Day two of Movement Electronic Music Festival 2015 began with gray clouds and the promise of rain, threatening to dampen the revelry of concertgoers looking to soak up the sun and some get down to their favorite dance acts. However, nothing was going to sour the mood of fans out for a taste of Detroit’s biggest music festival — not a few raindrops (which never amounted to more than that), not overcast skies (which soon broke into cool azure), and not continued long lines to enter Hart Plaza (a sure sign that techno has indeed spread like wildfire).
Indeed, the second day of Movement brought an increased number of spectators and aficionados to the festival grounds, and the swelter in the heat was matched by the swell in the ranks of the crowds. With such well-known national names as Boys Noize and Skrillex joining forces as Dog Blood for the first time ever, that would be no surprise, but homegrown acts got a lot of love, too. From rising artists such as Gabi, to critical darlings like Danny Brown and Matthew Dear, to Motor City icons such as Model 500, audiences flocked to see Detroit representing, and represent it did.
Here are some of our highlights from day two of Movement:
Ann Arbor’s Zachary Saginaw, better known as Shigeto, brought his set slowly to life as if it were emerging out of some primordial soup — or perhaps waking up from a hangover caused from the night before — with rapidly oscillating notes and crackling microbeats that he matched with his superlative live drumming ability. Machine gun sounds cribbed from first-gen video game platforms and a Super Metroid-like backdrop played up this otherworldly feeling, but looking around, it was clear we were still very much back on the Thump Stage. As his musical fractals collided into one another, it was like listening to a Magic Eye puzzle come into focus. His set seemed to be one of bringing form to formlessness, with saxophones curling like tentacles around fractured beats.
Anyone looking for more of a Big Bang could find it at Dubfire, who fully embraced the Low End Theory of dubstep’s bass wallop, fusing it with the perpetual forward motion of progressive trance and bounce castle playfulness of electro house. Like a technological Prometheus, the man born Ali Shirazinia set the Beatport Stage ablaze, with the always packed dancefloor positively radiating heat. After a series of space age sonic blasts, Dubfire moved into an arpeggiated motif of bleeps, recalling the chiptune aesthetic Shigeto introduced earlier in the afternoon. This 8-bit style would be one that carried throughout the day in various permutations.
In contrast to the punishing bass pummel of Dubfire, the tail end of Waajeed’s set over at Red Bull Music Academy finished with a flourish of breakneck breakbeats. This nod to the nineties would carry forward (or backward?) into People Under the Stairs’ act. The L.A. rap duo began by reiterating “we don’t stop,” which also recalled a sample that Waajeed used – an insistent voice saying over and over “don’t stop.” Furthermore, Christopher Portugal (Thes One) and Michael Turner (Double K) — much like Method Man did the day before — asked the audience to put their hands up in the air. The eternal return, the eternal recurrence; these may not have been the ideas that PUTS had in mind with their set, but they were putting it out there. In any case, with such fun jams as “Acid Raindrops” encouraging crowd participation, their show was certainly a highlight of the day.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Hudson Mohawke took us from the City of Angels to the other side of the pond, from retro rap to the future. The Scottish producer, who has most famously lent his talents to Kanye West, knows no genre boundaries, instead throwing anything against the wall, seeing what sticks, and then blending everything else in a Vitamix. His set yesterday was very stop and go, veering from a lawn sprinkler spray of synths to glitch-hop loops that had been shot through with a dose of adrenaline, to his trademark phalanx of battalion horns, militaristic drums, and missile effects. Other passages recalled fellow Glasgow native Rustie, with their day-glo, sparkling keyboards and rapid-fire blitzes of cartoonish vocals. The disjointed nature of HudMo’s show felt like tuning into some alien radio transmission, with stations forming out of or dissipating into the ether — bite-size chunks of sonic detritus #turnt up to 11, and then gone, just like that.
