Picture This - Paul Hamill in Detroit
ATL Dance presenter and one half of sought-after production duo Psycatron, Paul Hamill, is just off the red eye from Motor City USA. Psycatron were invited out to the annual Detroit Electronic Music Festival by none other than the legendary Carl Craig and here's how it all went down in a photoblog form...
So we're not long back from Movement 2010 in Detroit which finished on Monday, or Detroit Electronic Music Festival (D.E.M.F.) as it was previously known, or Techfest as some Americans refer to it. I was there performing with Psycatron on the Movement Torino stage alongside Derrick May, Orlando Voorn and Greg Gow on the second day of the festival and rather than give you the complete A to Z of our trip, I thought I'd break it down into some highlights and low-points of our three day visit...
Everything IS Bigger In America
The festival is based in Hart Plaza which is a riverfront plaza on the banks of the Detroit river which faces onto Windsor Canada and is under the glare of the 73 storey high Renaissance Centre, world headquarters of General Motors.
It's a massive space featuring various amphitheatres in beautiful surroundings. From the soundsystems to the lighting and visuals, everything was insanely well produced and on a scale unlike anything I have ever seen at a festival. Speaking of big, when you ask for a small pizza in America, it actually arrives as a 14" x 3" deep weapon that would feed a family of four so it might be best to share.
Everything IS Hotter In America
We didn't bother with the sunscreen on the first day, cue walking round like rednecks for a couple of days as the effects of 90 degree heat took it's toll on our sensitive Irish skin. Luckily enough they had a plentiful supply of clean towels when we were DJing to avoid any nasty electric shocks from the mixer. I know of one DJ from this neck of the woods who ended up in casualty as a result of dehydration too.
Detroit Still Rules Techno
The line-up this year featured the 'Belleville Three' Juan Atkins (as Model 500), Kevin Saunderson (as Inner City) and Derrick May (as techno legend) headlining different stages across the three nights. They all absolutely killed it, but a highlight had to of been Inner City performing 'Big Fun' and 'Good Life' in front of 35000 people many of whom probably weren't even born when these tracks first came out. You also had the likes of Anthony 'Shake' Shakir, Kyle Hall, K-hand and and a whole rake of new-wave Detroit heads manning the underground Made In Detroit room all weekend. America is often remarked upon as being a barren wasteland for the most part when it comes to electronic music with the exception of a few pockets of resistance, Movement 2010 proved without a doubt that you can sell tickets (95000 in total) without resorting to the lowest common denominator - house and techno ruled for main part.
A Little Culture For The Weekend?
On the Friday night we headed to an event hosted by Carl Craig's Planet E label, where they premiered a movie charting the history of D.E.M.F. - 2010 A Detroit Odyssey. The event was held in the grand surroundings of the Detroit Music Hall, similar in style to the Grand Opera House in Belfast and was an amazing look back at the early years and the struggle people went through to make this festival an annual event. It was a remarkable tale told by those who were there, putting their livelihoods, reputations and careers on the line to bring the people of Detroit something they'd always dreamed of.
The Music Hall was at near full capacity and at the end of the movie, Mad Mike Banks from Underground Resistance performed live with his new band Timeline. Five guys on keyboards, sequencers and saxophone performing lots of the old UR Hi-Tech Jazz material including Galaxy To Galaxy. It was proper live-jazz-techno-improv. They were also joined on stage for a couple of tracks by Carl Craig who was plugging in patch cables on some modular synth. An awesome start to the weekend.
Ricardo, Is That You?
While standing at the entrance of the artist backstage area, this guy rolls up with a massive bag of vinyl trying to get in. It's Ricardo Villalobos! Quick tell the internet, you've just got the scoop. Villalobos cancelled a few days earlier due to visa issues so everyone was amazed to see him arrive. We remarked on how much weight he had lost, probably due to so many late nights but were obviously delighted to see him there. So we told the internet, and two hours later reports were coming back of him playing on the Beatport stage. I was gutted i missed him, until i bumped into this guy up on the stage who was actually a Ricardo imposter by the name of Onur Ozur. No, Ricardo never did show.
After-Party, What After-Party?
If there was nearly 100 acts performing at Movement there must have been the same again performing at after parties all over the city. The biggest was probably the Metroplex Party on the Sunday which featured Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson performing for the first time together in 10 years, but you also had Berghain hosting parties, Moodyman hosting one of his infamous Rollerskate Discos, the Dirtybird crew were in town and loads more. We popped into the Drumcode party with Adam Beyer, Marco Carola and Ida Enberg for a while which was subsequently shut-down by the police due to an apparent shooting outside the venue. Twitter was rife with talk about cops closing down parties all over the city claiming shootings and all sorts of goings on. We didn't hang round to find out.
The Beatport Stage
Probably the most consistent stage all weekend in terms of being an absolute rave-up all day long. Highlights Claude Vonstroke dropping Vocal Chords, Richie Hawtin, Ida Enberg and Cassy.
American Airports Suck
So international departures in Chicago O' Hare doesn't even have somewhere to sit down and eat, never mind drink. We had a three-hour changeover on the way out there and ended up spending two of the hours going up and down the travelator from one end of the terminal to the other and back again. It beat walking.
You Cannot Blag An American Bouncer
A couple of friends decided they weren't going to attend the 'I'm On A Boat' after-party on the Detroit Princess which featured Hawtin (replacing Villalobos), Sneak, Carter, Carl Craig, Cassy on a boat sailing up and down the river until 4 in the morning. They told me we could use their names on the guest-list for the party. So i dropped our friends name at the door - "i gotcha buddy, you got ID?', "em, nobody said to bring ID", "ok, what's your buddy's name?" at which point Dave with the look of a rabbit in the headlights blurted out something that sounded like the bit before Bugs Bunny does his 'that's all folks' bit. The guy flipped and next thing i knew i was nose-to-nose with some Iraq war veteran screaming at us to get off his boat. We left, although not before telling him his boat was no Seacat.
Ida Engberg, The First Lady Of Techno
Despite having been on day four of a U.S. tour with 6 hours sleep in three days, the Swedish blonde bombshell ripped up the Beatport stage on Saturday afternoon even taking time to drop the Matador remix of Phil Kieran 'Dirt' along the way. We found ourselves following her around a lot for some strange reason.
Detroit, The City That America Left Behind
For a city with such a remarkable past, present day Detroit is a harrowing example of what happens when corporate America goes wrong. Poverty is rife, you have multi-billion dollar skyscrapers looking down on wasteland scrubs where survival is at the forefront of people's lives. Crime and unemployment are the highest in the country. Yet among all this, you have a breeding ground of creativity where the people are inspired by what they have and they don't have and where the rest of the world looks to for musical inspiration. They've been making electronic music in the City for over 25 years, that's a long time before everyone upped sticks and moved to Berlin. They were makingMotown way before that. Detroit is about the soul of the people and the soul of music and there's a new generation of artist emerging form the city that will carry the baton on for years to come. It'll be people like Kyle Hall or the two young black kids standing outside the festival with two makeshift snare drums playing 'Spastik' to try and raise a few dollars for a bite to eat that'll be the names of the future, not some kid who has downloaded a cracked copy of Ableton and starts knocking up some bubblegum techno he saw someone playing at a party on Youtube. Musically, there is nowhere else in the 52 states that touches Detroit and if the rest of America had an ounce of the soul that exists here, the world would would be a much better place.