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DEMF - A Decade On
May 15, 2011 8:04 AM   Subscribe

DetroitTechno.org presents a documentary (1 2 3) about the history and politics of techno with a focus on the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, now called Movement, from its inception in 2000 until the most recent one in 2010.

Here is this year's line-up for the end of May, as well as some set videos from last year's festival of Booka Shade (1 2 3), Derrick May (1 2), Richie Hawtin (1 2 3 4), and Marco Carola (1 3 4 6).
posted by gman (26 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was at 2001. Woo.

But OMG, those Michigan accents hurt my ears.
posted by k8t at 8:45 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went to the first one in 2000 and the 2001 one as well. Good times, from what I remember. I kinda liked ecstasy in collage.
posted by Windigo at 9:18 AM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Looking forward to this. I used to write for dance music magazines, and half-remember a lot of ill-feeling and backstabbing around the festival - I forget which side one was supposed to be on, but remember it being a topic best avoided when speaking to some artists. (Yeah, that whole period is a little hazy - being paid to go to nightclubs isn't terribly good for you.)

ecstasy in collage

Weren't they a short-lived Goan trance duo? I'm sure I have their poorly-received triple album, Moondawn Gamelan Ethnospasm.
posted by jack_mo at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like to go to one of these, but i can barely take 2 hours of straight techno, let alone 3 days. I like it, but I need some variety at my parties.

Though the Vitamin Water stage looks pretty good -- Fatboy Slim and Felix da Housecat aren't techno.
posted by empath at 9:34 AM on May 15, 2011


(all things considered, I'd usually rather go to Electric Daisy Carnival or Ultra, if I'm going to go to a huge party).
posted by empath at 9:37 AM on May 15, 2011


Though the Vitamin Water stage looks pretty good -- Fatboy Slim and Felix da Housecat aren't techno.

They actually have a decent assortment of artists and styles at DEMF: DnB, Minimal, Ambient, and Detroit Techno (obviously) for example. Also a surprising amount of industrial, noise and *core: Nitzer Ebb, Chemlab and Venetian Snares for examples that spring to mind. I suppose a lot of these are darker genres though.

But it's a great crowd, and the people are wonderful, just like at other festivals throughout the world.
posted by formless at 10:13 AM on May 15, 2011


I always wanted to go, but I hate the fact it use to be free and now they charge.

Yet, I CANNOT wait for Dally in the Alley in September (better not fucking rain this year as it did this last year!)
posted by handbanana at 11:07 AM on May 15, 2011


So, I've watched the documentary, and it's all flooding back - Carl Craig's firing was a huge thing at the time, with a lot of bad blood in 2001 and 2002 over artists playing the festival despite ostensibly supporting Craig. Also, it's 'interesting' that Derrick May is nowhere to be seen, and I find it deeply odd that they're using the name Movement now. The massive emphasis on Motor seems a bit off, too. I'll admit to having, um, non-positive feelings about Mr. May based on my dealings with him, and that may have coloured my opinion. Conversely, the rest of the Detroit techno people were absolute sweethearts.

Annoyingly, I'm sitting in a flat full of MiniDisc recordings of interviews with a lot of the people in the doc., but a couple of hundred miles away from the transcripts and pieces I wrote. Does anyone have a MiniDisc player I could borrow?

It's funny to think that I was earning a living in the UK writing about a squabble in Detroit.
posted by jack_mo at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny to think that I was earning a living in the UK writing about a squabble in Detroit.

And that most people in the US don't even know that detroit techno exists.
posted by empath at 1:02 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I went to the first one in 2000. Aside from seeing a killer set from the Roots and an even more amazing set from the newly-formed Adult., I was mostly bored. I suppose the lesson I learned was that live DJ sets just don't do it for me, that personally I need the dynamics of several musicians working together to stimulate my senses.

The trip was fun, though. I was working a closing shift at I Love Video in Austin when I got a call from a couple of friends asking me if I wanted to go to Detroit. When I got off work. In like three hours. I was 23 at the time - how could I say no?
posted by item at 1:43 PM on May 15, 2011


I got tickets to this years, but I don't have anywhere to stay right now.
posted by azarbayejani at 2:22 PM on May 15, 2011


suppose the lesson I learned was that live DJ sets just don't do it for me, that personally I need the dynamics of several musicians working together to stimulate my senses.

Big festivals are a lousy way to enjoy dance music, IMO. It's too big and impersonal.

The best way to enjoy dance music is to be at a dirty warehouse at 3am with no AC and 500 sweaty people completely losing their minds on the dancefloor while some local DJ you've never heard of is completely tearing shit up, and your not quite sure if that police siren is part of the song or just outside on the street.
posted by empath at 2:24 PM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


and half-remember a lot of ill-feeling and backstabbing around the festival - I forget which side one was supposed to be on

There have been issues over the changing of festival management more than once since the festival started (they had trouble making money and paying artists the first couple years I think). But the biggest instance was between the first year and second year when the original organizer, Carl Craig, stopped being affiliated and the blame was placed on Carol Marvin. The second year a lot of locals were sporting buttons that said "I support Carl Craig" or something to that effect.

Big festivals are a lousy way to enjoy dance music, IMO. It's too big and impersonal.

That's why there are so many after-parties every year at the Detroit festival. Usually TOO many and it's hard to choose just one, but I had more fun at those than the festival proper. It was basically the same DJs too, but in a more intimate and fun environment.

I was able to attend the first 3 years in Detroit, and wish I still lived in the area to go back, but the first year was really the best. Mostly because leading up to it nobody was sure if people would really come out to Detroit of all places, but when thousands did it put such a huge smile on all the local fans and artists' faces.
posted by p3t3 at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was at the first one as well, and aside from a shitty incident with Canadian border officials on the way back, I had a good time.

