The final day of Movement Electronic Music Festival 2015 brought beautiful weather and a bounty of banging dance acts — not to mention a certain rapper-turned-DJ. It also featured a few collaborations between Detroit artists and non-local musicians, such as Jimmy Edgar and Machinedrum, as well as the pairing of two legends of techno — Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, who closed out the night with a showcase entitled “Hi-Tech Soul.” In all, the denouement to this extraordinary annual weekend festival contained a wealth of musical riches, and it left attendees more than excited for 2016. Until then, here are our highlights from day three of this year’s Movement:
DJ Godfather, the grand maestro of ghettotech, made his appearance at this year’s festival during the early afternoon, when the heat was at its peak. The smolder in the atmosphere suited the vibe of the DJ’s set, which brought the lurid anthems of the strip club out en plein air. Heavy on the (b)ass, the show was a raunchy, ribald, but ridiculously fun way to kick off the final day of festivities.
Over at the Beatport Stage, British producer Route 94 was teetering between the earth-shattering drops of dubstep and the free-flowing energy of deep house. His set navigated these two extremes adeptly and provided the eager mass of dancers the steady stream of melodic, accessible electronica that kept the party going just as it had been in this corner of Hart Plaza all weekend long.
JETS — the team of Detroit’s Jimmy Edgar and North Carolina’s Machinedrum — gave a rare joint performance that straddled the line separating the heady mindfucks of IDM and glitch from the bodily preoccupations of juke and footwork. Their rapid-fire volleys of synths and snares left no room for thoughts but also invited questions; all you could do in response was dance.
Perhaps the answers being sought would be found within, where London’s Clark was delivering a devastating set that combined techno, electro, noise, classical, ambient, and post-rock in ways that very few had heard before. It’s rare to think of electronic music containing a narrative or some sense of “content,” but with Clark’s engaging material, the meaning is quite clear. If the pioneers of techno were seeking to build something, Clark is showing the world in a state of entropy and self-destruction. It’s a warning sign.
But there may still be hope, given a new generation. That was plainly visible during the Saunderson Brothers’ set on the Thump Stage, where Damarii and Dantiez Saunderson — the two oldest sons of the iconic Kevin — mixed in hip-hop with deep techno influences for a fresh new take on the classic sound their father created. It gave credence to the idea that talent gets passed on in families.
When it comes to classic material, though, is there any name that is more appropriate than the one L.A. duo Michael David and Tyler Blake have given themselves? Classixx indeed take the basic template of disco and then subvert it with little touches of electro, R&B, and house. Their set yesterday was eminently danceable and crowd-pleasing, paving the way for the rest of the headliners.
Certainly Detroit can lay claim to inventing techno, but when it comes to house music, Chicago is the real originator. And as far as acid house goes, there’s no other group you can pinpoint as the progenitor than Phuture. With their 1987 single “Acid Tracks,” the act changed the course of musical history and have recently enjoyed a newfound appreciation as Kanye West sampled them on his album Yeezus. Even without the weight of history, Phuture’s set would have slayed artists half their age.
For something even more off-the-wall, Joy Orbison would be your ticket. The London producer put together a set at the Red Bull Music Academy that drew from house, post-dubstep, UK garage, funky, and jungle. The off-kilter rhythms and grime-biting synthesizer effects were sure to impress or befuddle listeners, as the case might be, but no one was leaving that area without feeling something.
Back at the Thump Stage, Chicago’s Lee Foss was showing his sister city in the Midwest that the Windy City knows how to get down. And boy did he have the crowd doing just that, with a set that was all over the map — melding his hometown’s classic house sounds with Detroit’s techno rhythms, ’90s rap with ’80s electro, and turn-of-the-millennium pop with of-the-moment R&B. The artist showed he had a deft hand with all of these styles, but never once did he lose the plot.
Another artist who ably moves between genres, France’s Brodinski impressed with a set that weaved in tech-house, UK funky, and footwork while maintaining a steady flow of bangers. His loose attitude toward convention was as fun-loving as it was freewheeling, so you sensed that he wasn’t just flipping rules on their heads for the sake of breaking them. Everything was in service to the crowd, who ate up all of Brodinski’s irreverent musical gestures.
Marc Kinchen, or MK as he is known on stage, delivered a show that was heavily informed by disco and dance-pop. His ear for melody was clear, and his penchant for identifying a groove and riding it out was unmistakable. This was one of the more popular sets on the Thump Stage, and the audience’s reactions were very heartfelt.
Perhaps the only real “rock” act of the festival, !!! (pronounced “chk chk chk”) push the genre into electronic territory and belong to a scene including LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture that was identified in the early aughts as “dancepunk.” Their set last night was full of a manic energy and vein-popping intensity that required no arsenal of equipment to unleash an ecstatic response from the crowd.
Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ, opened his set by announcing that it was “good to be home!” Indeed, the Southfield native made a rare return trip for the festival, and this was a real treat for his fans in Detroit. To reward their patience, GRiZ put on a show that included his trademark mix of funk, soul, and electronica, as well as some saxophone solos. Of all the artists last night, GRiZ may well have earned the most sizable reaction.
Squarepusher, too, garnered a response from people attending his performance, but it was split between fans who knew what they were getting themselves into and those who perhaps stumbled onto his set. By alternating between blistering drill-and-bass chaos and freeform jazz-inflected experimentation, the show may have alienated relative newcomers, but it was a delight for aficionados of avant-garde electronic music.
One artist who couldn’t be further from the cutting-edge, and in fact, may have actively been courting the opposite, was Snoop Dogg. In his DJ Snoopadelic incarnation last night, the rapper-turned-mogul befuddled many people who might have expected more than a “just press play” gesture on a mainly Top 40 playlist. At the same time, just being able to see the legend of West Coast hip-hop smoking a joint on stage and not giving a you-know-what was a treat in and of itself. Let’s hope next time he puts in a little more effort, though.
There was no lack of effort in the final performance of the night, a collaborative venture between two titans of techno: Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May. Their “Hi-Tech Soul” project was not just a meeting of two minds, but it was also a congress between the artists and their beloved city. As the undulating rhythms and mechanical beats of the set fell into a lockstep groove, it was evident that Movement doesn’t end on the last day of Memorial Day weekend. Its fire starts to burn and spread all year long; the festival is just a reason to bring that attitude home.
See more photos from the final day of Movement 2015, including additional pictures of GRiZ, below: