demf 2013

story & photos by sarah ~ I have attended Movement Electronic Music Festival, or DEMF as we all affectionately refer to it, over Memorial Day weekend for four years.  Some in the group I go with have gone seven years in a row, and every year there's always at least one newbie.  This year there were many. Between The Fest and the after-parties, it's practically a 4-day-24-hour-party-that-never-stops-until-you're-so-tired-you-have-to-take-a-nap weekend.  It's a whirlwind experience, over oh-so-quickly, leaving a yearning for just one more set, just one more party.  You never want it to end. 

A bit of history...

Y2K was the kickoff year for Detroit Electronic Music Festival (DEMF), which 6 years later became Movement Electronic Music Festival, ran by Paxahau out of Detroit. DEMF is held at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, an open-air venue with grassy areas for lounging, a fountain, and beautiful view of the Canadian skyline, and a technology area showcasing the latest gear in the industry.  

During DEMF,  five technologically-rich outdoor stages are brought in to host more than 100 artists from around the world.  Over 107,000 people from around the globe attended the 2012 festival.  I can't wait for the numbers from 2013.  I suspect 120,000 or more.  

Detroit's Mayor Bing even declares the week of DEMF as "Detroit Techno Week," stating "... I, Dave Bing, Mayor of the City of Detroit, on behalf of its citizens, do hereby proclaim the 20th - 28th of May 2013 as "Detroit Techno Week" in the City of Detroit, and encourage citizens to celebrate the festivities as it creates local and international awareness of Detroit's rising creative culture."  The city embraces this event.  That's huge.


Preparing for our trek to DEMF starts 6 months before the actual fest.  Hotels sell out fast, tickets are cheapest early, and the first wave of after-party tickets sell out in hours.  We scour the internet to catch the latest after-party ticket release, hoping our favorite DJ will be on the lineup; if not on that one, surely the next one.  

The After-Parties...

The highlight of the weekend, without a doubt, was the Dirtybird party.  This year it was held at The Fillmore Detroit, a beautiful historic venue first opened as a movie house in 1925.  This party has been gaining ground over the years, and they finally found a spot this year that was big enough.  Jesse James opened up the night, followed by Ardalan vs. Justin Jay, Worthy vs. Leroy Peppers, J.Phlip vs Kill Frenzy and Claude VonStroke vs. Justin Martin.  J.Phlip is my number 1 House DJ, her booty bass house music just makes you want to dance your own booty off, and I did.  And J.Phlip gets down, bounces around, you can tell she's diggin' what she's playing.  Feathers exploded over the crowd at one point, and we went wild.  It was awesome. 

The deep dark sound of Techno was calling me, so I headed out to catch part of the CLR show at St. Andrews Hall, where two floors of techno filled the building.  I caught most of Drumcell's set, and he definitely didn't disappoint, even got a photo with him.  

I've found myself more and more drawn to the deep, dark sound of techno over the last couple of years.  I believe it really is an art to create music that deep and driving, and still keep it moving forward in a way that leaves you wanting more when it comes to an end.  I usually find myself seeking out the Techno more than any other genre of electronic music.

I was also able to catch Clockwork (live), The/Das Live, Tale of Us and Maceo Plex at the Life & Death party, put on by Liaison Artists.  Maceo Plex stole the show for me, his sound always drives me to dance my hardest. Practically every track he plays, and the way he plays them, move me to dance and dance and dance.  Maceo Plex also plays as Maetrik, which I enjoy even more.  He played as Maetrik on the last day at the Fest, but by that time it was raining and cold, and I was tired.  Good thing his set was released so I could listen to it at home under a nice warm blanket  :)

Old Miami is the epic event of the weekend, held at The Old Miami bar, and if you make it there, you're a ROCKSTAR.  This party starts at 7 a.m. Monday and continues all day and into the evening.  Over the years I've shown up mid-afternoon, mid-morning, at 7 a.m. sharp and this year, made it there at about 11 a.m.  

Whatever time you go, the place is always packed.  Seth Troxler meets you at the front gate, and the music goes from sun-up until sun-down in the backyard of this bar.  There's rarely a line-up, and no one minds.  Somewhere around 1 p.m. several men from the VFW marches into the Old Miami backyard, and honors war veterans with a 21-gun salute.  I've only been there for it once, and it brought tears to my eyes.  Extremely moving experience.

The Festival...

Our first stop in Detroit is always Niki's Pizza, then Bookie's Bar and Grille to gear up for the first of many after-parties of the weekend.  The after-parties have become my favorite part of the weekend, simply because it's where the artists really let loose.  

One of my most anticipated after-party sets each year is Cassy. Her deep techno is always spot-on, although I've realized she's not the most energetic DJ to watch.  She seems very technically-alert while she's playing, making sure all the cues and tweaks are just right, always with a smile on her face.  I can dig it.  It's her thing.  

Techno was king this year at the festival, and although I didn't spend much time there this year, I did catch Nina Kravitz, Steffi, rRose and Tommy Four Seven at the Underground Stage.  A few of my other highlights included Hector, Stacey Pullen, Moodyman, Shigeto Live, J.Phlip and Nicolas Jaar Live.  I had never heard rRose before, and that, I must say, was my highlight set of the fest.   It was the deepest bass I had ever heard, or felt.  Definitely. Mind. Blowing. 

Outside of Techno, Hector and J.Phlip were my other top sets of the fest.  I had never seen Hector before.  He got me dancing right away with his soulful, upbeat tech-house.  J.Phlip's set was, as always, awesome as well.  I could get down to her booty-house any day of the week.  Nicolas Jaar made his first appearance at DEMF this year, and I was not disappointed.  His slow, deep minimal techno-like music was perfect for the rainy day.  

DEMF is as much about the music as it is the people, at least for me.  The outfits!  Some wear costumes, some wear almost nothing at all.  Tutus, bikinis, furry boots, sunglasses, booty shorts, fishnet stockings, Pharaoh name it, I've seen it.  The lights at the shows are always a treat.  This year I saw more LED lighting than past years, and there's always lasers and fog machines. 

DEMF 2013 was an amazing time that I was able to share with many newbies this year.  I look forward to my next adventure...maybe DEMF 2014?


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