No idea how reliable these figures are, but Wikipedia lists the attendance by year:

DEMF 2000: 1.1 to 1.5 million
DEMF 2001: 1.7 million
DEMF 2002: 1.7 million
Movement 2003: 630,000
Movement 2004: 150,000
Fuse-In 2005: 44,920
Fuse-In 2006: 41,000
Movement 2007: 43,337
Movement 2008: 75,000
Movement 2009: 83,322
Movement 2010: 95,000

Actually, I just noticed that besides this documentary, Wikipedia links to a site with a year-by-year oral history of DEMF.
posted by gman at 3:29 PM on May 15, 2011


I was attempting to respond to jack_mo 2 posts up, and not only was my memory apparently off by a year, but I missed your 2nd post above where you were already able to recall most of the drama anyways.

Honestly there was so much music that all the first 3 festival years sort of blend together in my mind (which was lucid and unimpaired until the after-parties). But I can still remember the after-parties much more clearly. I think the uniqueness of each of those and the more personal settings make a more lasting impression.
posted by p3t3 at 4:44 PM on May 15, 2011


I went in 2001...had a great, drunken old time. I've posted previously about how Stacey Pullen threw down the baddest set I've ever heard that Saturday night. Pity the monsoon came through Monday night to wash out the last few sets.
posted by rhythim at 6:10 PM on May 15, 2011


I always thought this RA feature was a good piece on the history of DEMF.
posted by subtle-t at 7:11 PM on May 15, 2011


Other major NA EM events this year:

June 1-5 MUTEK 12 Montreal
June 24-26 Electric Daisy Las Vegas
September 21-25 Decibel Fest Seattle
posted by Twang at 5:11 AM on May 16, 2011


Actually, the best part of the first year was the all-night afterparty/show put on at City Club by Plastikman.
posted by Windigo at 7:01 AM on May 16, 2011


2004 or 5 was when i threw in the towel on DEMF. having our taxi driver hold us up inside his own car was a nice reminder of why people don't think "detroit!" when scouting vacation destinations. Had enough good times in the previous years to last a lifetime, especially wandering out of a carl craig set around 6 am and spotting Toynbee tiles on the sidewalk nearby.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 7:40 AM on May 16, 2011


Microgenres give me headaches. There's a Bill Drummond quote somewhere about the future of dance music where he says that at some point producers will be making records with nothing but the same 4/4 beat and fans will still argue with each other endlessly over which record is better.
posted by analogue at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2011


And that most people in the US don't even know that detroit techno exists.

Most people in Detroit, even. Prior to the DEMF, anyway. Every interview I ever did with a Detroit producer or DJ included them laughing at the fact that they'd be greeted as Gods by adoring thousands in the UK one weekend and play to a half empty club in their hometown the next.
posted by jack_mo at 1:03 PM on May 16, 2011


Microgenres give me headaches.

I'm not sure Detroit techno is a microgenre. More of an ur-genre, like Chicago house. Otherwise known as the most influential US exports since the blues.
posted by jack_mo at 1:10 PM on May 16, 2011


Er, since rock 'n' roll.
posted by jack_mo at 1:11 PM on May 16, 2011


Every interview I ever did with a Detroit producer or DJ included them laughing at the fact that they'd be greeted as Gods by adoring thousands in the UK one weekend and play to a half empty club in their hometown the next.
A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.
posted by empath at 2:54 PM on May 16, 2011


Huh, just saw this - guess a month of being ill will do that to you.

I've been 6 out of the past 10 years and got engaged while there, though not technically at the festival. Detroit is a rare and amazing place, filled with art deco buildings crumbling, people holding out hope that it will somehow rise again from the ashes of the American car industry's destruction, and a handful of techno rebels a la Dan Sicko's recently re-released book with a new intro and some updates.

There's so, so much more to it than a shrug and a 4/4 beat, but I can't sum it up here. It's a pilgrimage to take, and only the faithful need bother doing so.

It's the one place I can meet up with friends who have scattered across the earth from Barcelona to Hungary, the Netherlands to Chicago and hug them, catch up, dance a little and sit with ringing ears and a portable record player, checking out our newest finds at 4 a.m., reminiscing about the records that made us realize that techno changed out lives.

Last year on Saturday, there were 40 afterparties alone that I counted. $40 for a three-day pass sure beats the hell out of $250 for Coachella, and to me, the music's 100x better. Then again, I'm one of those people who can listen to a minimal track for 6 minutes and hear four very slight beat pattern variations at different points and one tonal variation and scream FUCK YEAH with excitement - and who will likely be doing that again this year when Aril Brikha plays.

Detroit has so much more to offer than just the festival: amazing architecture, bizarre history, die-hard immigrant holdouts like the Coney Island guys, techno pioneers that AREN'T Juan, Derrick or Carl - I'm thinking of Submerge Records, Underground Resistance, (not to mention Mad Mike Banks' myriad side projects), the National Theater, the Detroit Techno Militia guys, Omar S., the Techno Museum and the Heidelberg Project, just to name a few. People there are digging in and finding ways to make the post-apocalyptic landscape and sense of hopelessness into a rebirth of hope, and I'm behind them, wishing them luck every step of the way.

To a more syncopated beat, mind you - not everything is four on the floor, but lazy cliches are easier than actual research (and why bother if it's not something you're passionate about?). I've made friends there, and in my heart, Detroit is a second home... but Tokyo's starting to give it serious competition these days.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:10 AM on May 22, 2011


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