Movement Festival 2023: In Detroit, It's Always Time for Techno
Jun 21, 2023
Ana Monroy Yglesias
8 min read
On a sunny Saturday, May 27, downtown Detroit's Hart Plaza kicked off three days as a rave mecca. While Detroit remains a rave mecca daily, Movement weekend is a singular celebration of techno energy unmatched in any other city.
Stacey Hotwaxx Hale's upbeat house sound beckoned me to the main stage as I entered. The main and Pyramid stages feature an amphitheater-style setup with cement stairs. It's a unique part of Hart Plaza's design, where many cultural and music festivals have taken place since it opened in 1975. To the right of the main stage was a square mat for dancers to show off their skills. Throughout the weekend, it was a beautiful treat to watch fellow dance music fans uniquely express themselves through movement. The Godmother of house music's set was a radiantly joyful mix of bouncy house and a touch of techno. And as she mixed in Cajmere's bubbling 1992 classic, she reminded us it's always time for the "Percolator."
Green Velvet @ Movement 2023
Next up was master vibe-setter and Detroit house legend, Moodymann at the Stargate stage hosted on Saturday by Carl Craig and his Detroit Love brand. Feeling more at home in Detroit, he pulled down his oft-seen lacy mask early in his set. "If you're not from here, you know your girlfriend loves the D," he said with a smile, rocking a fresh Price shirt.
The Detroit Love takeover continued with rising Detroit queen, DJ Holographic, who had to be carried on and off stage because she injured her knee shortly after entering the fest grounds. After saying hi to her backstage, I spent the rest of my day at Stargate. Fun Detroit fact: the Stargate stage is a nod to the large, five-story stainless-steel arc sculpture by David Barr called Transcending adjacent to the stage. Erected in 2003, it is also known as the Michigan Labor Legacy Landmark. The United Auto Workers, other labor unions, and civic organizations funded the project as a monument to Michigan's contributions to the labor movement. Barr envisioned it as an "elegantly stylized gear emerging from the ground," but sci-fi fans see its resemblance to a stargate, where you can swiftly travel between universes. During Movement, the Stargate stage provides plenty of sonic space travel and transcendence.
Moodymann @ Movement 2023
While waiting for my turn for a chair massage in the VIP area on day two, I chatted with a pair of Michiganders who had been to many Movements. Both friends are DJs who live in Traverse City and bought VIP tickets right when they went on sale early in January.
Movement was a beacon of light in a challenging year, and they were overjoyed to be back. Tony has been DJing for 20 years and went to the first five years of Movement when tickets were still free. After a decade off, he started coming back a few years ago. His favorite Movement sets are from the early years when he saw George Clinton with P-Funk and Green Velvet.
Zeb's first Movement was in 2002, and he's also gone the last seven or so years in a row. His favorite part about visiting Detroit is its shining community spirit.
Cybotron @ Movement 2023
Sunday's lineup felt particularly stacked, with many difficult decisions to make. My friends love techno, particularly hard, driving techno, or as we call it, hard dick techno (Sorry, not sorry. To be clear, anyone can make it or enjoy it). So, it was Ben Klock o'clock. The sun was still out, but it's always time for techno in Detroit, as in Berlin. The main stage was packed as the German DJ served up his sexy brand of blistering techno.
Sunday also featured the first-ever live performance in Detroit of Cybotron, the genre-defining Juan Atkins electro project. Atkins stood in the middle of the main stage clad in all white, flanked by Detroit musician Tameko Williams and Laurens von Oswald, nephew of Moritz von Oswald, rocking all-black as they brought the still-futuristic robot music to life from their keyboards. Despite their legendary status, the first live Cybotron show only came in 2019 in London, almost 40 years after they released some of the earliest techno tracks. I hope there are more Cybotron shows soon; all the ravers of the world need this musical Stargate to ride through "Techno City" in "Cosmic Cars."
Ahead of the fest, the Detroit Metro Times interviewed Atkins and asked him who techno belongs to today. "I would say techno belongs to the world. Techno belongs to the world citizens," Atkins said.
