Last weekend, the Movement Electronic Music Festival turned 13 years old. Though menacing clouds and a bit of rain threatened to stain Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit with semi-permanent hair dye, the festival was graced with good fortune all weekend long. By Major Lazer’s chaotic closing set on the Red Bull Music Academy stage Monday night, the three-day attendance was more than 107,000 -- the highest since Movement became a ticketed event in 2005.
It’s not surprising. The Movement 2012 was perfect for newcomers and for time-tested techno aficionados alike, with headliners such as Jeff Mills and Lil’ Louis, and hip-hop godfathers Public Enemy. Juan Atkins, who coined the term “techno” in the 1980s, spun an after-party set, and a rising class of techno and house artists, such as Danny Daze, Jimmy Edgar and Detroit’s own Kyle Hall, gave notice that better things are yet to come.
The first day on the Red Bull Music Academy stage was highlighted by Two Fresh -- identical twins from Colorado, Kendo and Sherwyn Nicholls -- who were accompanied by the live drumming of Colby Buckler. The group ran through a hazy, hip-hop infused set that blended the best of chill-wave and rap, hitting on everything, from Meek Mill’s mixtape favorite “A1” to Clipse’s “Mr. Me Too.”
Roni Size closed out the night and set the stage into a full-blown mosh pit. Union jack flags flashed behind the British drum-and-bass producer as he seamlessly flipped Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing.”
The second day's lineup was also built around more boogie, house and Italo-pop acts than boom-bastic speaker splitters. Tiger & Woods, Wolf + Lamb and Lindstrom entranced the crowd. The (hot-natured) duo of Jamie Jones and Lee Foss invited friends on stage to dance. Gold Panda calmed things down with an array of cavernous atmospherics and cerebral bass lines overtaking the crowd.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, Public Enemy, one of the unusual picks for the festival, closed out the night. The legendary hip-hop act served up an unbalanced set. But when the legendary duo found their groove, the crowd was treated to red-hot takes on “Bring Tha Noize” and “Don’t Believe The Hype.”
AraabMuzik, the Dipset producer from Rhode Island, tore up the RBMA stage on Monday, playing a music production center (MPC - a type of hybrid drum machine), allowing users to sample and store their own sounds. In a quick 45-minute set, the young producer pulled back the curtain and performed his entire set live with rapid-fire precision -- incredible to watch.
Nadastrom, originators of moombathon (a fusion of slowed down Dutch-produced house music and reggaeton elements credited to Dave Nada), set off a crowd-surfing phenomenon throughout the audience, which was followed by Diplo’s dancehall side project, Major Lazer.
The only group to feature a pair of dancers, a pair of hype men and inflatable stage props, Major Lazer swapped out the traditional DJ set for a party atmosphere. Diplo used the opportunity to debut a take on “Bubble Butts,” a track off the upcoming Major Lazer “Get Free” EP due this summer.
The confetti, booty dancing and champagne showers of Major Lazer wrapped up the festival for the youth crowd on the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Movement 2012. Jeff “The Wizard” Mills sent off an entirely different generation all together as the Detroit-born turntablist slayed the main stage.
It was the tale of two generations as Movement 2012 came to a close, signifying that the festival might not be sure of what’s next. But as electronic music has demonstrated in the past, it’s all about taking the influences of the moment and filtering it through something you love.
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