Dubspot @ Movement 2012: A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Techno / Festival Recap

Over this past Memorial Day weekend, the Dubspot team descended upon downtown Detroit to take part in the 2012 Movement Electronic Music Festival and bring back some words and photos from the experience to share with our readers.


Over the past decade, DEMF / Movement has become one of the United States’ premier music festivals, with each year’s lineup hand-picked with the hardcore music enthusiast in mind. And while the festival has roots in techno, the music experience of this event continues to evolve and embrace artists who are pushing the boundaries of dance music in new directions. Each year aims to be better than the last and Pahaxau‘s 2012 Movement experience definitely lived up to the hype. With three days of music spread across five stages, there is something for every music lover at this festival. Then there’s the night life – which offers countless excursions into bass across Detroit’s downtown landscape. And while the music is the reason for celebration at this event, it should be noted that the people of Detroit really make Movement special with a mid-western hospitality that fully embraces this music culture.

Professor Nalepa and Mike Huckaby share Ableton Live tips at YouthVille, Photo by M Walsh

After landing in Detroit and settling in, our first stop on the journey was Youthville Detroit, where Dubspot hosted the Movement EDU Sessions on Saturday morning. Detroit legend Mike Huckaby was joined by Ableton course designer Professor Nalepa and myself for a three hour discussion of music production using Ableton Live. With about 50 people in attendance, the lecture covered subjects such as workflow, creative habits, using iOS apps with Ableton Live, programming patch changes with VSTs, slicing samples to MIDI, and building a track from scratch. In addition to the education, the folks from Moog also stopped by to present YouthVille with a special limited edition green Little Phatty synthesizer for their students.

The Mustache Machine, Photo by M Walsh

Immediately following the Dubspot EDU Sesisons at YouthVille, the Dubspot team headed to Hart Plaza, a downtown park on the river that serves as home to Movement every Memorial Day weekend. The setting is a beautiful space for music with urban sculpture and multiple concrete levels that act as a playground for festival goers as they travel from one stage to another, chasing the sounds from noon until midnight for three days. Over the course of the weekend it became apparent that Pahaxau have really refined this festival into a streamlined idea. The music is impeccably programmed from beginning to end and continues to elevate in vibration until the grand finale on Monday night.

Mike Huckaby at the Made in Detroit Stage, photo by Dave Piekos

Upon entering Hart Plaza on Saturday afternoon, the first stage we heard was the Made in Detroit Stage, which hosted Detroit legends performing in front of the “Detroit Stargate” (a huge circular structure), right next to the entrance of the festival. The tone of this stage was a fairly steady four to the floor groove from DJs such as Stacy Pullen and Mike Huckaby, with a notable change of pace coming from DJ Godfather who scratched his way through classic Detroit booty jams. This area had a constant flow of traffic from people who came to Detroit to hear the sounds of the city.

Mark Farina "Mushroom Jazz" set on the Main Stage, photo by M Walsh

Behind the Made in Detroit stage was the main stage of the event, a massive coliseum-like cement structure that hosted headlining DJs and performers throughout the weekend. On Saturday afternoon the music coming from this stage was particularly appropriate for a daytime party, with Mark Farina‘s laid back “Mushroom Jazz” set floating nicely into Greg Wilson’s bumpy ride of disco edits and then Todd Terje taking that groove into a cosmic ride of synths and bass lines that fit perfectly as the venue slowly started to fill.

Salva at the Red Bull Stage, photo by M Walsh

Toward the back end of Hart Plaza sat the Red Bull stage, which provided a gorgeous view of the Detroit River and Windsor, Canada just across the water. The cement pyramid structure provides a unique viewing experience for this stage that hosted bass-heavy sounds throughout the weekend (on a sound system that we kept coming back to hear). On Saturday afternoon DJ Salva delivered an epic romp through Miami bass, trap and House, and then Actress built the vibe with technical mixes of bass driven music. Next up, Brenmar picked up the pace with crowd pleasing remixes of R&B and hip hop. The real highlight of Saturday came from this area as Photek brought the crowd to escape velocity with an inspired Ableton Live DJ set that ripped through bass music, moombahton, breaks and techno (then afterwards gave props to our own Professor Nalepa for teaching him how to use Ableton Live.)

Actress, Back Stage, photo by M Walsh

After wandering around in Detroit’s summer heat, the Underground Stage provided some renewed energy as Droog, Mr. C, Jimmy Edgar and Matias Aguayo provided funky, tech driven sounds with bumping basslines to a packed concrete pit of dancers. Shaded from the heat this area maintained a packed and jumping vibe for most of the weekend and escape from the blazing sun. On Sunday afternoon this stage got a bit more thumping with DJs such as FaltyDL and Michal Menert picking up the pace in this concrete square of bass for a frenzied crowd.

