Before the Clique’s legendary breakfast could settle, a cacophony of hundreds of independent tents + four stages crescendoed on the walk up Jefferson to the Joe Louis fist and the Hart Plaza marquee. A flood of memories quickened the spiritual rush that is unique to Movement. Familiar faces peared through thousands of strangers at every stage-to-stage migration. The tension of long-lost conversation pulled against a powerful line-up, usually featuring at least two unmissable performances at once.
Hometown hero Derek Plaslaiko kicked things off on the Movement stage with a set that grew from bouncy clicks through acid and Mathew Jonson to a subdued techno pounding, capped off with Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Baby Got Back into the Pixies’ Hey.
The booty penult brought the jitters out in droves, never to leave. Jit is Detroit’s own style of breakdance, heavy on the pop, lock and battle. Jitters dance within inches of each other, narrowly avoiding contact (usually). Jit was on display this year more than any year I can remember, providing one of the biggest highlights.
Unfortunately, the disorganisation of this year’s festival reared its head most on the first day. According to the official program (sold at the entrance for $5), Osunlade was scheduled to DJ from 6:30-10:00 on the Movement stage, followed by a live set to close the High Tech Soul stage for four hours on Sunday. When rumours circulated that Osunlade would not be playing, festival staff were unable to confirm even as late as two hours before his set. Later, an ‘official’ schedule was taped to a wall at the back of the Movement Stage, which omitted Osunlade. It’s hard to say how punters could find out what was happening without taking a 15 minute stroll around every stage. Eventually it became clear that he would not be playing either set and Amp Fiddler had been moved to the Movement Stage before Terrence Parker & Maurice Turner. Meanwhile Jaylib, Peanut Butter Wolf and Jay Rock played the High Tech Soul stage and Traxx played the Underground stage. Personally, this was the worst scheduling conflict of the festival, featuring two of my favourite DJs versus two of my favourite producers. This theme was as prevalent as any year before it. Longer sets, particularly on the Music Institute stage (where each artist was granted three hours) were just as difficult to accommodate despite the smaller (74 artist) line-up. In many cases the best option seemed to be to go for the locals.
Amp Fiddler’s ascent has been perhaps the most important development in the Detroit scene over the last three years. Of course the term ‘newcomer’ does him no justice. He has toured with P-funk and released his first album over a decade ago. But what impresses many about this recent burst of high output with an impeccable quality-to-crap ratio, is that his live shows herald universal acclaim of another level. His performance at Movement ’03 was the best moment of that festival. In 2004 he added a new album’s worth of material and polished everything about the show. Paul Randolph (who released an album on Moodymann’s Mahogani imprint) was a big part of that stage presence. He used his vocodered voice as an effect (actually singing the bass lines as he played them) and topped it off with a bass solo played behind his head. The backing singers each got a chance to shine on their own in an extended version of I’m Doin’ Fine. Fiddler’s spoken intro to his next song was a moving account of how people react to his skin colour every day. Removing his distinctive specs, he made an impassioned plea for Unconditional Eyes. They also included an up tempo version of Superficial, an extended I Believe in You, a p-funked Waltz of a Ghetto Fly, a then-unreleased remix of Rima’s Subdued, and the anthem Love and War. Stunning!
Terrence Parker and Maurice Turner hit the decks soon after. TP introduced Mo’ Reese as a winner of the Electrifying Mojo’s mix shows in the ’80s. Then they took us to church. The phone came out, the gospel came in, the strings took over, his scratch took off and the gospel came back full-force for the next two hours, capping a brilliant first day.
TP and Mo’ Reese
Paxahau’s Yel 2 afterparty spread across three rooms. Speedy J and Chris Leibing held the main room all night. A cushion-covered floor in the chill room upstairs featured Biosphere, then Deadbeat (in person) broadband-connected to Monolake (in Germany) as Transatlantic Waves. In the St. Andrew’s basement, Mathew Jonson played live followed by a Derrick Plaslaiko and Matthew Dear tag team session. The two upstairs rooms accommodated the hard techno and ambient-glowstick massives, while most of the older audience gravitated to one of the most exciting new PAists on earth.
Mathew Jonson’s live sets seem to draw from the entire history and geography of electronic music, while unifying it with captivating melodies which morph endlessly. The best example was his then-unreleased material on Minus. Starting with bass lines so massive they demand/receive submission/immersion, twisting into new forms as time passes imperceptibly. A bass line becomes an 8-octave melody breaking into separately developing strains, never straying from the original groove but never settling in, overwhelming the attentive listener’s struggle to apprehend. Two hours of this doppelganger song writing and jacking was entrancing and exasperating. The bar was raised for all but a few PAists of this calibre.
Matthew Dear and Derrick Plaslaiko played a short, fun set to close the night, but this truly staggering performance was impossible to follow. Having only heard Jonson’s last two songs once, they echoed in my much-debauched head for two weeks after.
Written by Tristan Watkins
Editorial assistance from Ken Odeluga
Photography by Hannah Maloney and Tristan Watkins
Earlier festival reports here.