Jet lag, hangover, breakfast, friends and beer delayed the ‘official’ start to our Memorial Day festivities until Sean Deason kicked things off on the High Tech Soul stage, where many heads were planted all day. A 130 bpm HDJ deep techno thump insisted steadily for the first hour before he moved to the decks. Turntable trouble took him back to the laptop prematurely, but not before The Shit and I Feel Love turned things up a notch for the growing crowd.
Aardvark followed with a mind-bending schooling through Bjork, I:Cube w/Rza, Renegade Soundwave, Balil, DJ Krust’s Warhead, unspottable 200 BPM fiddle, James Brown, KMFDM and other unknown gems. Taking a short break, we encountered Derrick May in a golf cart with a bullhorn, accosting passers-by for festival donations. Part necessary plea, part megaphone abuse, the stunt was certainly good for maintaining the endless humour of the festival.
I’m sick and tired of I’m sick and tired of white girls
When we returned, Rush Hour DJ All Out K churned out a brilliant contemporary house set, featuring loads of newer gems including Carl Craig’s remix of Cesaria Evora and the AMG remix of Maxwell’s ‘No One’ to round things out. By the time his set was done the crowd recovered its feet, just in time for a re-emerging hometown legend.
All Out K
Kenny Larkin’s butt, Aardvark, Leroy and All Out K
Kenny Larkin took the mike before the decks, requesting more movement from the ballooning audience. This prompted a proper heckling when he refused to do a stand-up routine – but he accomplished what he was booked to do. Starting with Ben Sims he moved through a few tribal techno numbers including Santos Rodriguez’ Road to Rio, then switched between that and deeper/classic techno to great effect. The crowd was at its most enthusiastic and energetic during this set, the peak before the awareness that it was nearly over, or perhaps a final gasp.
Electrofunk live was the unfathomable – a ghetto tech band mixing funk, disco, booty, soul and ’nuff humour for a hundred thousand freaks. Sex on the Beach was the undisputed moment of the set, with half the audience of all ages singing along. However, the real focus was on circles of jit across most of the main stage. Following a tense battle that probably would have descended into violence in any other environment, three kids, approximately 9, 7 and 5 took over the circle and showed that the world of breakdance has a future in Detroit.
As the festival concluded with names no smaller than Rolando, Stacy Pullen, Kevin Sauderson, Recloose and Joe Claussell, it seemed odd that we opted for the all-too-neglected Techno Boulevard stage. No line-up was posted for this stage other than the one behind the decks. It was the first year the festival sponsored a fifth area, hidden near the press booth and Jefferson’s outer barriers. It was small and poorly attended, but with Carlos Souffront, then TP + Mo’ Reese closing the festivities, it was hard to pass up. They delivered another turntablised gospel beatdown as the sun went down and the UR devotees bid farewell to Hart Plaza, making their way to another first-in-a-long-time display.
Body ‘n Soul
The Monday night UR party, For Those Who Know III, was a benefit to fund a computer/multimedia room in the Detroit Summer Youth Space. As the party was held in a venue occupied by children all week, smoking was only permitted outside and there was no alcohol. The conspicuous absence of sin was countered with a spicy buffet and bottled water. While this kept many off the unventilated dance floor towards the beginning, Santiago Salazar capably kept things rolling until Timeline, UR’s latest live incarnation.
Keleigh Casper’s In the Flesh article identified Rafael Merriweathers (aka The Unknown Soldier) as the Octopad percussionist, with Gerald Mitchell (half of Los Hermanos) and ‘Mad’ Mike Banks on keys. Dex was the Timeline DJ, mixing trimmed-down tracks from CD-R, allowing the flexibility to cover non-UR classics such as Cybertron’s Clear. They started off with an epic version of Return of the Dragons followed by a fluid mixture of Final Frontier and Numbers. About 70% of each track remained in its pre-recorded form while the live instrumentation tied the versions together.
The visuals throughout were a treat, flashing ‘Santiago Salazar’, ‘Buzz Goree’, ‘Suburban Knight’, ‘Timeline’ and ‘Rolando’ while mixing in a range of video footage, peaking with a perfectly edited Lawrence-of-Arabia-esque horse and sword charge/battle to the soundtrack of what was probably Moor Horsemen from Bolarus 5. A big surprise was the raw gospel/house tune that seemed to integrate First Galactic Baptist Church with the beat from Soul Saver. As the night wound down, Ilana Weaver (AKA Invincible) MC’d to an Interstellar Fugitives track, providing the firm vocals for the UR agenda. They concluded with The Punisher, walking off stage one by one while the track was still playing, Dex fading it out as DJ 3000 came forward.
The live instrumentation was impeccable, if a bit noodly at times. Unknown Soldier’s flawless Octopad (a rubber percussion pad about the size and thickness of a Technics stick mat) did wonders for producing a live feel, especially during the intros and outros. But the highlight of the evening for me was Millenium to Millenium, perhaps because it stayed truest to its original form. Oddly, in Keleigh Casper’s interview, Mad Mike indicated that he didn’t want to show their music at the festival because it goes over better in small spaces, but I think that’s precisely where I’d like to hear something that was so much of a ‘jam’. It seems perfect for the High Tech Soul stage, in name and character.
Closing note from July 2004: After more than a month has passed, the one distinct memory of this festival will be the hilarity of it. While spending three-days-plus listening to some of the finest performers on earth is reward enough, getting to do it with an international crew who all operate on the same level is the sweetest icing on the cake, which will hopefully stay sweet for the rest of this decade.
However, this was possibly the last Movement festival as it’s known today. Never before has the disorganisational chaos and funding pressure felt so palpable. Serious questions remain about whether Derrick May can maintain his international DJ schedule while heading the festival, even with Kevin Saunderson’s help. Festival volunteers have never seemed so broken and fed up, at one point nearly revolting. Hopefully the magnitude of these difficulties will prompt quick action from festival leadership to begin plans for Movement ’05. It is not a time in Detroit that the city can risk losing precious funding on poorly organised entertainment with (apparently) shrinking attendance.
Yet these difficulties do not appear to be insurmountable. Despite their prevalence, they are essentially transparent to most in attendance (perhaps one of the best aspects of Detroit’s insularity). Additionally, the non-figurehead leadership appear to have a sound grasp of the areas that need attention. This much is clear: the one thing that will impact on the success of any new initiatives is funding. A new tactic is needed for 2005, other than asking for donations and selling festival merchandise. I can smell the Spring discussion already.
Written by Tristan Watkins
Editorial assistance from Ken Odeluga
Photography by Hannah Maloney and Tristan Watkins
Earlier festival reports here.