As I walked with a friend back over to Stargate, I spotted Troxler and his crew outside of the chicken-on-stick truck—the unofficial fuel of Movement. He was about to head home to rest before he and DJ Minx helped Green Velvet take the kids to "La La Land" at Velvet's official Movement afterparty.
After stops for KiNK, Green Velvet, and Charlotte de Witte's absolutely slammed history-making closing set (she was the first woman to headline Movement's main stage), I spotted DJ Seinfeld leaving the backstage area. We were both heading underground to check out the end of Chris Liebing's set. I said hi, and he affirmed his love of techno. Dancing with my friends to Liebing's banging ass techno gave me at least another 30 minutes of energy and made me feel like I was in a cool club in Berlin.
Charlotte de Witte @ Movement 2023
My friend Lorenzo told me that Liebing's set gave him "some major techno tears" and took him elsewhere. "After it was over, I was like 'Where the fuck did he just take us?!'" he reflected after the set, one of his favorites of the weekend. When I asked what techno means to him, his answer moved me, as I'm sure it would for many others. "Techno is the heartbeat of life for me. Artists/DJs have made me cry (techno tears) because they have the ability to transport me somewhere else and remove my anxiety with those hard four-by-four beats!"
On day three, we began where we'd ended the night before, at the Underground. Rising Detroit techno act Henry Brooks was serving up hard dick techno as if he was continuing a set that began in the wee hours of the morning. Once I entered the Underground and let the lights and music take me away, the rest of the world disappeared, and I was briefly suspended in the in-between space of a dark, loud club—it didn't matter if it was light or dark out, it was techno time. We were still in Detroit, after all.
Like 2022, it was another rain-free Movement, and the weather was perfect, with Monday ranking the hottest. We found a little shade—and lots of fun—at Stargate for Giorgia Angiuli to serve up her playful, groovy brand of live techno and house. The Italian polymath was surrounded by her trademark synths, electronic wind instruments, and kooky stuffed animals she makes into electronic instruments—talk about all the bells and whistles!
As my friends and I cooled off in the shade at Don Julio's pop-up, where they passed out free mini margaritas and palomas, I chatted with a group visiting Movement from Los Angeles: Anthony, Jordan, Blade, and Cinthia. It was the second Movement for two of them and the first for the other two. They loved Detroit's friendly and easy-going people and Movement's inescapably unique energy. They felt it stood out from California fests. When asked what techno means to them, they paused, with Anthony providing the answer that resonated with the group. "Techno means freedom, and expression."
DJ Minxx, Derrik Carter, Mark Farina @ Movement 2023
On the way to grab a bite, after a sweet 90's rave set from Dj Seinfeld, I saw a packed crowd losing their minds at Stargate for Dom Dolla and John Summit, who were doing one of their beloved B2B sets. I walked up as the dancefloor got sent to Dom's brand-new (then still unreleased) banger with Nelly Furtado. While in VIP, their set, Skrillex's mainstage set, and Mija's VIP stage takeover competed for my attention. As I ate my quesadilla, Skrillex's rapid multi-genre mix of dubstep and beyond took me back to my early-20s. That is a place I never want to return to, but I did kind of wish I was moshing with all the kids getting down to his high-energy set. Instead, I found solace in the glass cocoon of the artist lounge behind the main stage. Skrillex's banging mix softly echoed from outside of the lounge.
Underworld @ Movement 2023
By the time Underworld took the main stage to close it all out, I was ready. DJ Seinfeld's lively set put us in the mood for '90s rave tunes, and Underworld brought us back there. Vocalist Karl Hyde sounded stellar as he bounced on stage to Rick Smith's immersive soundscapes. After =an immersive, earth-shattering hour-and-a-half of pure rave energy, they dropped their 1996 hit "Born Slippy (Nuxx)." What a way to end a weekend in one of dance music's most historic cities!
Movement reminded us that techno is still the future and can help us transcend to a brighter place. Techno is for everyone, whenever they need it, however, they want to dance to it and whatever they want to wear.