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Detroit Electronic Music Festival ... Minute by Minute
Photo by: Nick Schrunk

Detroit Electronic Music Festival ... Minute by Minute

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By: Eric Steingold
June 01, 2011
The Movement Electronic Music Festival has been held every year since 2000.  Although referred to by several different synonyms (DEMF, Fuse-In, Movement, Tech Fest, Detroit Electronic Music Festival, so forth and so on), it has always been remained here, in the heart of the city of where it was conceived. The techno scene was practically invented here, finding its origins down the road in Belleville, Michigan in the early 1980’s by the “Belleville Three,” which is the moniker slapped on Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May, who met at Belleville High School and all jelled on their fascination with funk music, as well as European group Kraftwerk., and started playing with sequencers in each other’s basements. And so it was, and now, Detroit stands tall in the world of electronic music; a source of inspiration known throughout the electronic music world.

Check out videos from this year's Movement Electronic Music Festival

And now we have this festival, which I had attended three years ago one time to see Girl Talk, which isn’t really true techno as it is manipulating several samples, but that had been it. So, when I found out that I would be attending this year, I was really excited. My tastes mostly align in the classic rock and independent music scene, but if you took a look at my iPod, it is concentrated with what one would probably expect from someone inconceivably obsessed with independent rock – lots of Pavement, Elliott Smith, Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, and the like. But I had never really given true techno a fair listen. I knew I liked Pretty Lights and Flying Lotus. I mean, I could really sense the musicianship in their records, and that was something that I held in high regard, but for the most part, my musical tastes had turned a blind eye on electronic music. It was intriguing because I didn’t know what to expect.  I decided that I would keep a diary, to share my thoughts with all of you, as I dive headfirst into the unknown inexplicable weirdness that is DEMF.

Friday, May 28, 2011
6 p.m. – As my car races down M-10 South into the heart of Detroit and Pretty Lights blasts through my speakers, all I can think about is that if I make it through the weekend without at least going to Lafayette Coney Island at least once, I’m going to lose my mind. At this thought, my mouth waters and my stomach growls and I can practically taste it in my mouth.  Pretty Lights sounds great though. I’m getting excited.

6:32 p.m. – The first people who cross the street at the intersection at which I am stopped are all decked out in neon clothes from head to toe. One of them – a kid who looks like he was probably a hot shot football player in high school, but now only has friends because he joined an elite fraternity – can hear my music. He nods his head, and I give him a thumb’s up. Oh, it’s so on. I have arrived.

6:50 p.m. – Catching the end of Daedelus’ performance, and the crowd is eating his dubstep-soaked sounds up. Maybe all techno isn’t that bad.

7:00 p.m. - $8.00 for one beer. Are you freaking kidding me?! I begrudgingly oblige, but the server doesn’t believe I am 21. At the sight of my I.D., she tells me that I’m going to look 35 when I am 50, and I force a smile. This happens to me at least once a week.

9:30 p.m. – A half hour until Felix Da Housecat starts, so I decide to check out Venetian Snares. They are mediocre at best. And this was, according to my friend, THE show not to miss. I am unimpressed to say the least.

11:30 p.m. – Skrillex is murdering this set in definitely the highest energy show of the day. The crowd is thrown into frenzy, glow sticks are being thrown around, the air is so hot it is barely breathable, and before I know it, I am crowd surfing.  These are the reasons I came to this festival. Awesome!

11:45 p.m. – Standing in the crowd wondering who cuts Skrillex’s hair. I subconsciously promise myself to never go to his barber.

12:30 p.m. – Back at my car, contemplating the drive home. And of course, as they say, my dogs are barking. See you tomorrow, Detroit.

Saturday, May 29, 2011
3:57 p.m. – This dude calls himself “Space Dimension Controller,” so I pretty much know from just that fact that I will not like it one bit, and I don’t. Good thing he is on for a whole 3 more minutes

4:15 p.m. – Ana Sia is getting into the thick of her set, and she is laying down overlapping sounds to create impressive down-tempo grooves. It’s no Neutral Milk Hotel or anything like that, but still, this is great music for a sleepy, overcast Sunday afternoon.

