Why I Attend Movement Electronic Music Festival In Detroit Every Year

Photo by Stephen Bondio Photography
Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
April 14, 2022

Why I Attend Movement Electronic Music Festival In Detroit Every Year

I remember my first trip to Detroit for Movement, back when I lived in Chicago and people still called it DEMF (if you know, you know what I am talking about!). In the midst of studying for finals the subject of Memorial Day Weekend would come up, and I would get the weirdest looks from my classmates when I told them that I was heading to Detroit for Movement- a festival they had never heard of. However, I had been told that Detroit was magical and I had to see it for myself. I had no idea that I was about to introduce myself to the best techno weekend in North America and, ultimately, to what would become a yearly pilgrimage (addiction?) to what is undoubtedly the real mecca of techno.

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Every year, tens of thousands of techno and house music fans make the trip to Detroit to attend the three-day Movement Electronic Music Festival at the city’s Hart Plaza, overlooking Canada across the Detroit River.

It’s been almost a decade since my first Movement, and while we were all forced to miss the last two editions due to COVID lockdowns, I remain confident that Movement Detroit remains the one underground electronic music festival I will never miss. There are many reasons why, but below are the ones I think any past Movement attendee will agree with, except the last one which is a bit more personal:


1. Detroit is a magical city, especially on Movement Weekend

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Photo by Polish Katie

Detroit may have changed (for the better that is!) a lot in these past eight years, but I will admit that its welcoming, electrifying and infectious vibes remain unparalleled and unmatched, even by the great European cities whose culture bleed techno from every pore. Amsterdam during ADE sure has its own appeal, but in Detroit you feel a magic in the air so thick you literally could cut through it with the needle of a record player.

It’s the smiles, hustling charm and the down-to-earth approach of its residents that add a captivating touch unlike any I have experienced elsewhere in the world. It’s as if the entire city had a town hall meeting the week leading to the festival, and everyone agreed to go above and beyond to show visitors just how amazing their city really is. Detroit’s history, legacy, and culture pride shine visibly on every street corner and it does help that, for the most part, attendees are so dedicated to the very underground ethos that Detroit was built on. Every dance floor feels like a massive reunion with your best techno friends, old and new.

If you think of Detroit as a dangerous, old city, stuck back in the times and with little else to do outside the festival, then I sure do have some news for you: you’re wrong. Detroit has risen from its mid-20th Century ashes and has become a city whose resurgence and renaissance can’t be denied or ignored. Local neighborhoods and architecture are steadily changing as new businesses and buildings are coming in, and old familiar structures are moving out. From new apartment buildings and arenas to parks, restaurants and breweries, Detroit has changed drastically in the last 15 years with no stop in sight.


2. The History: Detroit truly is techno mecca

The festival’s history goes as far back as the year 2000, when the celebration was first called Detroit Electronic Music Festival, or DEMF for short. The annual electronic music event changed named two other times, going simply as Movement in 2003-2004 and as Fuse-In in 2005 before being taken over by Paxahau under the current name. Although some still call it DEMF for nostalgia’s sake, while others refer to it simply as Movement, the festival holds an important place in the hearts of techno and house fans throughout North America and beyond. It reaches deep for those who have been listening and dancing to underground dance music throughout the past four decades. It’s become a yearly pilgrimage to the city that gave birth to techno — a genre that adds life, emotion and unexplainable happiness to the life of countless music aficionados around the world.

Movement does what dance music has sought out to do since its inception. It brings people of all walks of life, age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and even music taste together in a way that a lot of other festivals don’t quite seem to be able to do anymore. Take a walk around Hart Plaza in between sets and you can see this with your very own two eyes: it doesn’t matter which scene you come from, if you’re a teen or someone’s grandparent, if you love bass music or prefer the harder techno found at the Underground Stage, there is a definite feeling of togetherness and family at Movement that is unrivaled at any other festival in the world I have been to.

Read Next: A Beginner’s Techno Music Guide: Brief History, Artists & Clubs


3. Hart Plaza is the perfect festival venue

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I have never been to a festival venue more perfect than Hart Plaza, in the sense that the entire space seems to be specifically built for a festival even though it technically was not. It’s hard to explain it unless you have been there, but if you have and you really think about the five main stages that Movement hosts, it becomes instantly obvious that all Paxahau had to do was find a way to take advantage of the already pre-conceived distinct spaces within the Plaza- all of which are far enough from each other to avoid most sound bleed while each providing a unique experience from the other.

Main Stage is literally a built-in amphitheater that can fit thousands of ravers. The Underground Stage next to it is underground (and hosts the most underground techno acts of the festival) and mimics the aesthetic of the warehouse parties Detroit Techno grew from in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Above the Underground Stage, and to the right of the main festival entrance, Movement lines up a roster of Detroit’s finest artists right below the Plaza’s iconic Transcending statue, celebrating Michigan’s Labor Legacy.

A short distance away, after meandering through local vendors bringing a flavor of Detroit to the festival in the form of merch, apparel and local food options, attendees reach two stages that sit alongside the Detroit River overlooking Canada. On one end, the famous “Pyramid Stage” provides layers of electronic music’s top acts, as well as literal layers of dancing space, while on the opposite side you will find the Red Bull Stage. The Red Bull Stage is the only stage that allows you to at least partially dance on grass under overhanging trees, while enjoying the more eclectic offerings from Paxahau’s programming.

At times, Movement has been able to add a sixth satellite stage in various locations, and looks to be doing so again this year for its return with a massive 100+ artist lineup.

So… let’s talk about the lineup, shall we?


