Touch the Lion: Detroit Electronic Music Festival Roars
I am back home sweet home in LA after a whirlwind trip to Detroit for Movement aka DEMF aka the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and I am inspired anew to make shit happen; to create for myself a solid place in the international electronic music community and spend my days promoting the music that I love and the artists who make it. I really love you guys.
My people are the most beautiful people on earth. They are the most colorful, the loudest, the happiest; they have the most fun, smile the widest, laugh the most. They dress like freaks, they dye their hair blue and green, they live for music and dancing and parties. They are young, they are beautiful, they are my people.
One of the best parts of DEMF for me was running into old friends on random dance floors and hanging out with brand new friends, strangers one minute and confidantes the next, openly sharing their differing opinions on electronic music from perspectives grown all over the globe.
I arrived at the party late and left early; not my usual MO but hey sometimes you gotta get in where you fit in. Detroit is awesome. Bear in mind I visited this Great American City on what was probably the best weekend of the year, but nonetheless was a bit mesmerized by the grand architecture around the downtown area and Hart Plaza, the wide open urban park where the festival was held. The modern art sculptures, massive fountains (even if they didn’t work) and slick buildings that dominate the downtown neighborhood make you glaze over the fact that a great deal of the rest of Detroit is completely ghettorific.
I arrived in the city Saturday evening with my friend Skandar and we whizzed right into the city in a rental car. Several people told me that I did not need a car in Detroit, which was true, but DAMN it was nice. I like to be in control of my transportation and not have to beg rides or wait for cabs to get to where I want to be. I was very thankful during the festival to have my own ride, especially for the afterparties. Parking was not a problem, and I never had to pay for a space. It was actually kind of weird not to pay for parking; adapted to life in LA, I would jump out of the car in a parking lot and look for an attendant to pay before realizing that parking was free. Noice.
My hotel was about half mile from the festival and like every hotel I went into, it was pretty goddamned swank. Apparently even raver kids can afford nice hotel rooms in Detroit. Next time however I will opt for a room in the GM building’s Marriott; I wound up partying there each night anyway and the view over the festival and city from some rooms was epic.
Along with paying for parking, I am also used to West Coast festivals and parties and Detroit was a little change for me. This is a city festival and all the urban rats crawl out for it; candy ravers from the Canadian suburbs and techno heads from the Midwest and EDM freaks from all over the world. DEMF lacked that distinct burning flavor you taste at every West Coast festival. This is not to say that the handmade clothes-wearing feather-giving fur-loving neo hippies weren’t represented; rather they were just usurped by large numbers of ravers with LED pacifiers, blue fuzzy backpacks and candy to the armpits. I saw a lot of gas masks too- the pacifiers of the 21st century, perhaps?
This festival had a harder edge to it, you could feel the proximity of the East Coast and the take-no-shit people it breeds rather than the plethora of pussies over here out west. Please don’t take offense- the West Coast is my home and I love it more than any place on earth- but the two ocean-snuggling sides of the US breed a very different ethos into the people that are made there, and the blunt take-no-shit thing is slightly refreshing. Add that to the completely unique Detroit vibe, and you get a fresh asphalt slap to the face. Slap me again.
All the people of the city I encountered seemed very grateful to the festival and the electronic community it attracted, a strange sensation as most places consider my people loud nuisances who have too much fun and need to settle down and drop out of life already. The cops were chill; I even saw one playing with a glow stick, however I would never, never fuck with a Detroit cop. Ever. I also signed a pledge to recycle while I was in Detroit (uh, why wouldn’t I?).
DEMF had four stages, the giant main Vitamin Water Stage, the underground dark and dirty Made in Detroit Stage, the side techno-heavy Beatport Stage, and my favorite: the Red Bull Stage. This last stage was right next to the river, had terraced concrete steps for seating, and showcased all the weird, new, and upcoming genres of EDM, aka the music I love.
My arrival Saturday night coincided with the Glitch Mob taking the stage; shit was packed and although I wanted to be up front, I wanted to dance even more and so only stayed in the packed floor close to the DJs for a bit before moving up to the stairs for a better view and more room for my flailing arms.
Where was Kraddy? Not in Detroit. Boreta, edIT and OOah slammed it with their Lemur pads tilted towards the crowd and their beats slanted towards the dark side. It was awesome seeing so many people being exposed to this new genre of music for what was no doubt the first time, and loving it.
