Confronted with an empty bottle of vodka, a homeless Michigan State sweatshirt and a half-memory of wayward youth lost on Woodward, we wasted no time ploughing through breakfast and stumbling to the festival. Meanwhile, equipment/organisational problems delayed the start of Duplex until 10 minutes before Fat Freddy’s Drop started on the High Tech Soul stage. While the Dutchmen sounded lush for the brief time we could stay, the Kiwi’s 2 1/2 hour set was too much to pass up.
The Shorecrest Inn and Clique Restaurant
Fat Freddy’s Drop first reached a large audience when Giles Peterson introduced Midnight Marauders two years ago. Since then they’ve toured the world with Recloose and concluded another tour with this performance. They’re comprised of singer Joe Dukie, Fitchie on the MPC, a trombonist of the highest energy and class, a suave trumpet/sax duo who’s mellowness compliment each other perfectly, and a guitar/keyboard rhythm section that quietly fill the bill. They range in style from dub to funk to soul to drum ‘n bass, never clearly offering one at a time. This is an underground outfit: their friends sold self-released CDs on the steps of the High Tech Soul stage as they played.
After starting with Willow Tree they moved on to a verging-on-annoying-but-somehow-compelling three minute horn collision, leading into at least 10 minutes of slow-growing dub, into nearly 10 minutes of drum ‘n bass, returning to the dub section it grew out of, while never growing stale. A lengthy trek that knew no boundaries. They followed that by answering a request for Midnight Marauders, threw in Joe Dukie and Fitchie’s This Room and played no more than eight songs in 150 minutes. Their stamina and on-stage communication is as good as anyone’s, which says nothing of their dead-accurate skill for finding tunes that destroy.
Fat Freddy’s Drop
Soon thereafter, preparations were being made to lower the main stage roof for the annual torrential downpour, while Alton Miller raised it with a global view of contemporary house, curing a gathering crowd of their Saturday night ailments. Meanwhile at the Press Conference, journalists grilled Movement directors about the impact of this year’s late announcement on international attendance and compared the economic impact to the Superbowl. We learned of the $75-80 million of tourist income generated each year, that festival organisers thought the 500,000 in attendance last year was up this year, although it appeared that way to no one (not inherently a bad thing as crowding was less of an issue), and everyone was keen to learn of the funding provided by the Dutch government and the possibility of expanding this to other countries in years to come. Later, Derrick May returned to the festival following the birth of his child, cigar in hand, ready for questions and photo opportunities.
Smells like rain
Derrick May returns
A happy new father
As the rain persisted, many house-lovers took refuge in the large outdoor Music Institute tent. Ron Trent fused his old and new incarnations, ranging from Chicago jack tracks to Body ‘n Soul depth, spanning the entire history of house music. Festival co-producer Kevin Saunderson and Danny Krivit took time to chill behind the decks, taking in a good chunk of his set. Krivit mixed straight out of it into a stunning opening selection that included Strings of life and Quadrant. Festival staff went absolutely bananas.
Ron Trent and Kevin Saunderson
Music Institute crowd for Ron Trent
While Body ‘n Soul cohort FK took the Movement stage from techno to drum ‘n bass, DK kept it mostly within the range he owns, pulling out plenty of surprises, but giving the crowd what they came to the Music Institute stage for. His and Ron Trent’s sets were enough to convert the staunchest techno purists into deep house devotees. There is something in the vibe around this space. Having once been home to the CPOP stage, revived as the Music Institute Stage the last two years, it never fails to impart the most intimate sense of party, despite the size of the crowd. It is in a class of its own for house music experience.
Ron Trent and Danny Krivit
Staff, during Strings of Life
Music Institute crowd for Danny Krivit
Staff bug out to Strings (sorry about the darkness)
Finishing a long day compressed into only a handful of performers, we walked to the third annual Cannonball party, passing the new Hard Rock Café. Rob Hood was heard broadcasting from their outdoor speakers. Detroit, Rock City no more! Unfortunately, jet lag and festival attrition took their toll, allowing only a glimpse of Carlos Souffront’s typically brilliant slower-techno-and-then-some.
Written by Tristan Watkins
Editorial assistance from Ken Odeluga
Photography by Hannah Maloney and Tristan Watkins
Earlier festival reports here.