Two years ago this weekend, the Movement festival team gathered in a quiet Hart Plaza, dressed in masks, for a champagne toast full of emotion. After two decades of riverside techno, the Memorial Day weekend festival had been silenced by COVID-19.
On Saturday, as if a switch had been flipped and stored energy released, the party was back in full force as the Movement gathered momentum for the first time since 2019.
The rhythms might as well have never missed a beat: Hart Plaza crackled with a familiar swirl of sounds, sights and even smells – the smell of grass blending with the aroma of toasted almonds through the Park.
As always, it was a steady build, with a low-key vibe early in the day that escalated to the high-energy euphoria that usually comes at night, including a scheduled Saturday closing set by DJ Richie Hawtin. By late afternoon, the square was packed, as fans packed into downtown Detroit for their long weekend of electronic music getaway, full of soulful music and do-it-all fashion. .
Movement, which began life as the Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000, has long since become one of the city’s signature cultural events. This year it became the first major festival to reappear in Detroit since the pandemic.
“That’s three times the nervousness of day one,” said festival producer Jason Huvaere of Paxahau, walking onto the grounds ahead of Saturday’s opening. “It’s intense.”
For any outdoor event promoter, the weather is always high on the watch list, and Huvaere was encouraged by a promising three-day forecast that started on a lavish Saturday.
Saturday night all seemed to be going well as the music soared on six stages in the 13-acre park, thanks to DJs who were part of the weekend’s lineup of more than 110 performers. Roaming Hart Plaza was like venturing into various musical moods – the deep house music of Ladymonix at the Stargate Stage, the festive globe-trotting sounds of Jerk x Jollof at the Waterfront Stage, the edgy underground mix of Andrea Ghita at the Detroit Stage.
Detroit artist ADMN blasted the main bowl at Hart Plaza at 4 p.m. with a series of muscular, resonant bangers.
Fans arriving for the festival’s opening day were greeted by a Hart Plaza which was repaved by the City of Detroit during the pandemic shutdown, finally tackling the fractured concrete that had long plagued the site .
It was clear on Saturday that Movement remains a destination event for fans and artists far beyond Michigan. Among the familiar faces were many first-timers, including foreigners making a pilgrimage to Detroit to bask in the birthplace of techno music. Among them was Blaid Ramirez, who had traveled from Los Angeles with a friend.
“They don’t have lines like this back home,” Ramirez said, dancing on the Stargate stage. “It’s a homecoming.”
Fans came of all types and ages, and with a hodgepodge of styles. Hart Plaza was a place where club-ready hot pants, retro t-shirts – both wry and flirty – or even a robe with slippers went perfectly well.
Things could also get weird and whimsical – like the group of friends from Royal Oak, around 20 men, who have been attending the festival for years in spotted cow gear. Their banner on Saturday told their story:mooVE-MENT.
The movement will resume at 2 p.m. Sunday with a headliner on the main stage directed by Adam Beyer. Monday’s finale will feature headliner Jeff Mills.
Contact Detroit Free Press Music Writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]