The visuals were kind of weak, amounting most of the time to the image of a hopped-up Red Bull image over a Glitch Mob logo. Throughout the festival the only minor disappointment were the visuals; they seemed not to rise to the level of the music and were largely absent or unnoticed, unless you count the light shows from the candy kids or the LED petticoats. I did not see one laser. Where the hell is Slick Rick when you need him?
You guys know I love the Glitch Mob; their sets are fun and funky and it is always a nasty good time to watch the boys perform. Some of their new stuff seems to be a bit heavier and darker, less bouncy and riotous, but the crowd loved their bass waves and went nuts, as usual.
THE BEST THING about music festivals is wondering around to all the stages and checking out all the beats and discovering artists you had not known before. DEMF ended every evening at midnight at which point the afterparties took over, and I am saving those stories for when I write the real shit that goes down. It’s gonna be a novel, not a blog post and don’t worry, I will change all of your names.
Sunday afternoon I dragged my ass out of bed to Greektown for a gyro and on over to the festival where I stumbled upon my favorite act of the party, Octave One, who was playing super heady, bangin’ techno on the Made in Detroit stage. Did someone say underground?
That night I went to about eight afterparties, official and impromptu, thought I did miss the boat party which I heard was superbomb from the people who shelled out fifty bucks for the ticket (TAKE A GOOD HARD LOOK AT THE MOTHERFUCKING BOAT!).
The biggest challenge at DEMF was figuring out which afterparty to go to, there were about ten million, all with fat lineups of stellar talent. But that is part of the fun, really, bouncing around Detroit and meeting up with people and popping in and out of hotel rooms and clubs and bars and trying to keep up with your head and find your friends.
Monday was another gorgeous day and I arrived back in festieland just in time for Flying Lotus’ set, a rich amalgamation of hip hop, IDM, dubstep, glitch, a
little drum and bass and a lot of future sound. I felt so happy and proud to be from the same city as Flying Lotus who was being goofy on the mic and had quite possibly inhaled prior to his set. He cut it short which sucked, but the music he did deliver was brain-bending and body moving. Take my hand, and I will lead you on the pathway to the future of music. I cannot explain how much I love Flying Lotus, or what his music does to my brain, or the new ways it moves my body, or how much fun it is to dance to his wonky beats. It is epic. He is a portal.
FlyLo’s crowd was thick but cleared out right after when people realized that Benga had missed his flight and would not be performing. Lame. People were straight fiending for dubstep at that festival, frothing at the mouth and shit. Like I said Flying Lotus weaved in a bit of dubstep but besides that, the new and popular genre was wildly underrepresented at the festival. So too was drum and bass with only one scheduled set, which the performing MC was a bit upset about (a pissed-off drum and bass head, wow how weird).
Of course the festival was techno-thick which this addict did not mind. If you are a techno fiend and did not go to Detroit then you need to have your fucking head examined. Start saving up for next year. Now. The motherland pulsed for three days straight with the unrelenting aural penetration that is techno music. So good.
Sunrise my last morning in Detroit found me high in the hotel room of new friends whom we had given a ride home from an afterparty in exchange for a smoke out, and as the city’s hues rose to a golden peach over the river and Hart Plaza, I felt a warm smile come to rest on my heart, a feeling of love for my people that is not going away any time soon.
DEMF fucking rocks, it is everything you expect it would be layered over with a gritty no-shit-taking realness, herds of crazy kids and a ridiculous amount of the finest electronic music in the world, all set in an epic city whose continuing deterioration only portends that of its parent country. Things are changing in the world. Detroit’s GM is declaring bankruptcy today; scary for sure but change breeds new ideas, new outlooks, and new music. And something tells me that my people will always be there, dancing for hours deep into the night, waving fun noodles and shaking asses, befriending strangers and touching the lion.
See you guys next year. I LOVE DETROIT!!!
My photos are kind of lame because I have a shitty camera and kind of suck as a photographer. You know who can write AND click the shutter? Donte Parks. Check out his Flickr stream here for some great pics of DEMF.
This entry was posted on May 31, 2009 at 9:51 PM and is filed under Festivals, From the Front Lines (Show Reviews) with tags Benga, boreta, demf, demf review, detroit electronic music festival, donte parks, dubstep, edit, Flying Lotus, Glitch Mob, kraddy, movement, octave one, ooah, skandar, slick rick lasers, techno, touch the lion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.