If Hudson Mohawke’s music was made for our attention-addled era, where every little notification competes for our increasingly limited capacity for thought, then Danny Brown is the perfect avatar for this time. Our city’s rapper du jour came on stage clad in the red, white, and blue of the American flag. It is Memorial Day weekend, after all. With his usual high-strung energy and livewire presence, the emcee took the rabid crowd through his many hits, including several from his side project of Bruiser Brigade. As rap flirts evermore with the world of electronic music, Danny Brown is leading the charge, and this manic set showed he’s got all the chops to turn naysayers into believers.
Detroit Music Magazine had a chance to speak with London-based producer Mike Greene, aka Fort Romeau, who had performed a set earlier that day. We spoke to him about playing at festivals versus crowds, as it was his first time at Movement, as well as what to look forward to from him in the future. In particular, however, we were interested in hearing how the music of Detroit influenced his work, especially as he recently moved over to Ghostly International from 100% Silk. He had this to say: “I think that anybody making electronic music is either directly or indirectly influenced by Detroit techno. I think that even if you’ve never listened to a Carl Craig record or a Juan Atkins record or whatever, you still are going to be influenced by it, because everything is influenced by it.” Truer words were never spoken.
One of the original DJs from Detroit techno’s earliest days, Eddie Fowlkes performed a set that played with grain, distortion, white noise, feedback, and pixelation. Woodblock rhythms and encoded patterns — all set in counterpoint — made for a complex but satisfying enough flow that still left plenty of room to dance. To underscore that point, Fowlkes dropped in samples that mentioned sexual tomes from the East — Kama Sutra, Tantra — as if equating the mouth as an orifice that produces sounds as well as erotic pleasure. It’s a far cry from Carl Craig’s ideas of musical industry; here we have musical sensuality.
That passion was on full display on the Movement Stage, where Loco Dice had begun his set, but here the fever that came over everyone seemed to be undifferentiated and nonspecific. In fact, it was so diffuse so as to not know any geographical bounds. To explain: Loco Dice was born in Germany to Tunisian parents, but his stage name has an ambiguous etymology. I’ve heard it said so many ways, with many claiming it’s Spanish; that seemed to be confirmed by a giant Mexican flag being raised and swung in the middle of the crowd by a fan. Was there some attempt at identification at play here? Just when I was having this thought, a bloke I had met yesterday (I say this because he was clearly from the Commonwealth) came up to me and asked who was playing. When I told him who it was, he thought I said “local DJ,” and so I had to spell out the artist’s name. Nodding in recognition, bloke says, “Well, he’s killing it.” It’s funny that performing well is so commensurate with destruction.
At the Thump Stage, Matthew Dear’s set was an exercise in sustained energy, with his volleys of cascading high hats and undulating waves of presets falling into a loping mesh of variegated textures held together by the Ghost(ly) in the machine. The show was a matrix, not just in its execution, but in its reflection of our existence. Dear created a simulacrum of how we live — through sound — by fabricating life’s viscera through digitalia. At one point, the screen took us into the motherboard of the world. We are the creators and the creatures both.
Speaking of creatures, before our portable devices and wearable tech, man had another best friend, and that was dogs. Dog Blood, the collaborative effort between Boys Noize and Skrillex, made their debut last night on the Movement Stage, and the crowd was ravenous. The two superstars of the EDM world turned out a set that was high on octane and low on duds, with a nonstop churn of brostep bangers and electro rave-ups. The audience definitely was pleased with this pairing, and it’s a safe bet to say that this is not the last we’ve seen of the pairing.
But the final word of the night for Detroit came from Model 500, one of the aliases for Juan Atkins, who recently put out a new album — his first in 16 years — under the name. After having experienced some health scares earlier this year, it was a treat to be able to see him performing in good spirits last night, and the show did not disappoint. Regaled by three other musicians to his sides, Atkins put on a set that harkened back to the origins of Detroit techno, the seeds of all electronic music, and showed what the building blocks for an entire movement, and of Movement — the festival — looked and sounded like. If the sound of the future could be pinpointed to one specific moment, you didn’t need to go any further than here. Some cities may claim to keep it 100, but only Detroit keeps it 500.
See more photos from the first day of Movement 2015, including additional pictures of Danny Brown and Dog Blood, below:
Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of our coverage of Movement Electronic Music Festival!