Movement 2003: Festival electrifies downtown

Story as originally posted at The Detroit News –

(Contributing writer)

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

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

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. 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.

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.”