Moog Stage delivered a bevy of trap, dubstep, and drum & bass artists to the masses.
4. Technology Area
What better way to immerse yourself in the music than to try out the very equipment that the pros use? At the Technology Area, industry leaders showcased their top electronic music production/performance hardware, software and other accessories, all of which were available for hands-on interaction and purchase.
5. Richie Hawtin
If music is our religion, then Richie Hawtin is our prophet. Closing out Day 2 on the RBMA Main Stage, Detroit’s adopted son delivered a set of jaw-dropping beauty, replete with surreal track selection, unorthodox mixing, and undeniable energy. I’m embarrassed to admit that two years ago I complained that I “didn’t get” his music. Consider me a convert.
6. The Afterparties
Last weekend in Detroit proved that, even though the mainstage festivities might end at midnight, that doesn’t mean the party does. Oodles of incredible afterparties, pre-parties, house parties, and 6 a.m parties littered every street and corner of Detroit. Tickets were cheap and the big name artists were plentiful. Definite highlights included Tale Of Us at City Club, Maceo Plex B2B Michael Mayer at St. Andrew’s Hall (home to The Shelter, Eminem’s infamous starting spot), and The Annual Old Miami, where Seth Troxler greeted guests at seven in the morning with handshakes and hugs.
7. The Silent Disco
This is something you have to try out at least once in your life, because it’s weird and awesome at the same time (much like the rest of MEMF). Instead of blaring their music over a speaker system, the DJs broadcasted using a radio transmitter, which was then picked up by wireless headphones worn by festival-goers. At first glance, it was definitely a bit eerie to see a horde of people dancing in silence–until I tried it for myself.
8. The Food
Dancing for 72 hours straight is going to be tiring for even the hardiest of partiers. Luckily, there was an onslaught of awesome food options available, including El Guapo’s Fresh Mexican Grill, the Southeast Asian-inspired Tuk Tuk, and The Mac Shack’s delicious mac n cheese.
9. The Memories
Off the top of my head, I can think of several: A private (and very public) DJ party in our hotel parking lot (performed by yours truly); a breakdancing competition in the middle of the RBMA Stage; finger painting near the Underground Stage; getting smoked out by 10 gangsters at the AP; the seven-minute firework show at Comerica Park; meeting Detroit legend Stacey Pullen and a happily inebriated Lee Foss; Kevin Saunderson and his two sons taking over the Made In Detroit Stage; watching Loco Dice and Carl Cox play back-to-back as the sun set on the final day of the festival.