4. Movement Detroit consistently features top techno & house acts while ALWAYS paying homage to Detroit’s musical heritage

No matter your flavor of techno and house, Movement Detroit has something for you! If you enjoy deep, dark or hard techno you can head to the aptly named Underground Stage (apt because of its location, and the artists it welcomes), while if you’re a fan of slightly more “mainstream” techno or tech house you can head to the Main or Pyramid Stages. Detroit techno and house find their home at the Star Gate Stage, while the Red Bull Stage is the place to be for anyone who likes breaks, house, dubstep and even hip-hop!

This year’s lineup is a perfect example of the diversity of Movement Detroit’s programming: Jeff Mills, Juan Atkins, DJ Stingray 313, Carl Craig, DJ Godfather, DJ Holographic, Stacey Hotwaxx Hale and E-Dancer are just some of Detroit’s born-and-bred headliners; Paula Temple, 999999999, Blawan, Adam X, Lady Starlight, Dax J and Marcel Dettmann adequately represent the harder and more underground sounds of Techno; Maya Jane Coles, ANNA, Anfisa Letyago, The Blessed Madonna, Nastia and SamaAbdulhadi are a few of the many leading ladies performing. While those with differing tastes can enjoy 2 Chainz, 2manydjs, Skrillex, Duck Sauce and Flying Lotus, all of whom are likely performing on the Red Bull Stage. To top it off, this year drum & bass is represented by Goldie b2b LTJ Bukem, a set I know is going to get the crowd going absolutely mental.

The above are just a small fraction of the massive lineup that awaits Movement Detroit attendees in 2022. Then there’s Adam Beyer, DJ Tennis, Claude VonStroke, Maceo Plex, Loco Dice, The Martinez Brothers, Richie Hawtin, and… I gotta stop here because if I don’t I might as well mention every name on the lineup, it’s that good!

Read Next: House Music Guide: History, Subgenres, Clubs, and Artists

5. The Afterparties

There is no Movement Detroit weekend without the afterparties, some of which are just day parties you can attend following the afterparties’ shut down at 6 or 7am. That is to say, that if you want you can practically party non-stop from Saturday at noon when the festival doors open, all the way until Tuesday past sunrise.

Movement Detroit weekend not only brings a roster of the world’s best underground acts to the festival, but is also a hotbed for an incredible afterparty selection featuring a ton of acts not performing at Hart Plaza. Just like at the festival, the wide range of sounds featured ensures that there is something for everyone, no matter how discerning one’s taste is.

From Friday night until Tuesday daytime Detroit sees its entire list of nightclubs, venues, theaters, bars, exhibit halls, re-imagined event spaces and even brunch spots transform into dance floors solely dedicated to the tens of thousands who have flocked to the city to attend Movement Electronic Music Festival.

I have talked about both the vibe and atmosphere at the festival and the city itself, but let me tell you, it’s at these afterparties that everything gets kicked up a notch! More often then not, this is where like-minded collectives, record labels and promoters from all over North America collaborate and congregate to curate slices of true Detroit underground experiences that you cannot find anywhere else on the continent.

There are so many afterparties it is incredibly difficult to keep track of them all. Which is why we at 6AM compiled a comprehensive list of Movement Detroit afterparties every year, in order to make your planning and choosing as easy as it can be, despite the hard choices you will have to make. We even host our own afterparties, and this year we join Dirty Epic and Synthetik Minds for the massive Anthology Detroit 2022.


6. Movement Detroit weekend is a massive family reunion

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Photo by xavier cuevas

I was born in and grew up in Europe, then moved to Chicago for University where I spent 5 years of my life and began my electronic music industry career, and now live in Los Angeles. Through this time I have made friends and connections with hundreds of people spread all over North America. If there is one meeting point where I can be sure to run into most of them within the space of three days, then it certainly is Detroit during Movement weekend.

In my 12 years living in the United States I have made most of my friends through electronic music. Most of those friends have progressed to the deeper sounds of the underground, and particularly techno and house. This year, like every year, I look forward to dancing with some of my great friends who still live in Chicago, as well as others coming from San Francisco, Washington D.C., San Diego, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, New York City, Durham, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Mexico City, Toronto and of course Detroit and Los Angeles. Beyond that, I know I will run into artists, agents, promoters and other industry professionals from all over the world, giving me the opportunity to connect, share a dance and enjoy their company in the city that started it all, alongside Chicago.


7. Every year we celebrate my wife’s birthday during Movement Detroit

This last one is personal, and also a shout out to my incredible wife. She was born on the very last day of May, so every year since we have met (with the exception of lockdown years) we have celebrated her birthday in Detroit during Movement. We met at ADE, so getting to celebrate her birthday in Detroit feels as fitting as it can be. If you see her this year please do wish her a happy birthday! We will be celebrating all weekend, but a little extra on Monday night, the 30th of April, at Anthology Detroit 2022 as her birthday technically begins at midnight! I can’t pretend that we booked DVS1, Oscar Mulero, Answer Code Request, Sara Landry, Phase Fatale, Annika Wolfe, Brenda and Damon Bradley just for her birthday, but it will for sure make for one kick-ass birthday party to end the weekend with!

I hope you can join us in Detroit this year. 6AM will be there in full force, both at the festival and at our Anthology party, as well as for 6AM Founder JIA’s set at Stroboscopic Artefacts Detroit on Saturday!

We are also running a huge Ticket + Travel giveaway alongside Paxahau, which you can enter for a chance to win 2 GA weekend passes, Shop by 6AM merch and $1,000 travel money to join us in Detroit!

I would love to know why YOU love going to Movement Detroit or, if you haven’t been, why you are excited to attend! Tweet @6amgroup and let us know!