5:00 p.m. – The man standing next to me at this show feels compelled to let me know that he dropped a ten strip of acid this morning, but that he is “just chilling.” That cannot be safe.

6:52 p.m. – The man at the counter in Lafayette makes me 2 Coney’s with everything on them faster than it takes Charlie Sheen to make an ass of himself. Its going to be better than anything I can get in the festival grounds, and it is twice as good. If you’re ever in Detroit and you don’t go to Lafayette, well, I don’t really respect your opinion on food. I scarf them down.

7:27 p.m. – Overheard by Conor Oberst-looking guy to his friend: “I can’t wait for Mimosa tomorrow.” I smile at this sentiment, because I can’t wait either. Mimosa will kill it tomorrow night.

9:15 p.m. – One thing has grown abundantly clear: Beardyman. loves to fucking curse.

9:48 p.m. – Beardyman: “Some of the police are complaining about swearing. So tempting to play N.W.A. right now.” The crowd resoundingly approves, myself included.

10:02 p.m. – Gaslamp Killer: “Rest in peace Gil Scott-Heron!” as his “We Almost Lost Detroit" pipes through the soundsystem. TGK is feeling it tonight!

10:45 p.m. – I wasn’t expecting to really be surprised by an artist today, but I would be wrong. The Gaslamp Killer is earning my respect, with one amazing sample after another. “Is that…Led Zeppelin?!” Yes.

10:55 p.m. – The Gaslamp Killer has just showed the turntables who is the boss of them, by creating a intensely slick remix out of “Everything In It’s Right Place.” Did 16 year old me tell this man what to spin tonight? I’m sold.

Sunday, May 30, 2011
6:00 p.m. – After fulfilling my familial Memorial Day obligations, I finally arrive for the final day of Movement. It is a sticky 95 degrees outside. Hopefully the music will bring the heat today, and match the intensity of this weather. Summer in the Midwest is pretty much unbearable in every way. But the music will still be wonderful.

6:55 p.m. – Overheard in passing conversation: “…and then I took 14 pills. I can’t wait for Flying Lotus.” I don’t need to hear the rest of this conversation.

8:15 p.m. – I don’t know who this is on the main stage right now, but this house music is beyond awful. I just don’t get it.

9:45 p.m. – Little Dragon is my favorite new electronic band. And these people actually play…instruments! What a breath of fresh air in a festival concentrated with people hidden behind their laptops.

10:25 p.m. – Ladies and gentlemen, Tigran Mimosa has entered the building. Laying down funky, wonky, soulful beats, he is turning this crowd on it side and blasting us into outer space. If there were such a thing as musical tumescence, this would be it.

10:40 p.m. - Someone has actually brought a mattress to this show. And the answer is yes - people are in fact crowd surfing on the actual mattress.

10:52 p.m. – “Let’s leave to go catch Fatboy Slim.” Are you kidding me? Do these people know what is in store for this stage? FLYING LOTUS is coming out soon. Whatever, more room for me to get down to the inevitable space-funk that is about to ensue.

11:03 p.m. – FlyLo: “I’m baaaaaack! Y’all have to understand, alright – I’m from Detroit.”

11:15 p.m. – If Mimosa had just melted my face, I think it is safe to say that Flying Lotus is in the process of blowing my mind. This guy knows what is up. And the people here know it. He looks like he is having the time of his life. What a home coming Steven "Flying Lotus" Ellison is having.

11:40 p.m. – Ellison’s sounds don’t just blast through the speakers. Instead, they fill the room in a way that is seldomly seen in this age of compressed production values. This is avant-garde digital jazz-fusion at its finest, like it Miles Davis and John Coltrane collaborated with Daft Punk and The Beta Band., and then those sounds  traversed themselves through a meat grinder. What a night.

11:58 p.m. – Flying Lotus: “From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.” The crowd is deafening. And the music is bumping into one final crescendo on the weekend.

12:07 p.m. – DEMF is officially over, and I take a moment to collect my thoughts, and breathe in the air. I am exhausted, parched, and have a relentlessly pounding migraine, but this whole experience was worth it. Until next year, DEMF. I will be back, I promise you that. Electro music has certainly found a permanent home in my musical psyche.
Tags: Detroit Electronic Music Festival, Festival, Music Festival News
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