In one sense, the
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Movement festival couldn’t have asked for a luckier time to stage its 13th edition.
After years on the
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fringes, electronic dance music — EDM — has officially swept into the American mainstream. DJs are the new pop stars, their mixing decks the new guitars. Jay-Z just called it the hottest music revolution of our time. In a year that’s seen Skrillex get a prime-time Grammy slot, Avicii an arena tour and “dubstep” a dictionary entry, it’s hard to disagree.
Now, as EDM transforms pop music’s identity, Movement has a chance to assert its own: At Hart Plaza next weekend, the festival will serve up its latest journey into the deeper nooks and crannies of the genre’s styles, history
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and culture. It’s the big festival that seeks to seduce fans with intimacy.
More than a decade after it debuted on the riverfront, the Detroit fest continues to occupy a distinct — and distinguished — niche in electronic music’s ecosystem. Heralded for its devotion to underground authenticity and Detroit’s techno roots, it retains elite status among in-the-know fans around the globe.
Still, for Movement organizers, EDM’s rising pop profile has created what one calls a double-edged sword: Are the genre’s new young fans — groomed on the commercial sounds of David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia — primed to dive into Movement’s left-field offerings? Are they ready to take in the underground acts, the up-and-coming performers, the veteran DJs who are the roots of today’s revolution?
Are they eager, in other words, to be enlightened?
It’s looking good: Ticket sales this year are on a record pace, say fest producers, with three-day attendance expected to top 100,000 for the first time since Movement became a paid event in 2005.
“We all think it’s incredible what’s happening here in the U.S. with electronic music. It’s great for the scene, great for music in general, great for creativity,” says Sam Fotias, the festival’s operations manager. “But we feel we have a responsibility to keep people aware of the cultural history that is Detroit. We have an important asset: the ability to host all these people and expose them to a deeper side of the music.”
Movement officials emphasize that if you’re looking for the genre’s big hit-makers, this isn’t your spot. There are other events — Miami’s Ultra fest, the Electric Daisy Carnival, Coachella, the Identity Tour — that ably fill that bill.
But Movement is where you’ll find tomorrow’s Skrillex, Deadmau5, Girl Talk and Pretty Lights: Indeed, all of those top EDM stars played the Detroit fest on their way up. Hot names on this year’s bill include the London artist Gold
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Panda, hip-hop producer AraabMuzik and the colorful English act SBTRKT, part of a five-stage lineup that includes headliners Jeff Mills, Lil Louis and Public Enemy.
A history of risk-taking
The maverick role isn’t new for Movement; the event was unconventional by definition when it debuted as the DEMF in 2000. There was little U.S. precedent for any sort of techno fest, let alone one designed to celebrate the genre’s Detroit origins. Programmed by hometown hero Carl Craig for connoisseurs, the event quickly
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earned a reputation as one of the Western Hemisphere’s premiere electronic events.