The Musicorium

Sharing some music.

Live from Movement/DEMF: Day One

Posted by SP on May 30, 2010

Author: Shawn Wilson	This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license.Geography has its advantages.  In my case one such advantage is a location that makes it relatively painless to go to Movement/Detroit Electronic Music Festival.  This year just for the hell of it I thought I’d write little notes about each day, since I’ll be at the festival all weekend.  As usual for my posts I’ll skip all the (usually) obligatory prose about how awesome Detroit (truly) is, and how this festival is (or was) the beating heart of everything techno, and how bad its current promoter sucks/doesn’t understand the music/etc.. There are plenty of places to find that stuff online. If you’re into this music at all you have your own opinions about that, and I’m not going to gainsay them here.  I’m just going to tell you how it’s going for me.  Here’s the post for today: Saturday.

Got there right as things started today. I had very much been looking forward to a performance by local Patrice Scott, despite the fact that that it was scheduled to be in the notoriously bad “Made in Detroit” Stage.  (For those who don’t know, “Made in Detroit” is a local clothing label that specializes in selling T-shirts pimping Detroit to white kids from affluent suburbs who like to claim Detroit street cred but who only come to town for concerts and sporting events.  It’s okay.  Detroit loves– and desperately needs– the money that all this fake love generates, so don’t hate on ’em.) Anyway, the stage lived up to its reputation and was acoustically awful.  It was like listening to dance music with a tin washtub over your head in an empty pool somewhere deep within a network of caves.  Scott, being the day’s first act, spent the first 20 minutes of his set struggling heroically against the technical limitations of this abominable space.  Whether he succeeded or not I cannot say, as I gave up on psychically willing him to transform the laws of physics in a way that would make the set sound good.  This isn’t his fault though.  Scott is a great artist and DJ in the tried and true Detroit style of techno music, in witness of which I give you this:

Life moves on and I did too, up to the main stage where German legend Mark Ernestus of “Rhythm and Sound” and “Basic Channel” fame was starting a three hour set of dub reggae. This was unbelievably good.  It was a beautiful, warm day, the sun was shining in a bright blue sky such as is seldom seen in this part of North America, and the music was a perfect fit.  Unlike the previous stage, the sound here was perfect, allowing the strategically placed listener to be inside each song.  And I do mean “inside”.  Dub has a lot of space in it, musically and technically speaking, and vintage dub 45s played over a huge, perfectly balanced system make it possible for you to hear everything in this beautiful and deceptively complex music.

Spent a *lot* of time at this one, then wandered around and checked the other stages.  These were somewhat disappointing on the talent front, so we wandered back and watched Ernestus close his set out.  So far my rating on the festival would have been mixed.  Bad sound holding locals back, good sound doing little for acts that were only okay, and only one bright spot in Ernestus’ set.  The crowd vibe too wasn’t that great, as this year seemed to be invaded by frat-boy types, gangsta wannabes, and woo-girls in various stages of scandalous costume.  Last year seemed a lot more balanced with older people and “heads” rounding out the crowd and making it more mellow and fun to be a part of.  I broke for dinner seriously thinking about not coming back, and I wouldn’t have had it not been for the fact that Theo Parrish was headlining at the aforementioned Made in Detroit stage.  My hope was that the techs would have it together by then, so I could see some of this:

Not only was I not let down, I was floored.  Parrish did an amazing set of dance music in much the style you see in the video here, keeping the crowd moving and keeping the heads entertained and engaged too with more than just a little abstraction.  Theo Parrish is known for his creativity as a DJ as well as his creativity  as a maker of his own records, and he was “on” in both respects tonight.  The crowd was great too, as heads and locals pretty much owned the area with old-school dance offs, goodwill, and just plain appreciation for what Parrish was doing. There are easier ways to move your booty at DEMF, and most of the tourists found those ways. The rest, in true Detroit fashion, took the worst stage of the festival over and turned it into the best place to be.

There is one additional thing worth mentioning about this festival for those who haven’t been to anything like it, and that is how down to earth everyone seems to be, from the artists to the crowds.  It’s not at all uncommon to go hear a set by one DJ and be standing next to another you heard play just a couple of hours ago.  Love for the music is what drives the whole thing.

So, overall I’m calling Day One of DEMF 2010 good.  Day Two looks promising as well. With people like New Zealand’s Recloose, Chicago pillar Larry Heard, Detroit’s Anthony “Shake” Shakir and personal all-time favorite Detroiter Derrick May, Mr. Scruff from the UK and Italy’s Psycatron all on the bill, Day Two promises to be the best kind of busy day.  Stay tuned!


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