The latest bombshell to hit the city of Detroit isn’t political, it’s musical. In an announcement today that shocked the techno world and rocked the struggling city’s vibrant arts scene, one of the original organizers of DEMF (Detroit Electronic Music Festival), Carol Marvin, announced the festival’s return, set for July 4, 2014 at Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Detroit Lions.
Since 2000 DEMF has essentially been known as Movement Electronic Music Festival, a three-day long festival held over Memorial Day Weekend that has championed the spirit of the original event, though not its name. Movement’s organizers, Detroit events group Paxahau, have promised their event will still happen May 24-26, 2014.
In a press conference this morning, Marvin told reporters that DEMF would be reincarnated as a new event, without association from its own progeny, Movement. “A city like Detroit should arguably have ten electronic music festivals, and this will be one of them,” Marvin said, alluding to the city’s history as an originator of techno music.
Though Marvin was the original force of nature behind the first DEMF in 2000, galvanizing the city’s disjointed civic infrastructure and its rich electronic music culture to create an event that was the first of its kind, her storied role with the festival has since been rife with controversy. From the firing of venerated DJ Carl Craig as artistic director in 2001 to accusations of DJs not being paid, Marvin herself became a lightening rod in the city’s electronic music scene and was personally vilified by those who blamed her for the event’s many financial struggles before leaving at the end of 2002 amid a lawsuit with Craig.
When local event promoter Paxahau, led by Jason Huvaere, took over the festival in 2006 at the behest of the city itself, DEMF had already been renamed Movement, (and briefly Fuse-In). While the festival hasn’t been known as DEMF since 2002, the name still holds some significance for locals as well as the global techno community who descend on the blighted city each year, often referring to Movement by its original name.
As Billboard reported after this year’s event, many of Movement’s attendees aren’t there for a particular DJ, but for the festival itself, adding to the role of Movement as a crucial event on downtown Detroit’s sparse calendar and a pivotal part of its cultural heritage.
A statement provided by Paxahau’s Huvaere, made it clear that plans for a new DEMF would not interfere with Movement, to be held at its traditional waterfront home of Hart Plaza, next to the iconic GM building and within view of Detroit’s sister city, Windsor, Ontario.
“This event has been known under a few different names,” Huvaere said of Movement. “But has always possessed the same unifying sprit – a celebration of the music and culture we all love, held in the heart of the city that gave the world techno – Detroit.”
Whether or not Detroit can support two techno festivals a mere six weeks apart remains to be seen. The new DEMF is also likely to face competition from Chicago’s Wavefront Music Festival, also planned for July 4th weekend. While Movement has the momentum of six successful years behind them, DEMF has the legacy of its name, and in a city eager for signs and symbols of its own revitalization, that’s not an asset to be ignored.
Marvin did not respond to a request for comment.