Beatport Stage, photo by Dave Piekos

Also on the underground level of Hart Plaza, Pahaxau had set up some interesting areas to wander including a photo exhibit by Lil Louis and a “technology area” where attendees could check out the latest gear and technology from manufacturers such as Moog, Vestax, Allen & Heath, Propellerhead, and (of course) Dubspot. With music and demos throughout the day, this small underground oasis provided an outlet of exploration and creation for those who felt inspired by the festival’s music. Dubspot’s Nate Mars and Hart Thorson were on hand to answer questions about the school and give demonstrations of software / hardware.

Mathew Jonson at Beatport Stage, photo by M Walsh

On Sunday afternoon, the music at Movement really started to gain momentum, especially at the Beatport stage where Maya Jane Coles, Maceo Plex, and Mathew Jonson bumped techno and house music to a crowd dancing on the grass in front of the Detroit River. Jonson’s set was particularly inspiring as he performed a live PA with laptop, Roland SH-101, MFB drum machine, and Roland TR-909 drum machine to ecstatic results. Meanwhile back over at the Red Bull stage, Wolf + Lamb, Tiger and Woods, Slow Hands, and Hot Natured built a bumping deep vibe under the sun for an enthusiastic crowd.

Jamie Jones of Hot Natured, photo by M Walsh

On Sunday evening, Dubspot co-sponsored Joy Ride, an official Movement after party that was hosted by NextAid just down the street at Motor City Wine Bar. Dubspot’s Professor Nalepa opened the event with an eclectic collection of downtempo, soul, and beautiful keys over relaxing beats for the evening crowd. He was followed by DJ’s Mr. V and Nickodemus, and then a live set from Marissa Guzman in an intimate space in Detroit’s downtown area.

Minnesota Performs at the Red Bull Stage, photo by M Walsh

On Monday morning you might have thought many festival-goers would have headed home, but this was not the case. On day three of the festival Pahaxau announced that they had reached attendance of over 100,000 people over the course of the long weekend. And while it took a moment for Hart Plaza to fill back up, by late afternoon the crowd was back in full attendance for the most dynamic day of the event.

Nina Kraviz Performs on the Main Stage, photo by M Walsh

On Monday’s main stage, notable performances came from Nina Kraviz and Cassy during the early hours of the day, bringing a nice thump to the center of Movement’s energy. The most notable set on this stage came from Jeff Mills, who performed a closing set on multiple turntables and a Roland TR-909. Starting out with classics such as “Shari Vari,” Mills mixed Kraftwerk into electro into banging techno for a finale that involved his infamous use of turntables and live 909 work that kept rising to a fever pitch.

Packed House at the Red Bull Stage, photo by M Walsh

Meanwhile, back at the Red Bull stage, up and coming producer Minnesota (who is actually from Santa Cruz) was bringing a young crowd to its knees with LFO-driven bass lines and massive drops, making a serious impression for those in attendance. This stage continued to build momentum throughout Monday afternoon and evening, with AraabMuzik performing a live MPC set that had everyone slack-jawed in awe of what that man can do with his fingers. But then the real testament to performance came from Major Laser, who obviously have some experience with this sort of festival setting. With a series of start/stop DJ drops, Diplo and his MC wound the eager crowd into a stomping frenzy of moombah, dancehall, dubstep, grime, and party jams while chanting,”Everyone take your shirts off!”And then a few moments later,”Everyone take your pants off,” to a crowd who was just about to follow along after three days of party.

Main Stage, photo by Dave Piekos

The close of Movement on Monday night was epic to say the least. Running back and forth between Jeff Mills, Steve Bug, Stacey Pullen, and Major Laser had us exhausted and enthralled. It’s truly a rare event that brings so many different sorts of talented artists in one place for an open minded celebration of sound. When the music stopped at midnight, the magic lingered in the air and those who experienced this pilgrimage to the heart of techno felt satisfied to have taken part in a piece of EDM history

Tiger and Woods, photo by M Walsh

What They Were Using

As a music production school (and a group of music producers), we were obsessed with analyzing what gear was being used for performance. Below is a short list of who was using what for performance at Movement 2012:

Jeff Mills – Vinyl
Mike Huckaby – Vinyl
Nina Kraviz – CDJs
Mark Farina – CDJs
Josh Wink – CDJs
Greg Wilson – CDJs, Reel to Reel Tape
Photek – Ableton Live
Salva – Ableton Live, MIDI keyboard, iPad
Tiger and Woods – Analog Mixer, OP1, MPC 1000, Maschine, Ableton, OctaTrack, iPad
AraabMuzik – MPC 2500
Roni Size – Serato
Minnesota – Traktor
Kevin Saunderson – Trakor s4 + F1
Hot Natured – Traktor
Gold Panda – Ableton

Michael Walsh is a producer of audio/visual art and a journalist living in Southern California. Read more of his work at soundsdefygravity.com

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