When the most memorable thing about my 4 days in Detroit was the hotel bed & shower, I know something went wrong. Something was definitely off this year, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
Perhaps it was all the additional people that the Ricardo Villalobos booking brought out of woodwork, who came despite his cancellation (most likely due to its last-minute announcement). Their presence coupled with his absence could of easily thrown the vibe off-course. Festival attendance was WAY up this year, and I didn't need to wait for the figures to come out to know it. But all these extra people didn't add to the experience. They sort of watered it down. The crowd this year felt awkward... less... demf-y, more WMC-y. The two vibes were still far removed, but inching closer together none the less.
The festival itself felt more buttoned-down this year, more mechanical. Everyone gets gold stars for a very smooth operation, as usual, but it was almost over-engineered, which gave it a kind of unnatural feeling. Even in the midst of a packed crowd at one of the five stages, I felt no energy rippling through it, no tingle on the back of my neck at the "specialness" of the occasion.
In the interest of full disclosure, having attended as a member of the media at the past three Movements (this year included) may be skewing my opinion a bit. Suffice it to say, the experience I had covering it this year was radically different than those past, and managed to sour my mood a bit from the get-go.
Maybe it was all the party shut-downs. Maybe it was the four shootings on Saturday. The afterparties are always a big part of my DEMF experience, and this year they too left something to be desired. After two absolute abortions on Friday and Saturday night (for me anyways), I was left feeling rather disheartened. If not for the two+ fantastic hours at the (very crowded) Old Miami on Monday afternoon, I might have just chalked up the entire trip as a loss.
Then of course there was the rain on Monday. While far from disastrous, it certainly put a damper on the last day of the festival.
One of the few saving graces, as with every year, was getting to see all my techno brothers and sisters from across the country. More and more these days, the importance of going to Detroit has become reconnecting with these vastly-dispersed friends, as opposed to just the music. Thanks guys, you know who you are :-)
That said, there were some stellar musical performances that deserve highlighting. At Movement itself I thoroughly enjoyed:
Ryan Crosson - live - My only time venturing in to the pit at the Made In Detroit stage. So glad I did.
Cassy - Wow. Proper. The kind of stuff I had hoped to hear at Centre Street Social. Berlin at its finest. Kyle Geiger, not usually one for the "softer" side of techno, was also impressed: "I didn't know she played this hard. I thought it would all be 'pinky-finger-extended' stuff."
DJ Koze - Pure modern-deep-house bliss at the Red Bull stage, finishing just before the rain and shirtless ravers made it intolerable.
Magda - Closing out the Made In Detroit stage on Monday. She rocks a sick quirky groove like no other. Where the frack does she find these tracks?? Like some kind of slick, minimized EBM.
Mark Henning - live - at the VOLATL party. Why didn't I stay for the whole thing!?
At Need I Say More V: Masomenos and Matt Tolfrey made the entire weekend worth it. I wish they could of gone all day. Does anybody know what that "in my system" track is yet?
Several of my friends will tell you the opposite of all this -- that they had an amazing time (although most of them were first-timers). So it's entirely possible that what was wrong with DEMF this year was me. Oof!
Oh, and to close on a positive: it seems Kid Rock is good for something besides laughs after all. The sound at the Made In Detroit stage was markedly improved over last year. I was actually able to enjoy entire sets there this year! Woot!
Photos and afterparty reviews soon to come!