Detroit’s Historic Movement Festival Celebrates Remarkable Return to the Birthplace of Techno
When you go to a music festival, you feel contained to the world its organizers have created for you rather than its hosting city. While this is perfectly fine, it was a refreshing change of pace being surrounded by history at this year's Movement Festival.
With over 30,000 attendees in the mix for their 17th event, the long-running celebration of techno and house music was one of the best and most brilliantly curated festivals of the year.
This year's fest featured six stages spread out across the historic Hart Plaza and one special VIP pop-up stage for the many VIP ticket-holders in attendance. Immediately after walking in, you're greeted by the intimate Detroit Stage, which—as you guessed it—featured only artists from the birthplace of techno.
Those who paid tribute to Detroit's techno veterans and rising upstarts were treated to the sounds of Suburban Knight, Scan 7, Sinistarr, sillygirlcarmen, Soundmurderer, Sheefy McFly, Milan Ariel, 313 Acid Queen and many more.
Nearby was the Stargate Stage, which hosted a pair of stage takeovers on the first two nights, the Detroit Love Showcase and the KMS Records presents Defected Showcase. This stage was home to heavy-hitters like Kevin Saunderson, KiNK, Ash Lauryn, Carl Craig, Jon Dixon, DJ Holographic, Octave One, Dom Dolla, John Summit, Kaskade and more. Fans were immersed in music and light on the lengthy dancefloor, named after the interstellar-looking Michigan Labor Legacy Monument that can be seen from the stage.
One of the more unique stages you'll encounter at a festival, the Pyramid Stage is surrounded by water on three sides and features a large, tiered concrete structure that makes a pyramid of sorts that fans can stand on for a nice vantage point. Green Velvet, Ricardo Villalobos, Seth Troxler, DJ Minx, Derrick Carter, Mark Farina, Masters At Work, TSHA, FISHER and more kept up with the flow of the Detroit River as the stage was consistently filled to the brim due to the stacked arsenal of talent behind the decks.
As seen in last year's outing, the legendary Underground Stage settled in nicely in its expanded new home. Once you step inside the stage area you feel like you're in a warehouse with thick concrete walls surrounding you on all sides. Not for the faint of heart, the stage featured hard-hitting beats from the likes of Klangkuenstler, SPFDJ, Sara Landry, LSDxoxo, Chris Liebing, Lindsey Herbert, Dj Nobu, Surgeon and beyond. Dark and intimate, the Underground was consistently steamy from all the dancing despite the cool temperature above ground.
In a grassy patch of Hart Plaza nestled on the bank of the Detroit River was the Waterfront Stage. So close to Canada that you could see what color the traffic lights were, the stage featured stellar spotlights and performances from Three 6 Mafia, Zeds Dead, Ben UFO, Caribou, Cassy, Special Request and others. Nearby was the expansive VIP section, which hosted unique installations, chill areas, vendors and a special pop-up stage with takeovers from Soul Clap, Detroit Techno Militia and Mija & Friends.
This brings us to the big one: the Movement Stage. Drawing enormous crowds each night, an international cast of headliners packed the overflowed amphitheater with jaw-dropping performances. The opening evening saw Basement Jaxx, Maceo Plex, Stacey Pullen and more electrify downtown Detroit with masterful mixes. On the second night, local techno pioneer Robert Hood threw down a spellbinding live set that captivated the crowd before the festival's first-ever female main stage closer, Charlotte de Witte, sent us off on a high note.
The final night featured an incredible slate that had Bonobo's world-traveling sounds introduce one of dance music's biggest stars, Skrillex, for a set that contained plenty of unreleased tracks, bass music classics and hits from his new albums.
Closing out a fantastic weekend of music was the legendary Underworld, who lived up to their reputation with one of the best sets of the weekend. Despite being in their mid-sixties, the duo galvanized the crowd and sent us into a frenzy with frenetic vocals, pounding beats and a larger-than-life stage presence honed throughout decades of headlining performances.
Movement's organizers took great measures to honor the pioneers of techno and their roots. The former home of the Underground was transformed into the informative Respect the Architects museum, which told the stories of Detroit greats. On the festival's website, one of the curating organizations, Underground Music Academy, shared a statement on the message behind the exhibit.
Much has been written about the first wave of Detroit techno artists and as pioneers of one of the most impactful genres in the world. This list is designed to shine a light on the unsung heroes who ghost-wrote classic records, created the structures, spaces, and scenarios that allowed techno to grow beyond the wildest dreams of its inventors, and the mentors who have supported and inspired the subsequent waves of Detroit techno artists in finding their sound and place in the musical world.
If you recognize these names we hope you will join us in telling their stories and celebrating their impact, if you don’t - we hope you take the time to listen and learn about the people who built Techno City.
All in all, Movement Festival is truly an event like none other. The rich history of Detroit is felt in and out of the grounds in a way very few festivals could ever achieve.
While it's common for afterparties and pop-ups to take over cities hosting fests, the legacy of the genre and the celebration of its impact on the music industry was palpable. And they aren't just packed up and shipped off after the weekend concludes.
This year's Movement Festival took place on May 27-29, 2023 at Hart Plaza in Detroit, Michigan. You can learn more about the historic electronic music festival here.