Local Spins’ ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’ columnist Todd Ernst previews the electronic music festival firing up Memorial Day weekend in the Motor City with international stars.
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When Movement Music Festival roared back to life in May 2022 after a two-year COVID-imposed hiatus, two things were clear: Event production company Paxahau wasted no time in offering one of the most diverse and hardest-hitting lineups to date, and pent-up attendees were ready to revel in the home of techno.
All told, the annual global migration to techno’s “mecca” was fairly magical. For many, it was a homecoming. For others, it was their first experience in the Motor City.
Everyone experienced a city that never surrenders during the busiest festival in my 15-year experience (with VIP tickets selling out for the first time, to my knowledge).
While Movement — running Saturday through Monday at Hart Plaza — historically leans into the advent of techno as a genre, with much of the focus on founding fathers Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson (along with second-wave faves such as Carl Craig, Jeff Mills and Richie Hawtin), Looking for the Perfect Beat has always served as more of an on-ramp for those exploring electronic music. It provides a historical narrative as to how we have arrived where we’re at, along with some pro-user tips to better one’s experience.
That said, whether you’re seasoned or just starting out, let’s showcase a handful of acts worthy of your attention if you’re at Hart Plaza over Memorial Day Weekend.
• Underworld (9:30 p.m. Monday, Movement Stage) – In the history of the festival, this might very well be Paxahau and talent buyer Chuck Flask’s biggest booking to date. Worth noting: Underworld was scheduled to headline in 2020, so despite the COVID cancellation, it’s nice to see them back at the top of the roster.
Almost 30 years ago, the British duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith (along with former bandmate Darren Emerson) introduced a strange brew of ambient, industrial and techno, packaged in a way that had never really been put forth previously. The seminal anthem, “Born Slippy,” from the 1996 film, “Trainspotting,” ultimately put Underworld over the top and made them a household name. Their success in breaking through prior to social media platforms is a testament to not only the quality of Underworld’s productions, but the staying power of their live performances, as evidenced by their recent headlining performance at Coachella.
• Masters at Work, aka MAW (10:30 p.m. Saturday, Pyramid Stage – While on the subject of breakthrough artists from the ’90s, the New York-based DJ duo of “Little” Louie Vega and Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez is without question one of the most recognized house music production teams on the planet.
With three Grammy Award nominations along with five ‘Top 20’ Billboard Dance Club songs, these DJs often are credited as purveyors of the “Golden Age of House,” with Resident Advisor referring to the duo as “the most influential pairing in the history of house.” One thing I always remember upon receiving their promos: no question you were holding a piece of gold and that sentiment applied to darn near everything they touched. The Pyramid Stage overlooking the Detroit River is always a fan favorite, and having MAW close down Saturday night will serve as the perfect setting for their soulful groove.
• Ida Engberg (6 p.m. Saturday, Movement Stage) – If techno had a “den mother” for lack of a better term, Ms. Engberg could very well be that person. While the Swedish mother of three now has 20 years under her belt as a DJ and producer, Ms. Engberg now appears to be in a bit of a new season of life herself, and watching one of my favorite artists spread her wings with new opportunities embodies everything there is to love about this industry.
My wife and I had a chance to meet her several years ago at a Movement after-hours party at Leland City Club where they spent much of their time talking about kids, parenting, etc., and Ida left me thinking she was one of the most down-to-earth artists within the scene.
The Saturday night “sundown set” on the main stage at Movement is always a special moment as it is the first transcendence of day to night, and I honestly can’t think of a better artist to shepherd fans into dusk on the dance floor.
• Giorgia Angiuli (6 p.m. Monday, Stargate Stage) – If any artist falls under the umbrella of you just have to experience them, it would be the Italian born DJ and producer Giorgia Angiuli. Raised as a classically trained composer and multi-instrumentalist, Giorgia’s live technique is almost unprecedented as she stylistically moves between techno and house often with fragments of a pop ethos. The ultimate tinkerer behind the decks, Ms. Angiuli’s sets flow seamlessly between keyboards, drum pads, saxophone, along with many other instruments. Perhaps my favorite part about her efforts is the layering of her reverb drenched voice for additional dimensionality.
Monday at Movement is always a struggle for many fans, but this is the right artist to get you back into your groove for a solid closing night of artists.
• Dom Dolla b2b John Summit (8 p.m. Monday, Stargate Stage) – I was a bit surprised to see both of these artists booked at Movement last year, but truth be told they damn near broke Monday in half with their respective sets at the Stargate Stage. While both are in a relative career infancy (in their early 30’s), each is now a festival titan on a global level, even recently selling out multiple dates at Red Rocks. In retrospect, this in many ways highlights the sheer genius in Movement’s booking strategy by tapping into industry momentum, even before the industry fully knows what to do with certain artists.
Local Spins had a chance to attend Dom’s show at Elektricity back in December 2022, where he took the sold-out show on a two-hour journey of house and techno, along with darn near every sub-genre of the aforementioned. Interestingly, Dom has this mixing trait in that once you think he has the room locked into a particular groove, he flawlessly takes a quick turn, and everyone is off in an entirely different direction with almost no warning.
On a personal note, Dom grabbed my phone and recorded an amazing video backstage wishing my son – and a big fan – a happy 21st birthday. It’s not hard to understand the foundation of Dom’s success: his genuine kindness as a person, and his appreciation for his fans and supporters alike. (Side note, John Summit’s Twitter feed is comedic gold. Give it a look if you have a few minutes.)
The True Headliner: Detroit – While downtown Detroit is no longer the place your grandparents warned you about, it still maintains much of its grit, and as such like with any major metropolitan city you should keep your head up and maintain a proper presence at all times. This is especially true for those venturing out to after-hours parties when Movement wraps at midnight.
Downtown’s main street is Woodward Avenue and offers great dining along with several shopping options. Greektown is a favorite for food offerings and is a quick walk from the festival. If you have time and want to check out other areas of Detroit, carve out a few hours and take the Dequindre Cut by bike or scooter up to the Eastern Market for lunch, and take the QLine back down to Hart Plaza.
It helps to remember Michigan can experience all four seasons over the period of one weekend, so plan and pack accordingly. While all indicators look to be a stellar weekend so far as the weather goes, Movement is quite literally on the shores of the Detroit River which connects two Great Lakes, so when the wind kicks up, things cool down pretty quick like.
Lastly, Midwest hospitality is revered globally, so if you need help with something just ask: You will find no shortage of people willing to help. Folks in these parts refer to Movement as “Techno Christmas,” as the festive nature of downtown Detroit over Memorial Day weekend is an experience you’ll never forget.
Check out the full Movement lineup below and get details and ticket information online here. Three-day general admission tickets are $279, with a $41.09 service fee. One-day tickets are $139.
VIDEO: Underworld, “And the Colour Red”
VIDEO: MAW, “Apes Groove”
VIDEO: Ida Engberg, “Tribute to Orange Clouds”
VIDEO: Georgia Angiuli, “Never Too Late”
VIDEO: MK, Dom Dolla, “Rhyme Dust”
VIDEO: John Summit, Hayla, “Where You Are”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Todd Ernst has been an electronic music DJ and promoter for 30+ years and is half of the DJ duo DiscoBrunch. While his days are spent as the owner of an indie real estate brokerage, he also owns EXSIGN which is a creative concept that designs and manages corporate, non-profit and nightlife events. Todd is also one of the founding team members for TEDxGrandRapids.
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