Movement Detroit Day 1: Nicole Moudaber, Richie Hawtin & Terrence Parker Bring the Beats

(Photo: Joe Gall)
Movement Detroit 2013

Nicole Moudaber, Richie Hawtin & Terrence Parker highlight Movement Detroit, the country's most music-focused dance fest. But for many in the crowd, the festival itself is the thing.

"She was definitely on acid. Because, you know, when you're rolling [on ecstasy], you're like, 'Oh my God, let me puke!' But she came up to me and was like, 'Please let me puke.' So I let her puke." That tale was overheard in the elevator of the downtown Detroit Marriott, the closest hotel to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, now known as Movement, at 2:30 this morning.

The scene at the hotel seemed more debauched than the festival itself, which on day one (it runs May 25-27) felt like a fairly tame rave. Compared to EDM massives like Ultra Music Festival and Electric Daisy Carnival, the crowd at Movement is older and calmer - but despite the curated, primarily underground lineup, they're not necessarily there for the music.

It looked like a lot of attendees were seasoned ravers: There were packs of mid-twentysomethings with fishnet-ed legs, neon candy raver getups, matted hair, and forearms covered in pristinely preserved wristbands from past years at Movement and Michigan festival Electric Forest. There was at least one migrant in his 30s who drove from Des Moines —over 10 hours— to make it to Hart Plaza (site of the festival) for the second time; and at least one mother who left her toddler with her parents in Nashville so that she could finally see Terrence Parker perform live. But many of these ravers weren't drawn to the festival by a particular name, and a lot of them are unfamiliar with the majority of the acts on the bill. 

Richie Hawtin at Movement Detroit (photo: Bryan Mitchell)

The city-backed event means a lot to struggling Detroit - it has for all its 13 years - and many locals come out simply to experience an internationally recognized music festival right in their own city. It helps, of course, that techno was born here.

The rowdiest behavior at took place around the edges of the Underground stage, where talents like Nina Kraviz, Steffi, Nicole Moudaber and Ben Sims cut through hours of rigid techno. Security guards only sporadically allowed people to descend from the outer balconies to the main dance floor, which caused a density of people near the entrance. It was particularly cramped during Kraviz's afternoon set—too crowded to stick around. Better to flee to the aboveground stages, which were slowly gathering bodies.

But the rest of the day was not so messy. The crowd at the Underground stage gradually dispersed to other corners of Hart Plaza, although it required a lot of patience to get down to the main floor throughout the following sets from the aforementioned artists. Moudaber was particularly fun to watch: Every time she swept her headphones onto her ears, her mane of dark hair fanned out around her face and swayed with her nodding head.

Even during the headlining sets, the crowd wasn't densely packed, and dancers mostly bobbed gamely, two-stepped, or freestyled to the beats. Techno godfather (and local - he's a Windsor, Ontario native) Richie Hawtin's audience pulsed in sync with his booming warehouse techno while Terrence Parker's onlookers clutched the rail and shook their hair, clearly vibing with the powerful vocals on the classic house tunes he selected. With his trademark telephone receiver headphone clamped between his shoulder and ear, Parker used good old vinyl to scratch and jump through older house cuts like Cassius's "The Sound of Violence," sometimes flicking the record behind his back after mixing out of it.

Most of the sloppy partying at Movement seems to happen after Hart Plaza empties out. As the after parties opened their doors, the streets within a 15 minute walk of the festival echoed with beats let loose into the open air or pounding from inside the walls of a sports bar. People gathered around cars blaring "Drop It Like It's Hot," and outside bars where DJs were set up on the sidewalk. By 1 a.m., the hotel lobby at the Marriott was mobbed with boisterous people eager to go out again and partiers vomiting into trashcans.

The Deep Detroit after party had a more low key vibe than the hotel—most importantly, there were no signs of vomit. Detroit native Kyle Hall kept the energy loose and rolled out old school house 12-inches with jazzy piano solos and upbeat vocal hooks until Norm Talley took over and drove a slightly harder momentum into the dark room.


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