Festival electrifies downtown - 05/27/03
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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Brandy Baker / The Detroit News

Crowds gather for a set by Pole at the Underground stage Saturday at the Movement festival.

Festival electrifies downtown

Unpredictable weather thins crowds, but Movement festival doesn't miss a beat

Brandy Baker / The Detroit News

Jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave joins electronic artist Carl Craig with the Detroit Experiment, an all-star group of local musicians, for a large and enthusiastic crowd at the High Tech Soul stage Saturday.

Sights and sounds of Movement 2003

St. Andrew's Hall

Detroit promotion group Paxahau brought in Dutch producer Jochem Paap, who plays under his Speedy J moniker, for this much anticipated Saturday night event, a highlight in the festival's history.

It was Paap's first major appearance since 1991. He has been making techno since the early 1990s when he released "303" on Windsor's Probe label. Paap, whose music ranges from melodic techno to mind-bending experimental noise, began his set with dark atmosphere sounds, slowly bringing in a tribal beat, increasing the intensity ever higher, until finally dropping a hard bass kick to a wildly cheering crowd.

"This was the highlight of the festival for me," said Matthew Martin, 24, from Chicago.

Disappointment hit at 2 a.m. when management shut off Paap's sound midway through a mix. Paap, who thought the sound had been shut off by mistake, said he never got to play most of the tracks he had chosen.

-- Gary Anglebrandt

-- Special to The Detroit News

The Olive Room at Greektown Casino

The Beatdown Sounds party shook the exclusive second floor of the Greektown Casino until early Sunday morning. Mike Clark spun an explosive display of jungle and house that made women on the dance floor break into African dance moves.

Industry types turned the music into their own soundtracks as they munched on fresh veggies, fruit, crackers and cheese, networked and sipped cocktails on the sideline. The venue, not much bigger than a fast-food restaurant, accommodated the invitation only crowd.

At about 3 a.m., Carolyn Punter from New York performed vocals on a track Clark produced for Jojo Flores' Gotsoul label out of Montreal. And Punter's buttery voice was worth the wait.

-- Mekeisha Madden

The Detroit News

Tangent Gallery

By day, the Tangent Gallery is a mild-mannered art gallery on Detroit's east side. But this weekend, it was home to two of the hottest after parties of Movement 2003, Saturday's Unity party and Sunday's official Movement after-party.

The party's DJ booth was centered in the middle of the dance floor and the room was lit only by flickering strobe lights, adding to the already darkly cool vibe. Both nights, the parties, which started at 11 p.m., didn't get going until later.

Saturday, Kenny Larkin, who didn't take to the wheels of steel until after 3:30 a.m., was preceded by a playful set by Chicago DJ Gene Farris. Farris mixed to a breakbeat-backed remix of Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Later, it segued into a 120 beat-per-minute version of ODB's "Got Your Money" -- an interesting dichotomy.

"It's great to play out here," said Farris. "I love playing Detroit, man. You guys pull some nice venues (out of nowhere)."

-- Adam Graham

-- The Detroit News

Agave, "Moves and Grooves"

Upon first glance, the trendy, upscale Mexican restaurant looked as if it would be the last place one would find a techno party.

But nervous Detroiter Mike Grant, 36, prepared to spin at his first club party.

"I like it here," he says of Agave. "The setting is really intimate."

That Saturday evening, Agave's crowd confirmed that the appeal of electronic music is not restricted to the ears of the "Gen-X and below" crowd. It also showed that the power of the music shall have no venue restrictions.

Dustin J. Seibert

-- The Detroit News

Brandy Baker / The Detroit News

Detroit neo-soul artist Dwele sings to the crowd from the High Tech Soul stage.

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Mother Nature proved to be a fickle electronic music fan, ultimately affecting crowd turnout during the three-day Movement 2003 festival.

On day one, drizzle, wind and very little sunshine had people skipping daytime performances in favor of the night. Sunday's sunny skies and warmer weather had the crowd multiplying like gremlins after a midnight snack -- at times visitors could barely move. On Monday, rain early in the day washed away the crowd.

By 4 p.m. Monday crowds were in excess of 550,000, according to Laura Rodwan, spokesperson for High Tech Soul. Final numbers will be available on Tuesday.

Despite such unpredictable weather conditions at Hart Plaza this Memorial Day weekend, Movement seemed to be a homecoming for Detroit DJs and pure excitement for fans.

At the heart of that was Derrick May. A techno pioneer and one of the event's producers, May seemed omnipresent. He was snapping photos on the Movement Stage, introducing Francois K. at the High Tech Soul Stage and hanging out with admirers.

Early Sunday, as May sipped on an espresso and munched on a blueberry muffin, he talked about the fans, most of whom wanted to give him "a handshake and a thank you."

"These are not fans," he said. "These are our friends."

Friends such as North Carolina resident Graham Sadler, 23, who stayed at the Pontchartrain hotel with friends from Indiana. "I've been here the last two years. I came up to see my friends and listen to music."

This was festival No. 1 for Derrec Tan, 21, of Toledo. Tan missed the festival Saturday but was determined to make up for it the next day.

"I got here at 1 a.m. and the festival was over," said Tan, who hadn't slept all night, and probably wouldn't until he returned home, he said. "I'm going to make up for all that I missed."

Mario De Block, 31, of Belgium, covered Movement for Plastiks magazine. This was his first festival, but he said he came because "this is where techno was born. I had to be here. I love Detroit."

Other electronic music lovers showed support by packing seats at various stages around Hart Plaza, such as Kevin Saunderson and Kenny Larkin's closing set on the Movement Stage Saturday night.

A definite festival highlight, Larkin and Saunderson went back and forth on a four-turntable mix as May proudly looked on from the back of the stage, snapping the occasional photo on his camera. At one point, May leaned over and gave Saunderson the universal sign for "A-OK," while mouthing the word "perfect."

As Saunderson -- who sipped on a 20 oz. of Vernors during the set -- and Larkin smoked the stage for nearly 100 minutes, few in the crowd would have guessed the two only rehearsed once beforehand, the day before the set.

"We wanted to get together and prepare for a week, but we couldn't pull it together," said Larkin after the set."

Larkin praised May for his leadership. "Definite props to Derrick. He pulled it off. He's the man. He's Batman!"

If May is the Caped Crusader, Carl Craig might be Spider-Man.

His set Sunday night at the High Tech Soul Stage had crowds crawling up the nearby pyramid, peeking over the wall behind the stage and getting in wherever they fit to see Craig with The Detroit Experiment, which was one of -- if not the most -- buzzed about set at Movement.

Crowds screamed when the group did tunes "Vernors" and "The Way We Make Music" from their latest album.

The performance marked Craig's triumphant return to the festival after being fired from his gig as artistic director in 2001. His firing quickly punctuated the electronic music festival's eternal struggle between art and commerce.

But Craig has moved on. "I don't want to be the poster child for anything," said Craig, dressed in rocking sandals, white linen pants and a black long-sleeve Fendi t-shirt.

"But I think the reason people got behind me is because I'm about good music. My idea of a good festival is one that is about good music, not drama. And this festival is a testament to the power that good music can have," Craig said, adding that he'd happily perform at future festivals.

Like May, Craig, Saunderson and Larkin, most of the more than 70 DJs who performed at Movement did so for free. About 75 percent were homegrown.

Paul Randolph DJed for Amp Fiddler and the Reese Project Saturday, and was happy to do it in the name of Detroit unity.

"Everybody's supporting everybody. This is community," he said. "A lot of people talk about community, but this is truly what it's all about. This is the way it should be."

You can reach Mekeisha Madden at (313) 222-2501 or mailto:mmadden@detnewscom and Adam Graham at (313) 222-2284 or agraham@detnews.com. Free-lance reporter Gary Anglebrandt contributed to this report.

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