“Detroit has a history that has to be preserved, because it’s unique to any other city in the country.”
This is Jason Huvaere, founder of Paxahau Events: the team behind Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival, which returns to Hart Plaza for its 10-year anniversary on May 28-30.
A Motor City native, Huvaere got his start producing events in 1993, and has played an instrumental role in upholding the city’s musical heritage ever since. In 2006, for instance, when Movement found itself on the brink of cancelation due to financial troubles, it was Huvaere and Paxahau who stepped in to take the reigns. “We did not want to see this event collapse and go away,” Huvaere says.
This was six years after the festival first began, and only after a variety of techno’s forefathers — figures like Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May — had taken their stab at running the event. Writing a letter to the Mayor’s office with a management proposal, Paxahau soon entered into an eight-week long vetting process. “They wanted to make sure that if they gave us the green light to produce this event independently, we weren’t going to let the city of Detroit down,” Huvaere says.
Clearly, the Mayor’s office made the right choice, as Paxahau has helped transform Movement from a fledgling techno celebration into one of the genre’s foremost global gatherings.
“It’s set the bar as one of the best electronic festivals in America because it doesn’t give way to commercial radio and hype,” says Claude VonStroke, head of Dirtybird Records. “It has tried its hardest to stay as close to its roots as possible in a marketplace where that is an extremely difficult thing to do.”
For the Paxahau team, however, staying true to their roots has become second nature: “We know right away whether something is authentic or not,” Huvaere says. “We know right away whether something feels or sounds right or not. It’s so ingrained in our souls, that it would be impossible for us to drift and to start to do things more mainstream or more commercial.”
There is perhaps no better display of this mentality than Movement’s 2016 artist lineup. With over 140 finely curated acts — everyone from Swedish techno legend Adam Beyer to local Detroit veterans Ectomorph — it’s a savvy mixture of international superstars and homegrown heroes. To top if off, Paxahau have enlisted pioneering electronic act Kraftwerk to headline the affair.
It’s bookings like these, combined with the long-standing legacy of Detroit techno, that have solidified Movement as a bona fide electronic music pilgrimage. It’s a reputation that continues to attract fans old and new, benefiting Detroit in the process.
“We’ve seen more people every travel to a city each year that was previously not a destination for many,” Huvaere says. “And now you’re getting a combination of people that are fearless and loyal patrons from the early days of electronic music in Detroit, and you’re getting another wave of people that have become generally interested because of the popularity of this music, and the growing popularity of the city.”
Ultimately, as Huvaere mentions, Movement isn’t just about celebrating Detroit’s musical history, but the raw, authentic spirit of the city itself.
“We don’t have fireworks, we don’t have flames, we don’t have fairytale figures or hundreds of LED Screens,” Huvaere says. “That is not what this festival is about.”